The Orlando Magic open the preseason with a trip to face the New Orleans Pelicans as the team aims to open up this highly anticipated season.
2023 Records: Orlando Magic (34-48) at New Orleans Pelicans (42-40)
Time/TV: 8 p.m./NBA League Pass
WATCH MAGIC-PELICANS ON FUBO TV
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Line: Pelicans by 4.5/Magic +160 Money Line/Over-Under: 225.5 on FanDuel
Tickets: $1-$63 on GameTime
2023 Season Series: Magic 123, Pelicans 110 in Orlando on Jan. 20; Magic 101, Pelicans 93 in New Orleans on Feb. 27
You want me to put a score prediction on this game? I’m the one that created this artifice and put this section in my preview posts. In that case . . .
The final score is the least important thing about this first preseason game. You want to win obviously, but it is not the most important thing. Or rather, you just want to see the starting group be competitive. Getting blown out is bad. Especially from important players.
This will be a fun matchup between two young teams looking to prove themselves. The Orlando Magic have had a lot of energy in training camp to this point and they are going to be eager to see how they play out on the court. This is a good test for them with the New Orleans Pelicans hungry themselves and hoping they have health with Zion Williamson to take their own leap.
3 Keys To Watch
The Orlando Magic are hanging their hat on the defensive end. That is going to be a key part of their identity this year. And all the indications from training camp is that defense has been the focus for this team.
For good reason. The Magic were seventh in the league in defensive rating giving up 113.0 points per 100 possessions. That was a huge step forward for the team. And it was built on something that feels sustainable with this team’s length and size. They will try to lock down the paint and prevent shots near the rim and then use their length to fly out to the perimeter.
Coach Jamahl Mosley said the defense has been ahead of the offense to this point in training camp. So expect the defense to look a lot cleaner — at least when it gets set and there are no turnovers, another big issue for the team. Both Jonathan Isaac and Jalen Suggs said the team has a goal of breaking into the top 10 in the league (they finished 18th overall last year). Defense will be key.
Welcome Back, Zion
Fun fact: Zion Williamson has played only one game in his entire career against the Orlando Magic. That came in the COVID-shortened 2021 season and he scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a blowout win shortly after the trades that reshaped the franchise.
That is more of a statement of how often Williamson has been injured than anything else. He just has not been on the floor consistently.
And the Pelicans missed him. Williamson averaged 26.0 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game but in just 29 appearances. New Orleans went 17-12 in those games and were 23-14 when he left the lineup for the season. Like the Magic, injuries were a big story for the Pelicans last year.
Continuity and Comfort
The Orlando Magic have been touting their continuity all offseason. It was a key part of their growth. They were going to keep everything stable and so young players would know roles and grow to fit the team. They were hoping to build off the way they finished their season by just running it back.
Things are never quite that simple of course. There are still finer points to tune and a rhythm to regain. The Magic are going to be spending this first preseason game trying to find them again.
While most players have said this preseason game is a continuation of training camp, Joe Ingles said it is still important for the three new guys — Joe Ingles, Anthony Black and Jett Howard — to learn where players like to get the ball. Everyone still has to learn and re-learn each other as needed. Plus the Magic could be testing out some new lineups and combinations. So continuity is not a cure-all.
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