The Orlando Magic come back from the high of Friday's major win over the Boston Celtics to face the resurgent Charlotte Hornets as their homestand continues this week.
Our Record: 9-7/10-6 ATS
The Orlando Magic will have to wait for their In-Season Tournament fate to finalize Tuesday but the team certainly accomplished something in defeating the Boston Celtics on Friday. It was a marquee game that we all had circled on our calendars from the start of the season. The Magic delivered.
Now comes the hard part: Can you do it again and keep doing it? More importantly: Can you do it when the motivation is not apparent?
It is easy for a team to get up for playing the Denver Nuggets or Boston Celtics. Doing it against the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards? That is the bigger challenge for a young team. Especially one that is sitting back and celebrating a big win in a big spot.
This will be the true test.
The Hornets right now are much better than their record. Charlotte has won two straight, including an overtime win over Boston. And the offense is starting to find a groove with LaMelo Ball catching fire and Miles Bridges returning to the lineup.
This will not be an easy game and a big test for the Magic's defense and focus. A test the Magic cannot afford to overlook.
3 Keys to Watch
Joe Ingles and the Nephews
The Orlando Magic's secret weapon to start the season has been its bench and depth. Orlando has been able to rely on consistent scoring production from Cole Anthony and Moe Wagner throughout the season with steady shooting from Gary Harris and Joe Ingles and defensive impact from Jonathan Isaac.
Wagner had a big game scoring 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter of Orlando's win Friday. That has simply become normal for this team. Somebody steps up and somebody delivers for this team.
And the group just works well together. It has Cole Anthony working hard to give them a nickname in the most Cole Anthony fashion:
The Magic currently have the second-highest-scoring bench in the league at 45.8 points per game. Anthony is 17th in the league averaging 14.1 points per game off the bench and Wagner is 24th at 12.6 points per game. They alone nearly outscore the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets sit 25th in the league at 29.1 points per game off the bench. That is ahead of the Boston Celtics at 25.3 points per game, but not by much. This will be a big area the Magic should have an advantage.
Mark Williams and the boards
The Orlando Magic have worked overtime to try to limit their disadvantage with 3-point shooting. Free throw shooting was their big path to equalizing things last year.
This year, they have added offensive rebounding and second-chance points. The Magic are seventh in the league with a 31.9 percent offensive rebound rate and first in the league with 18.6 second-chance points per game this season.
They will have to be big on the boards again and attacking the rim going up against young Charlotte Hornets big man Mark Williams.
Williams is averaging 13.6 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game with 4.3 offensive rebounds per game. Williams is active on the glass. His size has given teams a lot of problems, especially as a roller working with LaMelo Ball.
Charlotte as a team ranks eighth in the league with a 31.2 percent offensive rebound rate and sixth with 15.8 second-chance points per game. The team that wins this battle on the glass may well win this game.
Playing with Pace
The Charlotte Hornets have LaMelo Ball and that inevitably means the Hornets are going to look to push the pace. Or Ball is going to push the pace.
And Ball is very good at that. He averages 25.9 points and 8.6 assists per game. The Hornets have a 103.3 pace with Ball on the floor. The team itself averages just 13.5 fast-break points per game. Steve Clifford's teams are not always the best at getting out on the break with their focus on getting stops.
The Orlando Magic are not a team that plays with a lot of pace either. But that number has been creeping up. In the last six games, the Magic are playing at a pace of 100.0 possessions per 48 minutes, 11th in the league for that time.
That is not a blistering pace by any means and the Orlando Magic have played some fast teams -- like the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors -- but there is also a clear focus on trying to get out on the run. The team is averaging 13.8 fast-break points per game during this win streak (Orlando is at 12.4 per game for the season).
The Magic, especially with Jalen Suggs, are clearly trying to get out and run a lot more and initiate offense quicker or catch defenses before they get set. This will be a game where whoever is controlling the tempo of the game could well win it.