The Orlando Magic begin their run in the In-Season Tournament with a critical matchup with the Brooklyn Nets that could set the inside track for a top-2 spot in the group.
NBA In-Season Tournament East Group C
Orlando Magic (5-4, 0-0) vs. Brooklyn Nets (5-5, 1-1)
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line: Nets by 3/Magic Money Line: +128/Over-Under: 218.5 on FanDuel
Tickets: $14-$234 on StubHub
Season Series: Tonight in Brooklyn; Dec. 2 in Brooklyn; Feb. 27 in Orlando; March 13 in Orlando
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Our Prediction Record: 6-3/6-3 ATS
The Orlando Magic have finally reached the In-Season Tournament. Whether this game will mean something or not is still yet to be determined. The Magic tell us that it will, but that their goals are still just about generally getting better. This is just another game.
Or is it?
The Brooklyn Nets have to win this game to stay alive in the tournament. They lost to the Boston Celtics already in the group and it will almost certainly take a 3-1 record to advance out of the group phase. Does that raise Brooklyn’s intensity? Does that drop Orlando into a difficult spot where Orlando is getting a feel for this thing and Brooklyn is already lasered in on what they have to do?
That is the fun of this experiment right?
As a matchup, the Magic should feel pretty competitive. Brooklyn’s offense has fallen off dramatically in the last week, especially with Cam Thomas out with a left ankle sprain and Ben Simmons missing time. Orlando has found its groove defensively and that could be enough to help the team win.
3 Keys To Watch
The Brooklyn Nets like to shoot threes. That is their great offensive weapon. Brooklyn is fourth in the league shooting 40.8 percent from deep. The Nets are making 37.0 percent of those shots (eighth in the league). The Nets are going to fire away.
That has not slowed down since Cam Thomas exited the lineup with an ankle injury. They are going to try to get out in transition and fire pretty indiscriminately. The Orlando Magic will have to be locked in on the three-point line (the Brooklyn Nets are also last in free throw rate, so they are not a team that attacks the glass much).
Orlando’s 3-point defense has been pretty good this year. Opponents are taking only 32.8 3-point attempts per game against the Magic’s defense, seventh-fewest in the league. They are making only 34.6 percent of those threes (12th in the league).
Orlando’s defense has focused on defending the paint but this is a game where the team will have to defend the 3-point line well.
Injuries have been big stories for both the Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets to start the season.
Orlando will be without Markelle Fultz for the fifth time in six games with left knee tendinitis and without Gary Harris for the fifth straight game with a strained right groin. And, of course, Wendell Carter is out after having surgery to repair a fractured metacarpal in his left hand.
The Nets have been hit hard with nagging injuries too. Cam Thomas started the season off hot averaging 26.9 points per game on a 53.0 percent effective field goal percentage, but has missed the last two games and is expected to miss two weeks with a left ankle sprain. Ben Simmons has shown flashes of his former All-Star form, but he will be out with a left hip contusion.
Brooklyn at least has some good news. Lonnie Walker is available for the game tonight after previously being listed as QUESTIONABLE. And the Nets got Cameron Johnson back from injury after a seven-game absence. He has played the last two games, scoring 25 total points and shooting 9 for 29 from the floor (5 for 17 from deep).
Anthony Black, the starter
If there is a silver lining to the injuries, it has been the emergence of Anthony Black, who continues to look really impressive with the starting group.
Black is averaging 7.0 points per game and 2.3 assists per game in 30.3 minutes per game in his three starts. He is shooting a 63.9 percent rue shooting percentage. But that does not quite get to his impact — hello, 8.4 percent usage rate as a starter.
Still, his defense has been incredible for a rookie. He does not do more than he is asked to do and he shoots it when the ball rotates to him. That has kept defenses honest even if they still largely ignore him in the corner. He uses space well and takes advantage of cutting lanes when defenses ignore him too much.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.