Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls (Feb. 13, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Nikola Vucevic and the Chicago Bulls dominated the Orlando Magic early and held on for the win. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Nikola Vucevic and the Chicago Bulls dominated the Orlando Magic early and held on for the win. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic hit the road for two key games before the All-Star Break as they look to recover from Saturday’s frustrating loss.

Orlando Magic (23-34) at Chicago Bulls (26-30)

Time/TV: 8 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Bulls by 4.5
Tickets: $27-$9,699 on StubHub
Season Series: Magic 108, Bulls 107 in Chicago on Nov. 18; Bulls 128, Magic 109 in Orlando on Jan. 28; Tonight in Chicago

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OMD Prediction

This is a gut-check game for the Orlando Magic. Forget the standings implications of this game — and they are big (stay tuned for more on that) — this is a game where you figure out how committed the Magic are to their principles and who they are.

After a disappointing loss to the Miami Heat where the Orlando Magic led the entire game until overtime and gave into frustration with the officials (and really their inability to break the Heat’s defense), how does this young team respond? Do the Heat beat them twice?

These are the real tests the Magic want to see and learn about their team. Can they bounce back from disappointment and stay the course? To be sure, if the Magic are going to make a postseason push, this response is more important than anything else the team does.

The Chicago Bulls are seemingly in the same boat. They had a tough fourth quarter in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday too. And Chicago has now lost three in a row after winning four of five after beating Orlando in January.

38. 113. 24. Prediction. 111

3 Keys To Watch

Standings Watch

We are definitely keeping a close eye on the standings and these final two games before the All-Star Break could not be more important for the Orlando Magic in their hunt to make the Play-In Tournament. The Magic are facing two teams that holding the spots down that the Magic are trying to take.

Entering Monday’s game, the Orlando Magic are behind the Toronto Raptors (Tuesday’s opponent at 27-31) and Chicago Bulls (Monday’s opponent at 26-30) by 3.5 games. That is not insignificant ground to make up, but it becomes tougher with the team seemingly treading water right now.

The Magic are 5-5 in their last 10 games. They have not put together a good run of wins in a while. And it is going to take winning these kinds of games to make up some ground and to build some momentum.

To that point, the Magic have the 21st hardest schedule remaining in the league by opponent win percentage. There is a chance to build some momentum.

Starter trouble

It was not too long ago that we were talking about the Orlando Magic’s starting lineup of Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter as one of the best starting groups in the league. They were playing some superb basketball and punishing opponents.

That has changed dramatically of late. Repeatedly, the Magic’s starters have a negative net rating and it is the bench group that is leading the team back into games or expanding advantages.

Orlando’s current starting lineup has a net rating of +4.5 points per 100 possessions (116.5/112.0 offensive/defensive rating) for the season. It is probably premature to call for changes to the starting lineup (even with the energy Jalen Suggs has brought defensively).

But in the last 10 games, that group has a net rating of -7.5 points per 100 possessions (107.9/115.4 offensive/defensive rating split).

A big reason for this is the struggles Banchero and Wagner have gone through. The Magic’s promising forward duo are struggling with Banchero averaging only 16.9 points per game on 34.2/16.7/72.2 shooting splits. Wagner is averaging only 13.2 points per game on 42.0/31.6/66.7 shooting splits.

This is obviously way below their season averages and what the team expects from them. The team has been able to fill gaps when one of them is down. But it is tough when both of them are struggling this much.

Clutch struggles

As much as teams want to avoid close games because of how random and variable they can be, they are essential to life in the bottom of the postseason chase. The Orlando Magic’s postseason hopes will rely on whether they can scratch out games when the pressure is ramped up.

The Magic’s last two losses have been all about that with their inability to stop Jalen Brunson in the loss to the New York Knicks or stop Jimmy Butler in the loss to the Miami Heat.

Orlando is not a great team in close games. The Magic are 11-19 in close games this year. They have a 101.9 offensive rating and 121.7 defensive rating in those clutch situations (games within five points in the final five minutes). That defense is the third-worst defensive rating in the league in clutch situations.

dark. Next. Bol Bol is finding his groove again

Orlando loses its defensive identity late in games. And that is probably the biggest sign of how much room this team still has to grow.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.