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Season Series: Magic 139, Wizards 120 in Orlando on Nov. 29; Magic 130, Wizards 125 in Orlando on Dec. 1; Tonight in Washington, D.C.; March 6 in Washington, D.C.
Our Record: 19-9/14-14 ATS
Orlando is feeling quite jolly and good after a gutsy win over the Indiana Pacers on the road. Taking that with the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic are feeling much better about their play. They feel confident they are defending again at a high level and the team saw it scan score against poor defensive teams.
To be sure, the Magic's 3-point shooting is still a concern for games like this. It takes a lot of discipline for the Magic to play their style and their way to come out on top in games like these.
And the Wizards are a team that can punish teams that are not disciplined with their pace and raw scoring power. Orlando got away with outscoring Washington twice to end the team's nine-game win streak.
Still, the Magic are a good enough team that they can slip pu and still have a chance to win. This is a game the Magic need to ensure they control.
3 Keys to Watch
If the Orlando Magic proved one thing in their win over the Indiana Pacers, it should be that three-point shooting is not the end-all, be-all for the team. The Pacers made 15 total 3-pointers and the Magic made only 6 of 18 3-pointers in the game.
Orlando still needs to hit key threes and keep defenses honest. But this team can survive and make up the difference for missed threes. It is just about having the will and desire to play that way.
This team is all about living in the paint and scoring at the basket or getting to the foul line. That is how the Magic make up for their lack of 3-point shooting.
They average 55.9 points in the paint, third in the league behind the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards actually. In wins, the Magic score 59.1 points in the paint per game. In losses, they score 51.1 per game.
There is definitely a magic number for the Magic to reach and usually you can tell if they had a good game or not based on their advantage in the paint.
Not only are the Magic excellent at scoring in the paint, but they defend it well too. Orlando gives up 48.0 points in the paint per game, seventh in the league. This is the heart of the Magic's identity. Win the paint, win the game.
More on the Interior
Let's keep that theme going then and highlight Washington Wizards center Daniel Gafford, who put up a historic stat line of 16 points, eight rebounds, four steals and six blocks in the win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday. He followed up with 15 points in the loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday to complete a 1-3 West Coast road trip.
Gafford is not much of an offensive option, even on a team that scores a lot. But he has proven to be a solid rim protector and dump down option. He is someone the team has to be aware of for the ways he impacts every part of the game.
Gafford, so far this season, is averaging 11.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, both career highs. Opponents are shooting 56.7 percent against Gafford at the rim, according to data from Second Spectrum.
For a team with precious few defenders and gritty playres, Gafford is someone to be aware of as the Magic try to attack the paint.
Attention for Franz
A lot of the attention is rightly on Paolo Banchero for the way he has played in December -- 25.0 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game this month -- Franz Wagner also deserves some attention.
Most Magic fans are certainly frustrated with his outside shooting. That has been a point of major concern for the team overall.
And it should be considering how few shooters the Magic have and the efficiency Wagner played with in his first two seasons. Wagner has made just 7 of 40 3-pointers in December (17.5 percent).
But there is still plenty to be encouraged by Wagner. Despite it all, Wagner is averaging 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game in December. He is getting downhill and toward the basket a whole lot more.
Wagner is still averaging a career-high 20.3 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game and 3.9 assists per game this season. And this with his shooting numbers all taking a nosedive. Orlando is happy to see him be more aggressive and assertive. The efficiency should return with more experience and poise.
And this does not even get into Wagner's pair of 31-point games against the Wizards a few weeks ago.