Scouting Report: Orlando Magic
There have been several surprise teams in the NBA so far, one of which is the Orlando Magic. One year after they won just 20 games and finished with the worst record in the NBA, the Magic are off to a 3-2 start as this post is being written, with a chance to go 4-2 Friday with a winnable home game against the struggling Boston Celtics. Should Orlando win, they would own a four-game winning streak headed into Saturday’s tilt with the Hawks.
The Magic have won the previous three contests by an average of 16.3 points thanks in large part to a balanced scoring attack and stellar defense. During the winning streak, they have held all three opponents to 90 or fewer points while scoring at least 98 in each game.
Nikola Vucevic has been an absolute monster, averaging 17.8 points and 13.2 rebounds, including a 30-point, 21-rebound performance against a good Clippers team on Wednesday. Vucevic crashes the offensive glass as well as anyone in the league (nearly five offensive boards a game by himself), and he’s nearly impossible to push off the block. At 7’0″, he should have plenty of 1-on-1 looks, so the Hawks may have to help. The problem with that is…
…you leave guys like Arron Afflalo open. Orlando’s leading scorer has always been a proficient three-point shooter, and this season is no different as he’s off to an 11-23 start from deep (again, as of Friday morning). Leaving Jameer Nelson alone isn’t wise either. While he’s not as good of a shooter, he can make plays off the dribble, and he’s very good at pushing the ball in the open court.
Second year forward Maurice Harkless is off to a strong start as well. It looks like he’ll fill a permanent starting role this season after starting 59 games as a rookie. Don’t leave him…he’s made nearly half of his shots so far this season.
The magic are in the top 10 in scoring, and part of that is because they lead the league in rebounding. When you’re getting second chances and holding opponents to one shot, you’re going to spend a lot of time on offense. The Hawks are going to have to keep Orlando, especially Vucevic, off the offensive glass while trying to create a few second-shot opportunities of their own. If they can win the rebounding battle, or at least stay close, they’ll have a chance to stay undefeated at home. Orlando has played two road games and lost both.
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