Our Record: 33-20/28-25 ATS
The big day has finally arrived for the Orlando Magic. They will finally get the national spotlight on them.
Everyone will try to make this game feel like any other during the season. But everyone knows that it is not. Everyone knows that this game is very different than the others. They could feel that energy and hustle during practice Monday.
The question will be: How do they handle that pressure when the game begins? Are the lights going to be too bright?
Of course, eventually, these kinds of games will be old hat. And no one wants to make too much of being on national TV. It is a thing that is happening, but it is not the thing that is happening.
The thing that is happening is a battle between two of the best young teams in the league -- one that is experiencing the postseason chase for the first time and one that has already seemingly arrived. The Magic must be focused on dealing with the Thunder's constant attack.
But Orlando has had a good history against Oklahoma City. The Magic's size gives the Thunder some problems.
You did not think I was going to predict the Magic to lose this game, did you?
3 Keys to Watch
Paolo Banchero's Passing
When we asked coach Jamahl Mosley about Franz Wagner's strong scoring game and how he dominated the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, Mosley kept returning to one thing. So much of the space created for Franz Wagner came from the attention given to Paolo Banchero.
Mosley was singing the praises for Banchero and his passing. That has been an element of his game that has grown by leaps and bounds this season. Banchero is averaging 5.2 assists per game this season. It is a giant leap.
He has been excellent recently. Banchero has recorded six assists in each of his last 10 games. That is an incredible streak, something the Magic have not seen from their point guards, let alone from a 6-foot-10 forward.
This versatility has made Banchero something special. He is an All-Star and seems to be building on that resume, even if he has been easing off the scoring lately.
All eyes on the Oklahoma City Thunder always turn toward Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He is an MVP candidate and the Thunder's driving force (key word there).
Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 31.1 points and 6.6 assists per game. According to Second Spectrum, he again leads the league in drives per game with 23.8 drives per game. He averages 17.0 points per game off drives too, also tops in the league.
Gilgeous-Alexander puts tons of pressure on defenses with his ability to get downhill. And he has gotten better at decelerating into jumpers and drawing fouls. That is what he did when he torched the Magic for 37 points, six rebounds and seven assists in January.
Jalen Suggs will have his hands full defending him this time around. At least he will not be sick in this matchup.
The Orlando Magic are trying to ignore or push it to the side, but it is impossible not to feel how big this game is. At shootaround this morning, the entire Orlando Magic staff and players took a photo with Shaquille O'Neal ahead of his jersey retirement. There is a lot of buzz about this game.
The Magic have not been on national TV very much. And with this being the only national TV game on the schedule, it was one everyone highlighted. This is the game every fan has been waiting for as a chance to showcase who the Magic are to a national audience.
That is a lot of pressure, and the opponent is formidable. But the Magic want this spotlight. You can sense how everyone wants to be on this stage. They want games like Tuesday's game to become normal. Perhaps a strong showing and solidifying their place in the standings and the playoff race will get them more attention.
But every team wants the stage. Everyone wants the recognition. The Magic are looking forward to this game. And we will see how the team steps up on this stage or if this young team is not quite ready for the hubbub.