The Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks journey to Mexico City for what could end up being a critical battle in the Southeast Division.
Orlando Magic (4-3) vs. Atlanta Hawks (4-3)
Time/TV: 9:30 p.m./NBATV, Bally Sports Florida
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Line: Hawks by 3.5/Magic Money Line: +130/Over-Under: 232 on FanDuel
Tickets: $20-$132 on StubHub
Season Series: Tonight in Mexico City; Jan. 7 in Orlando; Jan. 17 in Atlanta; Feb. 25 in Atlanta
Our Prediction Record: 5-2/5-2 ATS
The fun part of this season is seeing how the Orlando Magic respond to adversity and defeat. What do they do in response to the times they falter? Everyone said they were disappointed with how their defense performed in their loss to the Dallas Mavericks. So how will they respond?
This is a good team to get tested with too. The Atlanta Hawks are a dynamic offensive team that likes to push the pace and get up their threes. This is a team that does not allow a defense to rest. And as good as Orlando has been defensively, the team has not performed well against the two top offenses it has faced.
That is what this week is about. It is a test for the Magic and their commitment to defense. That is the challenge for this game.
Mexico City adds an extra element and variable to the equation. Who is going to get tired from the altitude first? Will Atlanta’s road trip make their legs heavier? Or will the Magic struggle to keep up their defensive intensity without consistent offense? This game feels like a real toss-up.
3 Keys To Watch
Keep Your Pace
This game between the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks is an interesting battle of contrasts. Namely, this is the third-best offense in the league so far with the Hawks going up against the third-best defense in the league in the Magic. Both teams grab a ton of offensive rebounds too. There are going to be a lot of these mini-battles in this game.
The real battle will be between who controls the tempo and pace of the game. The Hawks are third in the league playing at 103.5 possessions per 48 minutes. The Magic are 21st in the league at 99.8 possessions per 48 minutes. This may not be the end-all, be-all for each team, but it is enough of a contrast to keep an eye on throughout this game.
Whoever controls the tempo and pace of this game could win it. If it feels like both teams are getting up and down the court — the Magic average only 11.3 fast-break points per game (27th in the league) — the Hawks are likely winning. If the game feels slowed to a crawl, Orlando is likely ahead.
The Atlanta Hawks have been scoring a ton this year. But they are not exactly burning the rim.
The Hawks are shooting 334.2 percent from three (21st in the league) and just 11.11.9 3-pointers per game. Trae Young is shooting only 27.3 percent on 6.3 attempts per game. That feels unlike this Hawks team. And it speaks to how much offensive potential the Hawks have left on the board.
Of course, the Orlando Magic are not much of a shooting team either. They are coming off a 1-for-16 shooting performance from deep in the second half Monday and the team has made only 31.9 percent of their threes this season.
The Magic have to make threes to keep their offense alive — it is far more important to them than for the Hawks. But if the Magic’s defense tightens up, it could be a tough game for both teams from deep.
The Orlando Magic are expected to get some key players back from injury for this game. Markelle Fultz went through practice Wednesday and was upgraded to QUESTIONABLE for Thursday’s game with left knee tendinitis. It seems he is on track to return for this game.
Jonathan Isaac too was upgraded to PROBABLE with a sore left hamstring. The Magic are still monitoring his minutes and how he is feeling on a day-to-day basis. But he undoubtedly helps boost the defense.
On the early season, Orlando has a +2.5 net rating with Fultz on the floor this season (104.1/101.6) and a +4.1 net rating (106.7/102.5). The Magic have played well with both on the court. And the Magic have missed them despite their depth.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.