Orlando Magic vs. Utah Jazz (March 9, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Franz Wagner's last chance to tie the game was blocked by Lauri Markkanen as the Orlando Magic fell to the Utah Jazz. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner's last chance to tie the game was blocked by Lauri Markkanen as the Orlando Magic fell to the Utah Jazz. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic look to find their defense again as they try to salvage their homestand and end a two-game losing streak against the struggling Utah Jazz.

Orlando Magic (27-39) vs. Utah Jazz (31-35)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Magic by 3
Tickets: $14-$2,309 on StubHub
Season Series: Jazz 112, Magic 108 in Salt Lake City on Jan. 13; Tonight in Orlando

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OMD Prediction

Injuries are the story for the Orlando Magic right now. There is a pretty large hole in the middle of the Magic’s interior with Wendell Carter OUT with left hip pain. Orlando’s defense has struggled the last two games without him, giving up plenty of paint drives and fouling as they have been late in their recovery and crossing their line with their physicality.

The Utah Jazz may be without standout rookie Walker Kessler. He is QUESTIONABLE with a non-COVID illness. As is Jordan Clarkson with a finger sprain in his left hand. The Jazz certainly will hurt defensively without Kessler and will miss Clarkson’s spurt off the bench. But this is still a potent offensive team.

Lauri Markkanen returned from a one-game absence to score 33 points in Tuesday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Utah has lost its last four games, but the team is still incredibly potent on offense. The Magic’s defense will need to be locked in.

38. Prediction. 119. 118. 115

3 Keys To Watch

Push the Pace

A lot of teams talk about pace as a central tenet of their offensive philosophies. Usually, they are talking about running through their offense quicker and with more intensity. The idea is that you play fast and do not give the defense time to get set or get comfortable.

This has been a constant struggle for the Orlando Magic throughout the year. Their best offense typically comes when they are pushing the pace — both in terms of the intensity of their offense and also the number of possessions they get.

Orlando knows it has to do better in this area. The Magic are 27th in the league in assist rate at 56.5 percent and often devolve into isolations. The Magic average 7.0 isolation possessions per game, a number that has fallen in recent weeks.

That is because the Magic do a good job pushing the pace and are starting to see their possession numbers creep up.

Orlando is 17th in the league in pace at 99.4 possessions per 48 minutes. In the last 15 games, the Magic are 14th at 99.7 possessions per 48 minutes. Those are slight but important improvements.

The key is staying under control. Especially going up against teams that really like to push the pace like the Utah Jazz. Ultimately pace comes down to being comfortable enough to operate offensively and keep defenses off balance and guessing.

Battle on the glass

The Orlando Magic do not have a classic rebounder. Wendell Carter picks up his share of rebounds. Paolo Banchero picks up his share (although as a rookie, his attention on the glass can wax and wane). The Magic’s guards pitch in more than expected too with Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz especially strong at collecting boards.

Even though Orlando is OK on the glass, it always seems the team gives up rebounds at the worst moments. The Magic are 10th in the league in defensive rebound rate. This is not a team that is bleeding out offensive rebounds. But there are key ones the Magic are unable to scratch out.

And while the Utah Jazz are not a great rebounding team either — 26th in the league with a 70.3 defensive rebound rate — they collect plenty of second-chance opportunities thanks to their penchant for shooting threes. The Jazz are fourth in the league in offensive rebound rate at 31.2 percent.

Everyone is going to have to pitch in to win the glass. The team that gets more offensive rebounds and second-chance points are likely going to win this game. And it could be a factor that tips the scales in this game.

Finnish them

Lauri Markkanen has been a complete revelation this year. He played like this with the Finland National Team for several years, but it never translated to the NBA. He earned an All-Star trip this year by averaging 25.3 points per game on a 60.3-percent effective field goal percentage.

Markkanen presents a ton of matchup nightmares because he works well as a spot-up shooter as much as he works with his mobility to beat slower forwards. The Utah Jazz’s ability to spread the floor completely just opens up so much driving space for him.

The Jazz designed their offense to take advantage of all of his offensive skills and he is completely flourishing. And that is why Utah has one of the best offenses in the league.

The Orlando Magic have struggled with players like him. This is a tall team, but not a particularly big one. And that is why teams that can go big can bug them, especially with a rookie in Paolo Banchero still improving as a defender.

Markkanen scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and made 17 of 21 free throws in the first meeting with the Magic.

Next. Orlando Magic need Jalen Suggs' shooting improvement to continue. dark

Markkanen could be due for a big game once again. And the Magic have to find a way to slow him down, and more importantly, keep him off the foul line.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.