Orlando at Brooklyn
Time: 6:30 PM CST (NBA LP)
Spread: BRK -4
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Brooklyn Nets are 26-29 and lead the Orlando Magic by 2.5 games from the No. 7 seed in the East. Brooklyn is 16-12 at home where it hosts the Magic as 4-point favorites in NBA action Monday on NBA League Pass. The over/under is set at 214.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
BRK news & notes:
Brooklyn enters as winners of seven of its last 10 SU. The Nets are 26-29 but still very much in the playoff chase, indeed lodged in the No. 8 spot in the East. Brooklyn is in the chase, but the real question most have is “Did Kyrie Irving actually make the Nets a better team?”
A superficial glance at his stats would indicate “yes,” but there is far more to it than that. Irving has been questionable in terms of his leadership, and he is doubtfully really making his teammates better while he is on the court. Even so, LeBron James’ former sidekick is putting up numbers: 28.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game. Perhaps what has really enabled the success though is the play of Spencer Dinwiddie, who is a legitimate All-Star this season. Dinwiddie was expected to regress with Irving joining the fold, and the opposite has happened: He is having his best career year.
Dinwiddie is averaging 22 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game while posting the third-highest PER of any Net (18.54). Caris LeVert has missed the majority of this season after suffering an injury early in the season. Prior to going down, LeVert was averaging 15.6 points and 3.4 assists per game. He is needed as a third scorer in the starting lineup, and his subtraction only appears to be minor. LeVert has a penchant for finding his offense and he would take some pressure off of Irving and Dinwiddie, and indeed, the Nets will be far more formidable when he returns to the fold. The injury to his thumb was expected to cause him to miss 4-to-6 weeks after having surgery, but there is no real time table on his return even so.
ORLANDO NEWS & NOTES:
The Orlando Magic have to be somewhat pleased with its internal progress. At 24-32 and in possession of a No. 8 seed, the Magic are reeling. It has lost seven of its last 10 SU.
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 103.3 per game, but it has been one of the league’s better defensive teams in holding opponents to 104.6 per. The Magic are six games below .500, so it is no surprise to see it with a -1.3 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.