- Who: Orlando Magic (20-32) at Minnesota Timberwolves (28-26)
- When: 7:10 PM CT
- Local TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves -4.5 | Total: 229 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
Friday night hoops.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 3, 2023
Wolves vs. Magic
7pm CT, @TargetCenterMN
Preview » https://t.co/iFwyQ3Be1Q pic.twitter.com/0f9XmmFB3F
- Bryn Forbes (right ankle sprain)
- Rudy Gobert (right groin soreness)
- Taurean Prince (left ankle sprain)
- Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain)
- Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain)
- Chuma Okeke (left knee surgery)
What To Watch For
A Great Spot for a McDaniels/Gobert Masterclass
Not only did Rudy Gobert get a game to continue to rehab a nagging groin injury, but his teammates were able to pull out a win without him against the defending champs. If Gobert is able to give it a go tonight, it will be a big opportunity for him and Jaden McDaniels to put their fingerprints all over this game.
Orlando is a team that lives inside the 3-point line. As far as their shot profile/frequency goes, the Magic rank 11th at the rim (34.9% of shots), 16th from the short mid-range area (4-14 feet; 21.4%), and ninth in the long middy space (10.8%), while holding a 3-point rate (32.9%) that ranks in the bottom 10 in the league, per Cleaning the Glass.
With their burly driving threats in second-year star Franz Wagner and 2022 No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero at the heart of their attack, it should come as no surprise that the Magic consistently have a clear objective of getting to the rim early and often. Orlando doesn’t have an engine-style point guard like we’ve seen in recent games against Ja Morant, De’Aaron Fox and Steph Curry, so McDaniels will shift back to guarding a bigger wing tonight. Both players like to get into the mid-range, where Gobert has been fantastic defending shots and getting back for rebounds.
I’m interested to see whether or not the Wolves try to just shut off drives completely or funnel everything into the paint where Gobert and McDaniels can impact shots. Starting Anthony Edwards on Markelle Fultz and D’Angelo Russell on Gary Harris will allow McDaniels to shift into more of an off-ball role, something Minnesota Head Coach Chris Finch wants to do more of. No matter how the Wolves align their defense, McDaniels and Gobert can take pressure off of Edwards and Russell offensively and dominate this game, provided they stay out of foul trouble. It’ll be a fun test.
Anthony Edwards vs Junk Defenses
Orlando doesn’t have anyone capable of guarding Edwards one-on-one outside of Jonathan Isaac, who is still on a minutes restriction and will come off the bench as a result of his nasty knee injury in the NBA bubble. But they do have plenty of length and a unique personnel to throw some wild defense against a burgeoning superstar eager to prove he can beat every look an opponent throws at him.
If the Magic can force Edwards to play more east-to-west instead of north-to-south, they’ll have a good shot at stealing a win at Target Center. But given that Ant found plenty of success against a Warriors team that threw two at him late in the game, it’s hard to bet against the 21-year-old. Kyle Anderson, McDaniels, Austin Rivers and Taurean Prince will play important roles — especially on the drive — if Orlando consistently shows two to Edwards above the arc. Not only have all four Wolves role players have done an excellent job attacking from the slot and driving baseline against aggressive close-outs, but they’ve also been largely fantastic catch-and-shoot outlets for their otherworldly talented teammate.
Minnesota shot a season-high 50 3s in Wednesday’s win over Golden State. While I don’t expect them to break that mark, it seems like a spot where spot-up 3-point shooting will be crucial. Orlando’s opponents hold a collective 3-point rate of 39.6%, third-highest in the NBA, and are top 10 in the league at preventing 2-point shots at the rim, and in both the short and long mid-range areas.
But if the Wolves do shoot 50 3s again, they’ll need to improve upon their 14 makes and 28% shooting mark if they want to extend this impressive run to 5-1 over their last six games and 7-2 over their last nine.