Our Record: 31-20/27-24 ATS
There is a lot of uncertainty on trade deadline day. That is the nature of the beast. Between when this is being written and published, everything can change -- for both teams. Playing on deadline day is awkward. But the deadline is done well before the game starts. And there is still a game to play.
The Orlando Magic know they have a lot of work to do. They see this four-game homestand heading into the All-Star Break as vital, especially after a huge loss to the Miami Heat to close the road trip and put them behind in the postseason chase.
Every game is going to feel important. At the very least, the trade deadline is a marker that says it is time to pick up steam and sprint to the finish line.
That is something the Magic are still learning.
Paolo Banchero was the most blunt after Tuesday's loss, saying the team went 3-2 on its road trip but was shaky in wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons in games they should have won comfortably. There is a sense they have to tighten their focus, especially for these kinds of games against the worst teams in the league.
Orlando built a 23-point lead on the road in San Antonio and saw it whittled to three in the fourth quarter. So here is another opportunity to prove the team's resilience and attention to detail. Regardless of who is available or what the Magic do,
3 Keys To Watch
Attacking the Paint
The Orlando Magic's big key offensively is not to worry about their shooting. Crazy, I know.
Their key is to get into the paint. You can track how much better the Magic play when they score in the paint as opposed to when they do not.
The Magic are ninth in the league, averaging 52.4 points in the paint per game. In wins this year, Orlando is averaging 57.3 points in the paint per game (fourth among all teams in wins). In losses, the team averages 46.9 points in the paint per game.
Orlando is 13-2 when the team scores 60 or more points in the paint and 16-5 when the team scores 55 or more. The Magic are 4-14 when they score fewer than 50 points in the paint in a game.
The differences are stark. On Tuesday, the Orlando Magic scored only 44 points in the paint against the Miami Heat. They had 62 in the win over the Spurs last week.
The Magic figured out a way to attack Victor Wembanyama, who leads the league in blocks with 3.1 per game. And that will be critical to netting another victory on Thursday.
Both the Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs are dealing with similar problems -- albeit at different stages. They both have young teams who are trying to learn how to win. There are a lot of ups and downs they need to go through.
The Magic are going through the maturity of going through a postseason chase. They feel pressure to keep stacking wins and seeing teams chase them down. More importantly, they understand that winning is not the standard they are playing to. They have to play to their identity and their way of playing.
That is the biggest test of a game against the Spurs. Paolo Banchero was frustrated with the wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons because the team made many mistakes even though the Orlando Magic still won.
The Spurs are going through these maturity battles, too. They struggle to put 48 minutes together, as they showed in their loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday. San Antonio was tight in the game but faded late, getting outscored 38-27 in the fourth quarter in a 116-104 loss.
San Antonio is still putting things together. The team has pockets where the team looks really good. But these are part of the building blocks for this team.
The Orlando Magic have a notably bad record on the second night of back-to-backs. After going just 1-12 on the second night of back-to-backs last year, the team is just 2-8 this year.
Is that progress?
This is one area where young teams struggle, of course. And the Magic's biggest deal right now is learning how to play under adverse conditions -- back-to-backs, end of long road trips, etc. You still have to find a way to win.
And the first game home after a long road trip -- not to mention with the trade deadline hovering over the game -- is always tricky.
The San Antonio Spurs also struggle in these kinds of games. The Spurs are just 2-6 on the second night of back-to-backs. In those situations, they have a 113.1/124.4 offensive/defensive rating split. Victor Wembanyama is playing back-to-backs now, and that should help them.
It is tough to learn how to play in these scenarios. But these young teams are still figuring it out.