Orlando at Washington
Time: 6 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: WAS -2
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards are both on the outside looking in of the Eastern Conference playoff race, yet this game has deep meaning to both teams with Orlando trailing No. 8 Miami by just one game and the Wizards just 2.5 games behind Orlando.
A win for the Magic would pass Miami in the win column, while a Wizards loss would make the path to a postseason bid nearly impassable. The Wizards are 2-point favorites in the game, which will air on NBA League Pass at 6 PM and has an over/under of 226 points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
The Magic have fared 5-5 over its last 10 games and are still one game out of the No. 8 seed. Orlando has struggled on the road this season at just 13-21, and Washington is a stellar 20-12 at home. The Wizards have lost six of its last 10, but is still in the playoff hunt albeit it will take a mighty stretch by the Wiz as the season concludes to make that happen.
Orlando has dropped three of its last four, with losses to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, the Philadelphia 76ers and the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies. Sandwiched in there was a 111-106 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Magic have centered its efforts this season around an All-Star in a contract season: Nikola Vucevic. He has largely delivered. In this first All-Star season for the Magic center, he has posted 20.7 points, 12.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game while playing some defense that has hardly looked as liability-laden as it has in the past: Vucevic is averaging 2.2 steals/blocks per game. He has become the No. 1 option Orlando needed to make this small leap to playoff contention, and even though Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier have slightly fallen off in production, the gains the Magic have made with Vucevic as its alpha have certainly been worth it.
Gordon and Fournier each average 15.9 points and 14.7, respectively, while both having PERs under the league average (14.91 and 11.63). The biggest leaper in production for the Magic outside of Vucevic has been Terrence “T-Flight” Ross. Ross is a contender for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award (and probably the Most Improved as well), while posting 14.7 points in just 26 minutes a night. Ross has had some big and clutch games, but the most important thing he has done is add life to a Magic bench that really struggled to score the ball.
Second-year forward Jonathan Isaac has also made commendable strides and is Orlando’s best two-way player. Isaac averages 11.4 points per game, but his lockdown defense has been something no one can ignore. Often drawing the opponent’s premier scorer, Isaac has the length and foot speed to bother his matchups immensely. He averages 2.1 blocks/steals per game in just 26 minutes a night, and he is gaining confidence with each passing games. Orlando genuinely may eventually have to decide between betting on Isaac or Gordon’s future, as both are true power forwards wherein Orlando would have to play one out-of-position to keep the pair together. Since Isaac was drafted by the current GM regime and Gordon is a product of the old, betting on the most recent addition makes sense in some respects. If Orlando could obtain a big-time point guard for Gordon, it probably would pull the trigger on such a deal.
WAS TEAM NOTES:
Washington won its last outing over the Minnesota Timberwolves, but prior to that, it had lost five of its previous six games. If nothing else, the face of the Wizards seems to be finally changing. John Wall has been out with injury, which has allowed the Wizards to audition several new pieces for larger roles next season. Tomas Satoranksy has started in place of Wall, and he has looked both competent and loaded with proverbial potential.
Satoransky had 14 points and six assists in the win over Minny, but the biggest contributor was another trade addition in Bobby Portis. Portis shot 10 of 18 from the field and finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and three made triples.
While Portis has received billing as a poor defender, his scoring prowess is just as undeniable. It cost the Wizards Otto Porter to obtain Portis (and Jabari Parker), but that might be a gamble that really pays off: Porter is on the level of a replacement player offensively, and it remains to be seen if he can be much more than a role player.
Portis offers a scoring spark that could be even better utilized still if he could settle into a sixth man role. Bradley Beal has also been phenomenal with Wall out, and it is settling a debate of sorts as to which guard should be the one to go, should the Wizards attempt to scrap the blueprint and rebuild. Washington has had middling success in the Wall/Beal era, but it seems that success is both capped—and expired. Washington now will look to retool around Beal most likely, with Portis playing some role in that picture.
As to whether Satoransky is able to be re-signed, the situation with Wall will all but determine it. Wall ha a bloated contract, but a smaller market team without the luring power over superstars may decide Wall is better than having nothing close to a franchise player. He has his flaws (namely his shooting range) but remains a top-10 point guard in the Association.