Orlando Magic at New Orleans Pelicans (Feb. 27, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Paolo Banchero has absorbed a lot of defensive attention early on in his Orlando Magic career. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero has absorbed a lot of defensive attention early on in his Orlando Magic career. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic hit the road to take on the New Orleans Pelicans as their play-in chase tightens and each game feels much more pressure-packed.

Orlando Magic (25-36) at New Orleans Pelicans (30-31)

Time/TV: 8 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Pelicans by 4
Tickets: $5-$1,163 on StubHub
Season Series: Magic 123, Pelicans 110 in Orlando on Jan. 20; Tonight in New Orleans

PaceOff. Rtg.Def. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR
New Orleans100.1113.4112.453.929.614.728.4

OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic want to be in the postseason chase. They are in the postseason chase. They just have to learn how to give themselves a boost. As much as the team has to worry about and climb over all the other teams in front of them, they need to take care of themselves first.

That was probably the most disappointing thing in Saturday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers. The Magic had a chance to take care of themselves and push themselves over the team directly in front of them. More than that, it was a missed chance to gain ground on the Washington Wizards, whom the Orlando Magic still trail by 3.5 games.

The team is treading water right now. And now they have to hit the road and try to keep their feet under them.

It has been a while since the Orlando Magic last faced the New Orleans Pelicans. Their bench was the driving force in that game with Cole Anthony powering the team to a double-digit win.

It is hard to get a handle on this Pelicans team that has lost four of their last five games and 14 of their last 18 games. Zion Williamson’s absence is certainly felt and the Pelicans despite their depth have struggled to find their footing.

38. 106. 69. Prediction. 113

3 Keys To Watch

The defense without Jonathan Isaac

Jonathan Isaac’s return has been a breath of fresh air for the Orlando Magic. And especially for the Magic’s defense.

Orlando has the eighth-best defense since turning the season around in early December. Since Isaac’s return, the Magic have the fifth-best defense in the league giving up 110.8 points per 100 possessions. With Isaac on the floor, the Magic give up 107.7 points per 100 possessions.

With Isaac off the floor in that time? Orlando gives up 110.6 points per 100 possessions.

That is important because Isaac has been ruled out for a second straight game with hamstring soreness and as part of his knee injury recovery management. The Magic’s defense still holds its own without Isaac. But they definitely missed him in Saturday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Orlando’s defense should still be plenty capable. The team needs that confidence. But clearly Jonathan Isaac is a truly disruptive defensive force — especially when playing alongside Jalen Suggs.

Turnovers at the wrong time

It is easy to say the Orlando Magic have a turnover problem. They are a young team and young teams make mistakes. Especially as the team is trying to pick up its pace and play in transition more.

The numbers bear this out too. For the season, the Magic are 26th in the league with a 15.2 percent turnover rate.

But one of the big turnarounds in this season has been the team’s improvement with turnovers — having point guards sure does help! Since Dec. 7, the Magic are 17th in the league with a 14.2 percent turnover rate.

The real problem has been the timing of these turnovers and how teams convert on them. Orlando, even as a lower possession team, give up 18.5 points off turnovers per game, the fifth-most in the league. Since Dec. 7, the Magic give up 17.4 points off turnovers per game (20th in the league).

Orlando has improved in this venue. But even with relatively low turnover games in the last two outings, the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers both converted off those turnovers (20 points off 14 turnovers in Thursday’s game and 17 points off 14 turnovers in Saturday’s game).

Life without Zion Williamson

The Orlando Magic are not going to feel sorry for any team that is playing without a starter, even if the team does not have a player as big and as dominant as Zion Williamson yet. But the New Orleans Pelicans were on the decline even before Williamson went out with his right hamstring strain that will leave him out a bit longer.

In the 24 games since Williamson went out, the Pelicans are 7-17 in that time with a -4.5 net rating (the sixth-worst mark in the league). New Orleans has played like one of the worst teams in the league in that time. The offense has cratered to 111.3 points per 100 possessions and defense was always a struggle with 115.8 points allowed per 100 possessions.

This time period has included a prolonged absence from Brandon Ingram. Ingram has been back for 11 games but that does not seem to have done very much. The Pelicans are 3-8 since he returned.

Next. Orlando Magic sign Michael Carter-Williams to two-year deal. dark

This is still a dangerous team with a ton of energy players who can give any team trouble. But the Pelicans are struggling to find their way again.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.