Our Record: 25-13/20-18 ATS
The Orlando Magic are in it bad right now. The illness that has hit the team hard is not abating any time soon with Jalen Suggs playing only about 14 minutes in Friday's loss to the Miami Heat because he was struggling to get through his illness. And the team is going to be sitting some players returning from injuries like Markelle Fultz and Joe Ingles because of the back-to-back.
Nobody wants to use injuries as an excuse. The team should still be able to find a way to be competitive and win games. But the margin for error is just so small right now.
Maybe the Magic will get Jonathan Isaac back tonight -- he was not listed on the Magic's injury report for Saturday. But Orlando needs a lot of help and the team needs to find some support for their few consistent rotation players playing every night.
The team needs something to breathe some life back into them so they can do more than just tread water. The Magic are losing some ground in the tight Eastern Conference race.
This feels like the worst time then to face an Oklahoma City Thunder team that is establishing itself as a title contender and on a tear winning eight of their past nine games and 11 of their past 13. This is a tall task for the Magic to face.
3 Keys To Watch
Win the Paint, Win the Game
The Orlando Magic usually have a fairly simple formula to win: Attack and put pressure on the rim, get to the foul line, limit turnovers, force turnovers and defend the paint.
A lot of that has been thrown out the window in the last few weeks as the Magic have had to scramble to create rotations and find some offense. It has helped the team has made some threes during this stretch.
But there is no doubt, the Magic have to do a better job getting back to these principles. Especially getting downhill and to the basket to the paint.
The team is now seventh in points in the paint with 53.3 points in the paint per game. They have not hit that average in the last five games -- including just 38 in Friday's loss to the Miami Heat. Orlando has been outscored in the paint in those five games, giving up 60.8 points in the paint per game in those five outings.
The Magic have to get back to defending and scoring in the paint. This is their identity as much as anything. And while that slippage is consistent with the injuries the team has faced -- losing a paint protector like Wendell Carter and a driver like Franz Wagner -- the Magic have to get back to this.
Quietly, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has put together an MVP season this year. Maybe not so quietly considering the Thunder are second in the Western Conference. Gilgeous-Alexander was an All-NBA player last year.
He has kept up that drive this year as he remains a drive-heavy player this year. But his whole game has expanded once again.
Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 31.4 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 6.3 assists per game and a league-high 2.3 steals per game.
All eyes are on Gilgeous-Alexander and while there are a lot of dynamic and strong players on this Thunder team to account for their success, it all starts with Gilgeous-Alexander.
One of the other key principles for the Orlando Magic this season has been to force turnovers and use that to feed their offense. That is a big part of why the Orlando Magic were able to climb back into their game with the Miami Heat on Friday. Orlando forced 17 turnovers for 14 points off turnovers.
But as that even suggests, the Magic have started lagging in that department too.
For the season, Orlando forces a turnover rate of 15.3 percent (third in the league) and scores 19.0 points off turnovers (second in the league). But in the last 10 games, the Magic have eclipsed those 19 points off turnovers per game just sven times. They have hit that 15.3 percent turnover rate only five times.
The Magic's defense has slipped a ton in the paint. But the team is also not generating turnovers as frequently. Imagine how super-charged the offense would be if the team were generating turnovers.
That will be a big factor in this game too. The Thunder are first in the league in opponent turnover rate and points off turnovers per game.