The Orlando Magic return home from their West Coast trip to face the Los Angeles Lakers amid three key injuries that will affect the team in the near future.
Orlando Magic (3-2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (3-2)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line: Lakers by 4/Magic Money Line: +148/Over-Under: 223 on FanDuel
Tickets: $96-$1,071 on StubHub
Season Series: Lakers 106, Magic 103 in Los Angeles on Oct. 30; Tonight in Orlando
Our Prediction Record: 5-0/5-0 ATS
The first game back from a road trip is always difficult. The Orlando Magic though are certainly relishing the thought of returning to the Amway Center after playing four games on the road following the team’s home opener to start the season. Orlando has to hope that there is some home cooking and that the team is capable of defending the home floor.
Of course, things are not all rosy in the Magic Kingdom. Wendell Carter is OUT tonight with a fracture in the third metacarpal in his left hand — his hand was heavily wrapped as he went through grounding exercises at the end of Saturday’s shootaround. Gary Harris is also OUT with a right groin strain. Markelle Fultz will be a gametime decision after he was a late scratch for Thursday’s game with left knee swelling.
The Los Angeles Lakers are a dangerous team, coming off an overtime win over the LA Clippers on Wednesday. And the Lakers lean heavily on their stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis to compete. They always give them a chance. The wild card is D’Angelo Russell though, as the Magic found out in Monday’s loss.
The real question is whether the Magic can maintain their intensity with Carter out for the game.
3 Keys To Watch
Big Task Ahead
Wendell Carter’s prognosis or timetable for a return is not set yet (the Orlando Magic are not likely to announce that timetable anyway, we are expecting a 4-6 week absence so his return could be a nice Christmas gift). But the reality is the Magic have to move forward and move on. That is the nature of the league. And this Magic team is used to the injuries.
It is not clear yet whether the Magic will start Moe Wagner or Goga Bitadze. Both will certainly get playing time and the team will have to find its groove with the two of them manning those minutes.
The task Saturday night though is a tough one, to say the least. Anthony Davis was the drumbeat for the Lakers in Monday’s win with 26 points and 19 rebounds. Not even Wendell Carter’s solid defense was enough to handle him.
Neither Moe Wagner nor Goga Bitadze got much time matching up directly with Anthony Davis. But Orlando has to do better crowding and making Davis uncomfortable.
The Orlando Magic are constantly and hyper aware of their turnovers and what that means for their team. The Magic were a poor team with turnovers last year at 18.1 percent. This was the biggest area the team would have to grow up and mature.
So far, this year, the Magic have been better, but likely not where they want to be. Orlando is 15th in the league with a 14.8 percent turnover rate. That is a big jump from last year when the team was near the bottom of the rankings in that mark.
Still, turnovers are a constant thing to be aware of. Turnovers lead to fast-break opportunities and that limits the Magic’s ability to get set defensively. The good news is the Magic are fourth in the league giving up only 10.8 fast-break points per game. Orlando does a good job scrambling in transition.
The Lakers are not forcing a ton of turnovers this year, 13.4 percent opponent turnover rate. But they get out in transition well averaging 17.6 fast-break points per game. This will be a decisive factor in this game.
Moe Wagner said it best at shootaround on Saturday that if not for a rough 3.5 minute finish, the Orlando Magic were in it to win it against the Los Angeles Lakers and probably should have won the game. The Magic have faced clutch situations only twice so far this season and both times they were a bit rocky maintaining leads.
Through just two games — SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT — the Magic are being outscored 18-14 in clutch situations (a game within five points in the final five minutes). They are shooting just 5 for 16 in these games and 1 for 7 from beyond the arc. They have five turnovers.
For all the talk of the team’s use of short two- or three-minute games to practice these situations, the Magic have looked really rough. They nearly lost the game against the Utah Jazz because of poor late-game execution on both ends.
The Lakers are a solid late in games, going 3-1 in their clutch situations to start the season. They outscore their opponents 62-55. But they shoot just 19 for 45 in clutch situations. It just shows how weird clutch situations can be.
But to be sure, Orlando has to find a way to be better in these kinds of situations to get where the team wants to go.
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