NBA Friday Night Picks ATS: Orlando Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves

Orlando at Minnesota

Time: 7 PM CST (NBA LP)

Spread: ORL -2

Total: 233.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Orlando Magic have lost three straight games entering tonight’s road matchup at Minnesota. The Magic are 2-point favorites in the game, which will air at 7 PM (CST) on NBA League Pass. NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes have set the over/under at 233.5 total points.

ORLANDO NEWS & NOTES:

The Orlando Magic have to be somewhat pleased with its internal progress. At 27-35 and in possession of a No. 8 seed, the Magic are reeling. It will likely be without Aaron Gordon tonight, as well, as he tends to some knee tendonitis in his right kneecap. Without Gordon, expect Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic to step up and supplant Gordon’s (albeit, inconsistent) production. Gordon is listed as a game-time decision, and he should be “probable” at least after taking a couple of games off to help with inflammation in his knee.

Even so, there are a number of glaring issues that will likely cause Orlando to bow out in the first round of the NBA playoffs for a second straight season, but there are enough bright spots for the Magic to know things are at least headed in the right direction. The Magic possesses the league’s No. 30 ranked offense and only score 105.3 per game, and the Magic are fair defensively holding teams to 106.5 per. The Magic are six games below .500, so it is no surprise to see it with a -1.2 point differential.

The Magic are a team without a single player who could be a No. 2 option on a contending team, yet have played together in such a way as to maximize the gifts of both Vucevic and star-wing player Evan Fournier. Fournier was outstanding while Vucevic was out, and the Magic are hoping he continues the aggressive play with the starting 5-man back in the fold.

One the season, the Frenchman is averaging 19.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 0.9 steals per game, while posting the highest PER on the team (outside of Vucevic’s 21.54) of all active players right now. Aaron Gordon has been his usual inconsistent self, and clearly now appears to be hitting something close to his eventual peak—the notion he is going to be a breakout player every year should surely die its slow death finally. Gordon averages 13 points and seven rebounds per game, but he shoots just 41 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three this season.

Third-year forward Jonathan Isaac has emerged into one of the league’s best one-on-one defenders, but he is still trying to figure things out on the offensive end, mostly. He just suffered a tragic hyperextension to his knee that will leave him out at least the next eight weeks. Prior to suffering that injury, Isaac averaged 12.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.8 steal/blocks per game. Isaac also gets 2.6 blocks per contest while doing a good job of avoiding foul trouble. His defense is clean and deadly.

Markelle Fultz is rounding into form after battling bizarre injury diagnoses his first two seasons before being traded to the Magic. Fultz is averaging 11.7 points and 4.1 assists per game, but he is really probably just scratching the surface as a once-vaunted former No. 1 overall pick.

Former Texas product and rookie Mo Bamba has shown flashes, including a very efficient and strong three-point shot, but he is not ready for the bulk of the center minutes yet, so Orlando has played Khem Birch extensively due to his sharp defensive institutions and his reliability on both ends of the court. Birch has limited upside comparatively, but Orlando is focused on winning now, returning to the playoffs, and allowing its team to blossom, far more than obtaining another high draft pick. That is especially due to the fact that the best pick of Orlando’s rebuild (Victor Oladipo) is now starring for the Indiana Pacers.

MINNESOTA

The Minnesota Timberwolves are in second-to-last place in the Western Conference with its 19-42 mark. Minnesota has won its last two but has lost seven of its last 10 overall. The Timberwolves have a -4.0 point differential and are just 9-28 against fellow Western Conference opponents. Minnesota has struggled badly all season in yet another year that a turnaround was expected.

Plenty of the struggles can be attributed to the missed games by Karl-Anthony Towns, but the Timberwolves were displeased enough with its direction that it parted ways with Andrew Wiggins at the trade deadline last month, acquiring promising but enigmatic guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell has done fairly well thus far for the T-Wolves. Through nine games, he is averaging 23.1 points, 7.3 assists, and 1.6 blocks/steals while posting a PER just under 20.

Karl-Anthony Towns desperately wants to return from his wrist injury to see what the Timberwolves have in terms of chemistry. Another key addition at the deadline was Malik Beasley and power forward Juancho Hernangomez. Beasley is averaging 33.6 minutes per game for the Wolves in his first 11 appearances, all starts. Beasley seems to be really breaking out now that he is out of Denver. With averages of 21.4 points, five rebounds, and 3.7 assists, he may finally be breaking out after being drafted as a “one and done” out of Florida State.

The move also opened up a full-time starting spot for Josh Okogie at small forward. Okogie has struggled offensively all season, but he has been the only consistent lockdown defender. The Georgia Tech product is averaging 8.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.5 blocks/steals in just over 24 minutes a night. The Wolves certainly have some nice pieces to build with, but it will want to get Towns back in uniform this season to get an idea of what it working with interns of a core next year.

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