Orlando Magic (8-11, 1-7 Away) vs. Washington Wizards (6-12, 3-4 Home)
Date: December 3, 2019
Location: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C
Tip-Off: 7:00pm EST
Season Series: Magic leads 1-0
Nikola Vucevic and the Magic will stroll into the nation’s capital for Game 2 of their season series against the Wizards. Orlando is currently in possession of the 8th Seed which Washington is also chasing. After a 3-game win streak which included victories against the 76ers, Spurs and these same Wizards, the Magic have faltered going 2-5 in their last 7 games. They are coming off a much-needed win as they downed the Warriors 100-96 behind Evan Fournier’s 32 points which tied his career high.
The aforementioned Frenchman has been the star for Florida’s northern team as he leads the club in points scored with 19.2 in addition to 3.0 RPG and 3.3 APG. In what is now his 7th season, Fournier is a notorious member of the “Wizard Killers” club as he seems to have some of his best games playing against the red, white and blue. In the first meeting between the two teams, the Magic Guard went off for 25 points on 53.8% shooting, 9 assists and went 62.5% from beyond the arc. Whether its 2019 or years past, the Frenchman seems to have Washington’s number and preventing him from causing significant damage on the offensive end will be an enormous task for the home team.
Orlando has been the scene of resurgence for former #1 pick Markelle Fultz. After enduring a strenuous period in Philadelphia where his jump shot went into a black hole and the injury bug was constantly hot on his heels, the pride of DeMatha Catholic High School has found a home with the Magic. In 11 games so far this season he is averaging 11.7 PPG on 49.5 FG% in addition to 2.4 RPG and 3.8 APG. Like many of us in the DMV, Fultz was an avid Wizards fan growing up and ambled his way over to Gallery Place frequently to watch his hometown team. He didn’t do his favorite childhood squad any favors in their first meeting however as he turned in a solid 19-point night which came on the heels of his blazing performance from long-range, shooting 3’s at a 66.7% clip. The Wizards hope no such outing will occur again in what could be a homecoming to remember for the former Washington Husky.
From an analytical perspective, Orlando is down at the bottom in most major statistical categories. Their 101.0 PPG total is near last place in the league. On the other hand, their point allowed mark is up near the top with 101.9 PPG given to opponents, making it appear as if the Magic is playing a zero sum game. The team’s assists per game ranks 24th in the league with 22.1 APG which gives off the impression that ball movement is not happening at a acceptable pace for Head Coach Steve Clifford. What the team is doing well in though, is crashing the boards as they are 14th in the league with 45.7 RPG which has enabled the Magic to give themselves numerous opportunities for second-chance points.
The Wizards are coming off a tough road trip where they turned in a 1-3 mark with a win against the Suns coupled with losses to the Nuggets, Lakers and Clippers. The latter two were downright ugly as Washington got completely blown out in the early stages of each game and had the opposition continue to pour it on as the contest went along. Defense continues to be the main downfall for this Washington team as they gave up 117, 132, 125 and 150 point totals out West. The rallying cry of: “The defense needs to turn it up” has appeared to be as useful as an umbrella in the desert as the Wizards have failed to find any solution for their defensive woes. With their schedule now shifting to teams that are more near their own ability level, Washington is hoping to get back into the win column starting with the Magic, while bringing their home record back to .500 at 4-4.
The knight in shining armor so far this season has been All-Star Bradley Beal. With his counter-part of the House of Guards, John Wall, side-lined for perhaps the entire season, Beal has had to shoulder the burden of the team and has done so magnificently. The former Gator is among the league’s best in scoring, averaging 28.0 PPG to go along with 7.3 APG and 4.3 RPG. After his torrid stretch of multiple 30-point games in a row, Beal faded a bit during the road trip, scoring in the 30’s just once with 2 of his 4 game totals not going past 20. His 3-point shooting suffered as well as the Guard had one 66.7% shooting game while the other 3 were in the 20%’s.
Everyone knows him as Davis Bertans but many of us in the DMV refer to him as the Latvian Lasar and for good reason. After spending time with Coach Pop and the Spurs prior to 2019, Wizards GM Tommy Shephard whisked him away and probably closes his eyes and smiles every time the 6″10 Latvian drills another three with utmost perfection. Bertans has been nothing short of incredible this season as he is averaging 13.2 PPG with a blistering 45.6% from three. He has also contributed 4.4 RPG. Davis had a terrific road trip as he averaged 14 PPG during those 4 games while shooting an amazing 48.55% from downtown. Continued reliance on his long-range stroke will be something Washington will look to keep implementing Tuesday night at The Vault.
The Wizards have the 3rd best offense in the NBA, averaging just under 119 PPG to go along with 28.8 APG which ranks #1 in the league. For those of you who have watched the majority of their games, Washington has been sharing the ball tremendously and handing out clean and solid dishes for easy points in the paint as well as open jump shots. Of course, all of this is well and dandy but the Wizards have been atrocious on defense allowing 122.7 PPG which is the worst in the league. The lowest total Washington has held their opponents to was 85 (I know, hard to believe) in their second game of the Season against the Thunder. Since then, they have kept opposing teams under 100 just once. While it is all the more likely that this will be another 100+ game, surely we are due for a sub 100 point game by an opponent right? Right? Sigh.
Orlando took the first match up of the season 125-121. Orlando’s 101 PPG statistic might as well be thrown out the window because you’re team could be averaging 20 PPG, and the Wizards would end up allowing you to score 115. I expect this to be another shootout but with a different result this time around as Washington gets the win. After being routed in their last two games, I see the Wizards coming out with a bit of a chip on their shoulder and pulling out this win. I expect the home team to be in control of this game throughout and close it out in the latter stages of the 4th Quarter.