Our Record: 29-18/24-23 ATS
The Orlando Magic are undoubtedly disappointed with their loss Monday against the Dallas Mavericks. In a lot of ways, they did some great things as their offense found rhythm on the second night of a back-to-back and they fought back from their own struggles. The game came down to their difficulties defending without fouling and keeping the Mavericks in front of them.
Still, the Magic have lost on the last possession of their last three games. No team in the league has played more close road games than the Magic. They compete and they play hard. It is really just about getting over the hump. Orlando needs some confidence to get there.
That is something the San Antonio Spurs are feeling right now. The Spurs are 10-37 overall but have won three of their last six (pretty good, all things considered). There was legitimate disappointment in their 118-113 home loss to the Washington Wizards on Monday.
The minute restriction on Victor Wembanyama has been released, and he is playing more center, getting more comfortable at the position and giving the Spurs more flexibility and versatility. His defensive impact is very real.
This is not a walk in the park for the Magic, even if they have all the tools to win.
3 Keys to Watch
The Orlando Magic are built on their defense. That is what everyone says -- they hang their hat on the defensive end. And that has been the crux of the Magic's strength this year. Their offense is terrible, but the defense -- ranked sixth in the league -- is always there.
That has been the inconsistent part for the team of late. And anything the Magic do has to start with getting back to basics on defense.
Since coming back from their road trip, the Orlando Magic have gone from a 131.9 defensive rating against the Philadelphia 76ers to a 95.6 defensive rating against the Miami Heat to a season-worst 135.5 defensive rating against the Cleveland Cavaliers to a below-average 113.8 defensive rating against the Memphis Grizzlies to a staunch 100.0 against the Phoenix Suns to a 132.3 defensive rating in Monday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
That is quite a roller coaster, showing both the team's potential to be dominant on defense and how the team still has not cemented this identity. The Magic should be able to defend well, and they should respond well to a bad defensive performance -- they have done so in the past, and Jonathan Isaac's return certainly helps.
Regardless of the San Antonio Spurs' record, everyone around the league is quickly starting to understand that Victor Wembanyama is a problem. He is someone who is unique and difficult to handle. He is averaging 20.6 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game and a league-high 3.1 blocks per game.
The impact is clear statistically too.
The Spurs have a 113.0 defensive rating with Wembanyama on the floor. The team has a 118.1 defensive rating overall. That is a Jonathan Isaac-level of improvement on defense (although the Magic's defense is significantly better overall).
The Spurs are still figuring out their offense -- the Magic are the worst 3-point shooting team in the league and the Spurs are 29th. Wembanyama has not proven to be a consistent boost to the offense.
But this Spurs team is playing better now, and Wembanyama is a big reason -- 24.8 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game, 3.2 blocks per game, and a 114.8 on-court defensive rating (120.7 overall) in his last six games.
The Shooting Issues
It is hard to talk about the Orlando Magic's shooting problems after they just turned in an 18-for-38 3-point shooting performance, the second-most threes this season and third-highest percentage.
But that is the thing about this team: So much still depends on shooting for their success. Although, maybe it is worth noting that Orlando lost both games where the team hit the most threes.
The 3-point shot has been essential to keep up with elite offenses. That is not the San Antonio Spurs. They are a team that struggles to shoot. They are the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the league ahead of only the Magic.
That does not mean shooting will not be a key to this game. Both teams will make it tough to score in the paint -- the Magic are now 13th in the league in points allowed in the paint, and the Spurs are 21st at 52.9 points in the paint allowed per game despite the size of the interior. Loosening the paint for either team to score could come down to how much space they create.
Orlando is competitive because of its defense. The Magic are struggling to break through and gain consistency because they cannot rely on their shooting enough.