The Orlando Magic finish their four-game West Coast trip against the Utah Jazz as they aim to find their offense before a tough stretch at the Amway Center and through Thanksgiving.
Orlando Magic (2-2) at Utah Jazz (2-3)
Time/TV: 9 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line: Magic by 1.5/Magic Money Line: -118/Over-Under: 221 on FanDuel
Tickets: $7-$174 on StubHub
Season Series: Tonight in Salt Lake City; Feb. 29 in Orlando
Our Prediction Record: 4-0/4-0 ATS
The NBA is a game of runs. That is what everyone always says. The Orlando Magic were riding high this weekend with a 2-0 record only to get humbled with a pair of losses in Los Angeles to move to 2-2. The conversation has flipped on its head, going from delight to real concern.
The game against the Utah Jazz is in one way a chance to get right. The Magic can find their footing against a team that, frankly, is weaker than who they played the last two games. Orlando can get back on track and beat “the teams they should.”
That will not be easy. Utah will do things that will really test Orlando — especially offensively as 3-point shooters. The Jazz have size too at every position — the kind of size the Magic purport to want.
And this game may very well come down to who shoots the ball well. Orlando will need to prove it can put its foot down and win when it has to after a two-game losing streak.
3 Keys To Watch
Last year, the Orlando Magic’s 3-point defense was always a quiet concern. The team’s defensive strategy was about packing the paint and preventing shots at the rim and then fanning out and using their length to challenge at the 3-point line. Orlando gave up 37.0 3-point attempts per game (28th in the league) and 35.1 percent shooting (sixth in the league).
It was a gamble Orlando continues to make, although the team has been better giving up attempts. Opponents are shooting only 34.7 percent from deep against them (14th in the early season) and are giving up just 31.0 attempts per game (fifth in the league).
These are all encouraging numbers that the Magic are not a sieve for 3-point attempts like they were last year. This is a big reason the Magic’s defense feels better.
But it is still early in the season. And the LA Clippers found a groove from deep, hitting 14 of 31 3-pointers from deep.
Was that a case of bad shooting luck that will happen during the course of the year? This is the game to find out. The Jazz are shooting 37.2 3-pointers per game (eighth in the league) and 37.6 percent from deep (seventh in the early season). This game may well come down to whether the Jazz can shoot or not.
To that point, the Orlando Magic feel due for some good shooting luck. the Magic are certainly hopeful that is the reason why the offense has struggled. The real issue for them is not necessarily getting open shots, but making them. And the moment they make those, things will turn for the team.
Who knows how long the Magic will be able to make that bet? But Orlando’s biggest strength is in the paint and that might hold the key to unlocking the offense still, as much as a struggle as it is against a clogged lane.
The Magic rank ninth in the league with 51.5 points in the paint per game. They are also among the leaders in the league so far at free throw rate. As much as the Magic are reeling from Paul George and Russell Westbrook’s onslaught, they lost in that third quarter because they missed half of their 14 third-quarter free-throw attempts and 14 total free throws in the game.
Orlando just needs to see some shots go in. And against a Jazz defense that has struggled, they have an opportunity to try to get right.
They will need to score considering the Jazz are not just a great team from beyond the arc, but are scoring more points in the paint than the Magic — the Magic though are still third in the league giving up 43.5 points in the paint per game.
There are not an insignificant number of Orlando Magic fans who want the team to shuffle its rotation and starting lineup. A lot of that makes sense because most of the Magic’s shooting comes off the bench — namely Cole Anthony, Gary Harris and Joe Ingles.
There is something to that and Jamahl Mosley needs to do a better job blending rotations and placing players in advantageous lineups (I think Paolo Banchero should anchor the bench groups for now, leaving Franz Wagner with the starters as a spacer and attacker).
I would not expect major lineup changes quite yet. But maybe there needs to be a shorter leash on some things. Because right now, the Magic are getting their best offense off the bench.
Orlando is scoring 44.8 points per game off the bench, that is fourth in the league. The team’s bench players are shooting a combined 52.8 percent from the floor and 34.5 percent from three. They were a big reason the Magic took the lead in Tuesday’s game through halftime.
Utah also has some scorers off the bench. Collin Sexton has had a strong start to the year and rookie Keyonte George has looked refreshed and better than expected. The Jazz score 45.2 points per game off the bench. It is a big reason why the Jazz have so much offensive firepower early this season.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.