Orlando Magic vs. Washington Wizards (March 21, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

The Orlando Magic seem ready to take the next steps in their team's development as losses like Saturday feel genuinely disappointing. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic seem ready to take the next steps in their team's development as losses like Saturday feel genuinely disappointing. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic return home to face a must-win game against the Washington Wizards as their playoff hopes begin to slim and disappear.

Orlando Magic (29-43) vs. Washington Wizards (32-39)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Magic by 1
Tickets: $13-$2,078 on StubHub
Season Series: Wizards 119, Magic 100 in Orlando on Dec. 30; Wizards 138, Magic 118 in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21; Tonight in Orlando; March 31 in Washington, D.C.

PaceOff. Rtg.Def. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR

OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic essentially have to treat every game as a must-win the rest of the way if they want to make the postseason.

They are 5.5 games back of the Chicago Bulls for that final spot. That margin is a big one to climb with just 10 games to go. But it is also big because of the teams ahead of them. They still have two mini-bosses to get past before the big bad at the end of the game.

The good news there is the Magic will get two cracks to make up ground on one of those teams. Tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards is a true six-pointer for that reason. This is a chance to make up significant ground on a direct competitor, an opportunity this team has missed already.

Like the last time the Magic played the Wizards at Amway Center though, this is coming off a long road trip. And those games are always tough. Legs get heavy as you deal with jet lag and getting back into the swing of things. But Orlando will not have time to rest there. They need this one bad. Kyle Kuzma missing the game with a right ankle sprain may help. But Orlando needs to be locked in to start this homestand off right.

110. 38. Prediction. 111. 142

3 Keys To Watch

Battle for the Bench

The Orlando Magic have hinted at a change to their rotation. The last two games, the Magic have opted to use Goga Bitadze as the backup center over Moe Wagner. Whether that is tactical — Bitadze is a much better defender and rim protector — or to give Bitadze a better look is not all that clear.

But it has had a major effect on the team nonetheless.

Wagner is a significantly better scorer. And with Jalen Suggs OUT with a concussion for a third straight game, the Magic are lacking a lot of scoring punch off the bench. Cole Anthony has had to carry that weight alone.

The bench has been a relative strength for the Magic this season. Anthony has given the team a huge boost. And the reserve groups have often outperformed the starters in recent weeks.

That checks out as the Magic are 10th in the league averaging 36.2 points per game off the bench. The Wizards get 33.4 points per game off the bench. But they have slipped to 29.3 points per game in their last 15 games as they have struggled to keep pace.

East Postseason Chase

And that is what the big focus in this game is on. The Eastern Conference postseason chase has significantly narrowed of late. Teams are starting to fall off the pace and the Chicago Bulls are starting to separate themselves from the pack.

The Orlando Magic are 3-7 in their last 10 games, leaving them 5.5 games back of the Bulls for the 10th spot.

The Washington Wizards seemed set to take that spot a few weeks ago, but they have also won just three of their last 10 games. They now find themselves two games back of the Chicago Bulls and fighting off the Indiana Pacers for 11th.

They still have time to make up that gap. And teams in this race have flipped roles fairly quickly. Nobody has been able to pull away. But time is running out for everybody now and someone is going to emerge as the winner of this race.

Wizards’ slide

The Washington Wizards probably thought it would be them for some time. But they have fallen way off the pace.

In their last 10 games, the Wizards have seen their offense drop to 24th in the league at 113.1 points per 100 possessions and 21st in defense at 117.3 points per 100 possessions (not that the Orlando Magic have been much better with a 113.9/118.0 split).

The Wizards have struggled late in games too where it feels like Bradley Beal tries to do too much. The Wizards are dropping games in much the same way the Magic are right now — with a 15-23 clutch record overall (the Magic are 16-23) and 1-4 record in clutch games over their last 10 games (the Magic are 2-4).

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These are two teams knocking on the door to their break through. But neither the Magic nor the Wizards have been able to flip enough games in their favor.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.