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Game Preview #36: Wolves at Magic

Two of the most impressive teams of the 2023-24 season face off, as Anthony Edwards and Minnesota visit Paolo Banchero in Orlando for their first matchup of the year.

Orlando Magic v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves will not have much time to dwell on their most recent loss from Sunday as they hop on a three hour flight to take on the Orlando Magic. Let’s tap into some of the storylines heading into this one.


Game Info

  • Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (25-10) at Orlando Magic (21-15)
  • When: Tuesday, January 9 at 6:00 PM CT
  • Where: Kia Center — Orlando, FL
  • TV: Bally Sports North (Marney Gellner, Jim Petersen and Lea B. Olsen)
  • Radio: Wolves Radio App, KFAN FM 100.3
  • Line: Wolves -5.5, Total: 217.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

Injury Report

Updated as of Tuesday 1/8 at 4:30 PM CT:

Minnesota

OUT:

  • Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
  • Leonard Miller (G League assignment)
  • Josh Minott (G League assignment)

Orlando

OUT:

  • Wendell Carter Jr. (right knee tendinitis)
  • Gary Harris (right calf strain)
  • Kevon Harris (two-way contract)
  • Jett Howard (G League assignment)
  • Joe Ingles (left ankle sprain)
  • Jonathan Isaac (right hamstring strain)
  • Franz Wagner (right ankle sprain)

The Numbers

Minnesota

OFFRTG: 113.9 (19th)
DEFRTG: 108.7 (1st)
NETRTG: +5.1 (5th)

eFG%: 55.6 (9th)
FTr: .286 (5th)
TOV%: 15.5 (28th)
OREB%: 28.2 (20th)

PACE: 98.88 (21st)
FBPS: 13.2 (21st)
2nd PTS: 13.1 (20th)
PITP: 50.4 (17th)

Orlando

OFFRTG: 113.2 (21st)
DEFRTG: 111.1 (4th)
NETRTG: +2.1 (12th)

eFG%: 53.5 (22nd)
FTr: .309 (1st)
TOV%: 15.0 (26th)
OREB%: 30.1 (10th)

PACE: 99.83 (14th)
FBPS: 12.9 (21st)
2nd PTS: 16.2 (4th)
PITP: 54.2 (4th)

What To Watch For

Orlando Magic v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Two Coach of the Year Favorites

As we near the halfway mark of the season, two of the biggest surprises in the standings are the Wolves in the West, and the Magic in the East. Both have vastly outshot their preseason expectations and have vaulted themselves to the upper echelon of their respective conferences. We are all familiar with Chris Finch’s work, but for those of you unaware of Orlando head coach Jamahl Mosley’s work, he’s really gotten his players to buy in. You can see how he similarly got his young team to buy in on the defensive end of the court, led by Saint Paul’s very own, Jalen Suggs. He’s a bulldog at the point of attack while the rest of the team is connected on a string. They force their opponents into mostly just one-shot possessions by cleaning up the defensive glass with their size.

Despite recently losing their one of their two best players, Franz Wagner, the Magic have rattled off two straight impressive wins against the Nuggets and Hawks. It was nearly a three-game winning streak instead, as they narrowly dropped a double overtime victory against the Kings, the contest where Wagner went down. These victories can be primarily attributed to Mosley’s ability to maximize his fringe rotation players, and the phenomenal play of...

Orlando Magic v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Battle of the Number One Picks

Paolo Banchero, the reigning Rookie of the Year, has been on an absolute heater. He’s really built upon a great rookie campaign with an even more impressive sophomore season. In his last six games, he has averaged 32.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. Banchero has shouldered the load and then some, putting together an impressive highlight reel of clutch shot making in that span. Perhaps it’s the mythical “Team USA Boost” from this summer. Speaking of Team USA...

Anthony Edwards has also continued his exceptional play. In that same stretch of games, Edwards is averaging 32.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists on outstanding shooting splits. These two former number one picks look to be on a collision course to determine who the hottest young star in the league is.

Orlando Magic v Sacramento Kings Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Free Throws and Three Pointers

As Wolves Radio voice, Alan Horton, pointed out prior to Mavericks game, Edwards averaged a league-high 11.3 free throw attempts per game since Christmas. After shooting just seven on Sunday, he’s still third in the league at 10.7 FTA. That number is just 0.7 more than Banchero, at 10.0 FTA. The Magic are first in free throw rate and the loss of Wagner hasn’t slowed them down. The downhill attacking nature of Suggs (2.4) and Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Cole Anthony (3.9), boost those free throw numbers. They have a whopping seven players that average two or more free throws a game, compared to just three for Minnesota. Avoiding foul trouble will be absolutely key for the Wolves.

As for beyond the arc, Orlando is one of the worst statistical three-point shooting teams in the league. On the season, they’re bottom five in both three point attempts and percentage. However, the splits pre and post Wagner injury have been intriguing. Prior to him going down, the Magic attempted only 30.6 3PA on 34.4% shooting. Since then, they’ve magically (pun intended) jumped to 38.5 3PA on insane 44.2% shooting. Guys like Caleb Houston, Chuma Okeke, and Trevelin Queen have all stepped up to knock down shots. Is this all just a mirage credited to some wild outlier games? Maybe. Until proven otherwise, it’ll be wise for the Wolves to consider everyone on that team dangerous from perimeter.


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