Orlando Magic vs. New Orleans Pelicans (March 21, 2024): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

The Orlando Magic start a stretch of four straight games against Western Conference playoff teams as they aim to prove themselvs against a tougher schedule.

The Orlando Magic take on the New Orleans Pelicans in the first of four straight games against teams in the Western Conference Playoff picture.
The Orlando Magic take on the New Orleans Pelicans in the first of four straight games against teams in the Western Conference Playoff picture. / Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports
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March 21, 2024. 41-28. Pelicans by 2.5 (O/U 207.5). 7P. NBATV, Bally Sports Florida, Bally Sports New Orleans. Magic Pelicans Matchup 03.21.24. 38. 42-26. 69

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Season Series:
Tonight in Orlando; April 3 in New Orleans

Pace

Off. Rtg.

Def. Rtg.

eFG%

O.Reb.%

TO%

FTR

New Orleans

99.0

117.1

111.6

55.9

28.8

13.3

26.3

Orlando

97.5

112.9

110.9

54.2

30.0

15.2

29.3

OMD Prediction

Our Record: 45-24/35-34 ATS

The Orlando Magic have been riding high of late. Their defense is shutting opponents down and they are stacking up wins. The team has won 11 of 14 games since the All-Star Break.

Of course, two of those losses are notable because they were back-to-back games against Playoff-contending teams in the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers. Those games felt like they had a lot of weight. And they were two of the three games the Magic have had against winning teams since the All-Star Break.

That makes this next stretch of four games against playoff opponents all the more important for Orlando. The team has to prove itself against better competition.

They may not face a team on a hotter streak right now than the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans have won seven of their last eight games. Zion Williamson looks healthy and back to his All-Star form. This is a dangerous team with versatility on defense and several offensive weapons.

But they too have faced a fairly light part of their schedule. The Magic are going to face a really stern test. Both teams should be eager for this challenge.

Prediction. 108. 69. Magic Pelicans Prediction 03.21.24. 109. 38

3 Keys to Watch

Battle for the Paint

The first stat I always look at on the box score is points in the paint. We know the Orlando Magic are not a three-point shooting team and so their success really relies on their ability to score in the paint.

Orlando is ninth in the league averaging 52.1 points in the paint per game. The team is scoring fewer points in the paint (50.4 per game) since the All-Star Break as their defense has improved and as they have hit more 3-pointers.

The Magic's real strength is as much in defending the paint where opponents average 47.9 points in the paint per game (10th in the league) and 44.3 per game since the All-Star Break (fourth in the league).

The Orlando Magic are going up against a New Orleans Pelicans team that is extremely good at defending the paint. And whether the Magic can get to the basket and score could determine their success in this game.

The Pelicans are fifth in the league giving up 46.6 points in the paint per game (they are 10th in the league at 52.0 points in the paint per game).

What we have Thursday is a game of two teams who want to get into the paint and are both good at preventing scores in the paint. Whoever can get on the interior may win this game.

Zion's Showcase

Believe it or not, Zion Williamson has only one career regular season game against the Orlando Magic -- which occurred in the 2021 COVID season. That is a statement really about Williamson's prolonged absence due to injuries throughout his career.

But Williamson seems to have found his stride this year more than any other time. He is averaging 22.7 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game this year and has played in 57 games after playing in just 29 last year.

He has started to round himself into form lately. Williamson is averaging 26.7 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game on 64.0 percent shooting in his last seven games. It is not a coincidence then that this is has been when the Pelicans have surged.

There just are not many players who can handle Williamson when he is going downhill with athleticism and speed. And that is why the Pelicans can be so dangerous.

Mr. 40 percent

The Orlando Magic are not a shooting team. Everyone knows that at this point. But they are starting to shoot the ball a little better. And they know they have to remain confident with their shot and shoot them when open. They still need to nominally spread the floor.

With such a big focus on getting downhill and attacking the paint, the Magic have to be able to spread the floor. And they need some floor spacing from their center considering they have so much size trying to get to the basket.

Wendell Carter has delivered with Cole Anthony joking that the team calls him "Mr. 40 Percent" because of his shooting percentage.

There is something to that. Carter has been very reliable as a 3-point shooter throughout the year, shooting a career-best 39.7 percent from three. He may be averaging a Magic tenure-low 11.6 points per game, but Carter is reliable from three (especially from the corners where he is hitting 19 of 50 threes this season).

Next. Magic sleeping 03.21.24. Everyone is still sleeping on the Orlando Magic. dark

Since the All-Star Break, Carter has hit 38.6 percent of his threes. That is obviously below his season average, but more than respectable for a big man. The Magic can rely on Carter as a 3-point shooter.