Orlando Magic at Washington Wizards (March 31, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Markelle Fultz has been solid for the Orlando Magic as he returns from a torn ACL. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz has been solid for the Orlando Magic as he returns from a torn ACL. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic close this mini-road trip with a must-win game for their postseason hopes as they take on the Washington Wizards.

Orlando Magic (32-44) at Washington Wizards (34-42)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Even
Tickets: $15-$1,832 on StubHub
Season Series: Wizards 119, Magic 100 in Orlando on Dec. 30; Wizards 138, Magic 118 in Orlando on Jan. 21; Magic 122, Wizards 112 in Orlando on March 21; Tonight in Washington, D.C.

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OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic are in a must-win situation. Whatever slim hopes the Magic have of making the postseason will get dashed with even just one loss. They cannot even afford the Chicago Bulls going .500 the rest of the way. The Magic have zero margin for error.

The team has been focused on winning day-to-day for a while now. They cannot focus on the bigger picture without taking care of their business first. And that is the challenge of this game against the Washington Wizards as the Orlando Magic are oh so close to chasing down their closest competition in the standings.

The Wizards seem set to move in the opposite direction. Bradley Beal is OUT with left knee soreness as is Kyle Kuzma with a right ankle sprain. And Daniel Gafford is even QUESTIONABLE with left foot soreness.

It sure does not feel like the Wizards are going all in on the play-in chase as the Magic are in these closing games. So Orlando should be considered the favorite and a team that should have the advantages, even with how much the team has struggled with Kristaps Porzingis this year.

115. 38. 105. 142. Prediction

3 Keys To Watch

Markelle back home

Markelle Fultz loves playing back home in Washington, D.C. The stats bear that out as Fultz has a career average of 17.2 points per game (the most he averages against any team in the league). Granted, this has been in only 11 games. But Fultz just kicks it into another gear against the Wizards.

Fultz has really kicked it into another gear in March. He is averaging 16.0 points per game and 6.5 assists per game in March while shooting 51.7 percent and 82.5 percent from the foul line. Those are strong numbers.

Fultz though has met some frustration against the Wizards this year. Washington has put Kristaps Porzingis on him as a way to leave Porzingis as a roamer and force Fultz to take 3-pointers. Fultz has at times struggled to close the gap and take up that space with Porzingis’ ability to defend the paint and the rim.

Still, Fultz loves playing in D.C. He could be in for another big game.

Porzingis vs. the Magic

The Washington Wizards will be down several players as they begin to think about their offseason. That may well dampen some of the effects they have seen from Kristaps Porzingis from the first three games this season.

Porzingis is averaging 25.7 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game in three games against the Magic this year. Pairing him with Daniel Gafford (again QUESTIONABLE for Friday’s game) has given Orlando a lot of trouble as have other two-big lineups. That forces Wendell Carter to guard the paint-bound center and puts Paolo Banchero in the rare situation of playing someone bigger than him.

Whether Porzingis will have to play the same way with Gafford potentially out is a big question for this team. But the Magic have had few if any answers for Porzingis this season. And they will have to put a lot of attention on him with the Wizards’ other two scorers out of the game.

Standings check

The Orlando Magic are in the midst of several standings races as the season concludes.

With just six games remaining, their postseason hopes are very slim. The Chicago Bulls are 36-40 and four games ahead of the Orlando Magic for that final play-in spot. The Bulls can eliminate the Magic with three more wins or three more Magic losses. With six games left, the Magic need the Bulls to be under .500 the rest of the way. The Chicago Bulls are at the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

More immediately, the Orlando Magic are a half-game behind the Indiana Pacers for 12th in the Eastern Conference and two games back of the Washington Wizards for 11th. These games with the chance to climb over teams has been the most difficult thing for the Magic to win so far this year.

On the opposite end, Orlando is jeopardizing its lottery chances. The Orlando Magic are tied with the Portland Trail Blazers for fifth in the Lottery standings. They are chasing the Pacers for seventh in the Lottery standings with the Wizards right in front of them.

dark. Next. Orlando Magic can use strong finish as a springboard

These games matter one way or another in the standings. And this is a big one if the Magic are looking to climb. Or fall.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.