Orlando Magic vs. Brooklyn Nets (March 26, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic rediscovered their heart in a tough back to back. But they have a lot more to show this season. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic rediscovered their heart in a tough back to back. But they have a lot more to show this season. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic finish their penultimate homestand as they look to build a three-game win streak against the Brooklyn Nets arriving on the second night of a back-to-back.

Orlando Magic (31-43) vs. Brooklyn Nets (40-34)

Time/TV: 6 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Magic by 1.5
Tickets: $23-$2,465 on StubHub
Season Series: Nets 109, Magic 102 in Brooklyn on Nov. 28; Tonight in Orlando; April 7 in Brooklyn

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OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic have to be feeling good about themselves after they righted the ship on this three-game homestand. They are probably wondering where this was when they lost three of four on their previous homestand before another 1-3 West Coast trip probably ended their realistic hopes at a Play-In spot.

The team is more about its continued improvement than about making the postseason. That carrot is still out there and still something the team is pushing for. But the experience of this push and the lessons they are learning are far more important.

And in winning three of their last five — including their first win streak since early February — the Magic are starting to show the poise they will need to win games. That experience is just incredibly valuable.

So too is the poise of finishing this homestand. The Brooklyn Nets, like the New York Knicks on Thursday, are arriving in Orlando from Miami on a back-to-back. And they too are struggling, although they picked up a huge 129-100 win over the Miami Heat on Saturday. This is a game where every advantage is in the Magic’s favor if they just execute and get the job done.

38. Prediction. 108. 147. 116

3 Keys To Watch

The Late-Game Boost

There is a mild obsession about how the Orlando Magic are performing late in games. The reality is that most of the Magic’s games right now come down to the final minutes. And the difference between scratching out a win and suffering a crushing loss is whether the team is able to win these minutes.

This is the biggest simulation the Magic have for the postseason too. Whether you win or lose a series often comes down to your ability to win these games late. And that is what is so encouraging about how the Magic are playing.

Orlando has played the 10th most clutch games in the league at 41 this season (already eight more than last year). The Magic are 18-23 in those games. Since getting healthy on Dec. 5, the Magic are 15-12.

They have a lot of things they can credit for that. Their maturity is certainly a big part of it. So is the play of several players.

Especially Markelle Fultz who is averaging 26.2 points per 36 minutes and 6.2 assists per 36 minutes in clutch situations while shooting 60.0 percent from the floor. Paolo Banchero is at 24.0 points per 36 minutes and Franz Wagner is at 20.9 points per 36 minutes.

The two young players are still the focus for this team and have a lot of improvement to make. But the Magic can trust Fultz to make good decisions and plays down the stretch.

Nets falling

The Brooklyn Nets are a completely different team from after the All-Star Break. Trading away superstar talents in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will do that. And the Nets have had to work to figure out their roster and who they are.

Predictably, the Nets have started to fade. They broke a five-game losing streak in the win over the Miami Heat on Saturday. But it has been a struggle.

Brooklyn is just 8-12 since Feb. 9 with a 112.7/115.0 offensive/defensive rating split. That net rating puts them in the bottom 10.

They have predictably been sinking in the standings during that time too — they currently lead the Miami Heat by a half-game for the 6-seed showing just how big that win Saturday was.

Brooklyn is obviously still dangerous and have some strong payers even if their depth has taken a hit. But this is a team still trying to redefine itself and make something of the rest of their season.

Suggs and Franz’s status

Both Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner are listed as QUESTIONABLE for Sunday’s game.

Suggs practiced with the team Saturday and is on track to return after a four-game absence with a concussion but nothing is set in stone quite yet.

Franz Wagner did not participate in practice with a sprained left ankle, but coach Jamahl Mosley said he will be a gametime decision. And Wagner DOES NOT miss games.

Still, the injuries and the nagging injuries that have been a part of the team for a while now are hanging in the background. The Orlando Magic are still mathematically alive for the postseason — trailing the Chicago Bulls by 4.5 games with eight games remaining (the Bulls face the Los Angeles Lakers later Sunday) — but those playoff hopes are slim. Orlando has zero margin for error.

There may be a time when the Magic do have to start thinking about preserving bodies and getting a jumpstart on their offseason. That has not happened yet.

Even with the Portland Trail Blazers putting some pressure by considering shutting down Damian Lillard (they trail the Orlando Magic by 1.5 games for fifth in the Lottery standings), the Magic seem far more concerned with their own play, growth and development.

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It does not seem likely the Magic are going to change their approach or what they do for these remaining games.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.