The Orlando Magic look to pick themselves back up after their disappointing loss in Brooklyn as they battle a struggling but dangerous Chicago Bulls team on the road.
Orlando Magic (5-5) at Chicago Bulls (4-7)
Time/TV: 8 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line: Bulls by 1.5/Magic Money Line: +108/Over-Under: 216 on FanDuel
Tickets: $19-$365 on StubHub
Season Series: Tonight in Chicago; Nov. 17 in Chicago; Feb 10 in Orlando; April 7 in Orlando
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Our Prediction Record: 6-4/6-4 ATS
The Orlando Magic have to be bitterly disappointed with their loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
It is not that they lost. It is that they did not really show up defensively. They did not play their style or follow their formula that ultimately leads to the Magic winning more often than not. Orlando is entering a phase where the team know it can win but the team has to play consistently.
That is what young teams struggle with. Especially when they are put under a little bit of pressure and some brighter lights. Orlando hopefully will learn that lesson for later In-Season Tournament games and hopefully the Play-In Tournament or Playoffs in April.
The schedule though continues. There is always another game. And the Orlando Magic next head to Chicago to face a struggling Chicago Bulls team that still has plenty of firepower (even with DeMar DeRozan OUT tonight for personal reasons, Alex Caruso is also QUESTIONABLE with a left toe sprain).
This is a big test for the Magic too. They had only one win in 13 games with zero rest last year and have lost the first back half of a back-to-back this year. What the Magic have to prove continually is how they respond to losses and limiting losing streaks as much as possible. This is a big one to show the Magic’s overall resolve.
3 Keys To Watch
The Orlando Magic’s defense is likely going to be happy to have a break and some margin for error.
Throughout the past week, they have played some of the best offensive teams in the league and have struggled to hold their own for 48 minutes. Ultimately, that is what the team is looking for. They had a good first half against the Dallas Mavericks, a good second half against the Atlanta Hawks, a complete game against the Milwaukee Bucks and then one good quarter against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Magic’ spoor defensive game Tuesday in Brooklyn dropped the team from second in the league in defensive rating to fifth in the league. Stats are not quite sticky yet. There is a lot of season left and one bad performance still weighs a lot.
Wednesday’s game is not a full break. Everyone knows what Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine are capable of doing. Both players can have big games and both seem due for breakouts (like Trae Young last week). But there is a bigger margin for error because they are not early as efficient offensively.
Chicago is 21st in the league in offensive rating 28th in the league in effective field goal percentage. the Magic are slightly worse in overall offensive rating and a better shooting team. It could be a struggle to score for both teams with both teams very capable on defense.
The Zach LaVine situation
The news came down Tuesday morning from Shams Charania of The Athletic that the Chicago Bulls and Zach LaVine are open to exploring trade possibilities for the veteran guard. It seemed an inevitable thing for the former All-Star after the Bulls struggled out of the gates and did not seem to have much of a future with this current veteran-heavy group.
Nobody has the Bulls doing much more than competing for the Play-In Tournament at this point.
It is not clear what a deal might look like or how soon that deal might come. The Bulls seem ripe for a rebuild now that their obligations from the Nikola Vucevic trade have been fulfilled. The question is who is chasing LaVine.
The Orlando Magic have not been listed in that group quite yet. The usual suspects — Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat — have been mentioned early. But Orlando is certainly a team that can put together a package. And the Magic desperately need shooting and scoring that LaVine could provide.
But buyer beware. LaVine is averaging 21.9 points per game on a 47.4 percent effective field goal percentage, the worst mark since his return from an ACL injury in 2018. He is shooting just 40.9 percent overall and 30.9 percent from deep on 7.4 3-point field goal attempts per game.
On top of this, LaVine has four more years on his contract starting at $40 million next season.
Gary Harris returns
The Orlando Magic announced last night on their overnight injury report that Gary Harris would be AVAILABLE for tonight’s game after missing the last five games with a strained right groin.
For a team missing some floor spacing and 3-point shooting, this will be very welcome and Harris could find himself in the starting lineup and playing major minutes quickly.
In the five games he played for the Magic he is averaging 8.0 points per game and shooting 9 for 18 from three. Orlando could still work to get Harris more shots. That is the struggle with him. But his threat as a three-point shooter remains really valuable.
It has had a positive effect too. The Magic have a +12.5 net rating with Harris on the floor with a 115.2 offensive rating. Lineups with Gary Harris, Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner together have a net rating of +35.1 points per 100 possessions and 117.2 offensive rating (in 13 minutes, ignore that man behind the curtain).
Harris is a big boost to this offense in whatever lineup he plays in and the Magic desperately need even the threat of him.
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