Magic at Wolves
7:00 pm CST
When the 12th best teams in each conference meet, you can throw out the records!
(Please throw out the records. I beg you.)
The Magic have struggled to a 19-30 record so far this season, though are coming off a one point win in Toronto last night that has to stand as one of their best of the campaign.
Overall, however, things have not gone well for the Magic after heavy investments in the off-season, when they re-signed Evan Fournier, signed Bismack Biyombo, and traded for Serge Ibaka. The problems have been most acute on offense, where they are 29th in the league. Basically, they can’t shoot. 28th in three-point percentage, and 28th in eFG percentage. This is exacerbated by their inability to get to the free throw line.
In the absence of leading scorer Evan Fournier, who has missed the last few games with injury and is questionable tonight, their offensive fulcrum is Nikola Vucevic, who is somewhat similar to Brook Lopez who the Wolves saw with the Nets on Saturday. Vucevic isn’t the three point shooter that Lopez is, but spreads his shot attempts around from the rim to the arc, and has been particularly adept in the mid-range this season. The Wolves will have to be aware of him on pick-and-pop actions. Ibaka has been their best three-point shooter this season (38 percent) and the keeping track of him on the wings will also be important.
Things are only slightly better on the defensive side of the ball (22nd,) despite acquiring two big men with good defensive reputations in Ibaka and Biyamobo. While they do an adequate job of defending at the rim, they allow far too many forays all the way to cup. Their opponents take the fourth highest percentage of their shot attempts within three feet in the league. The Wolves should look to get guys on the move toward the basket via pick-and-roll and off-ball action, and also force the Magic bigs to guard the perimeter, which will also help open things up inside.
In the first meeting between these squads, the Wolves were also coming off a game against the Nets, one the lost in Brooklyn. The Wolves took out their frustrations on the Magic, hanging 74 on them in the first half on their way to a 123-107 win. It was one of their best offensive performances of the season, as they made 13-23 threes and only turned it over six times. Zach LaVine dominated with 37 points. A repeat of that would be just fine.
This is a game the Wolves should win, and need to win, but they are nowhere near the point of being able to take any game or opponent for granted. If they come out without energy or with arrogance, they can get bitten; we’ve seen it already this seasons. “Learning how to win” doesn’t just mean closing out close games, it also means taking care of teams you are supposed to take care of, especially at home. They did that against Brooklyn on Saturday, it would be nice to see them do it twice in a row against another beatable opponent.
The Magic will be without Jodie Meeks and C.J. Wilcox. Evan Fournier did not play last night in Toronto (right heel soreness) and is questionable for tonight.
The Wolves are good to go (except Pek of course.)
Our blogging buddies are over at Orlando Pinstriped Post. Be excellent.
Enjoy the game. Chat here. Go Wolves.