Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks
Time: 7 PM CT (NBA TV)
Spread: ATL -8.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks are playing the second night of a back-to-back set against one another. The Magic prevailed yesterday afternoon 96-94 in Orlando.
This matchup will take place in Atlanta and air on NBA TV at 7 Central. The Hawks are 8.5 point favorites, but the team has had its struggles recently.
“Struggle” does not begin to describe what the Magic have faced in 2016 though.
Scott Skiles won Coach of the Month for the East in December as the Magic concluded the calendar year 19-13 in 4th place in the Eastern Conference standings. Since that time Orlando has gone 3-15 and fallen out of the playoff picture. The Magic can still get back on track and make the postseason, but it may be exceedingly difficult due to issues with consistency.
Even in the win last night, Orlando nearly squandered the game in the fourth quarter. The Magic led by 14 in the third period and it would enter the final period ahead by 11 after Kent Bazemore hit a 60-foot three at the horn. But it was Orlando who would have the last laugh.
The Hawks evened the score at 94 with 2.1 seconds left. The Magic threw it into Nikola Vucevic who dribbled once, then reverse pivoted for a fall away 18-foot jumper that drew nothing but net. The Magic ended a three-game skid and will look to try to get back in the playoff picture tonight.
There were a lot of factors contributing to Orlando’s win, but perhaps none were more vital than Aaron Gordon’s defensive effort. The sophomore forward frustrated Atlanta All-Star Paul Millsap, holding him to just 5 of 14 shooting. Gordon also had four blocks and a pair of steals in the game. It was one of his most dominant defensive efforts as a pro and it made his 3 of 11 shooting rather excusable. Gordon finished the game with 11 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
Gordon has been great of late for Orlando. In his past five games he is averaging 10 points, 10 rebounds and 2.2 steals/blocks per game. He has shot just 42 percent from the field, but a lot of that is because he has been unafraid to take looks he might ordinarily pass on. Gordon has shot 0 of 8 from three in the Magic’s past five games, but he is a 30.1 percent shooter on the season and should continue taking the looks if they are there.
The only way he is going to get better is by failing a little bit first, and Orlando is finally giving him the slack on the leash to do that. The Magic need reliable and strong play from the 4-spot, and if Channing Frye is not hitting the triple then Gordon is by far the better choice at power forward.
As for the hero of Sunday’s game, Nikola Vucevic, he is still Orlando’s No. 1 option and premier player. Vucevic had 22 points on 11 of 19 shooting in yesterday game, while also coming up with nine rebounds, two assists and two steals in 35 minutes of play. Over his past five he has averaged 17.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists. The passing is something of a revelation, but it should not be that surprising. Vucevic had already ranked second on the team in assist opportunities, and the difference is now that teammates are hitting more shots.
Vucevic for his part had fallen off a little this season, but he is still efficient and a deadly mid-range shooter. Opposing centers are basically given the choice of protecting the rim or letting Vucevic hit the jumper. But when his passing is on-point, it is difficult to step out and cover him because he can hit cutters.
Vucevic had seven assists in the Magic’s 119-114 victory over the Boston Celtics on Jan. 31, and he is as good a passer as Marc Gasol or the likes, just surrounded by players far less likely to convert his often good passes.
The Magic are hungry for victory, but Orlando is just 8-16 on the road this season while the Hawks are a relatively tough draw in Atlanta where the team is 17-8.