Team Records: Orlando (12-21) at Portland (18-15)
Game Info: 7 PM, TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Portland -6.5
Refs: Scott Foster, Bennie Adams, Marat Kogut
The Skinny: The Blazers look to keep their momentum going as they welcome in the new look Magic for their first home game of 2013. Portland comes in off their most successful road trip in quite some time, going 3-1 with wins in New York, Memphis and Minneapolis. After a decent start the Magic have been falling like a rock lately, losing eight in a row, including six in a row at home.
Last season: Orlando won the only meeting between the two teams, which took place in Portland.
Projected Magic Lineup:
PF: Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure-Rookie) – 7.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, .4 APG
SF: DeQuan Jones (Miami (FL)-Rookie) – 2.6 PPG, 1.8 RPG, .1 APG.
C: Nikola Vucevic (USC-2nd Season) – 11.1 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.5 APG
SG: Arron Afflalo (UCLA-6th Season) – 17.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.8 APG
PG: Jameer Nelson (St. Joseph’s-8th Season) – 17.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.8 APG
Player to Watch: Andrew Nicholson (pictured at right) – Much like Lillard, Nicholson went largely unnoticed by many mainstream NBA fans in college since he played for a lower-tier team in St. Bonaventure. However, he rightly earned respect among NBA teams for his combination of size and shooting ability and his overall poise on the court. Nicholson is a very good shooter from midrange but not a great rebounder. His defense is suspect and he is not exactly the strongest athlete in the world. Long-term he might not be a starter on a contending team but any player with that shooting ability has certainly earned a place in this league.
Did You Know?: Although this won’t be extended this year, Orlando’s current run of six straight playoff appearances is the longest such streak in the Eastern Conference (and fifth longest in the NBA).
Song of the Day: “Original Orlando Magic Theme Song” by the Orlando Magic. This is one of the better theme songs out there and deserves a listen. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), C Meyers Leonard (Ankle).
Orlando: Out- PF Glen Davis (Shoulder), PF Gustavo Ayon (Thigh), PF Al Harrington (Knee), SG E’Twaun Moore (Elbow).
Losing Dwight Howard was always going to mean a difficult season for the Magic but when Orlando hung around .500 for the first part of the season there was reason to hope it wouldn’t be as bad as once thought. Since, however, the Magic are in an eight-game tailspin, although they have been close in most of those games, they have simply failed to pull them out. This is largely because of three reasons. First, they have a truckload of injuries, leaving them with very little depth. Second, the Magic struggle on offense, and are too reliant on Nelson and Afflalo and struggle to get to the line on offense. Third, although they are not a bad defensive team, the Magic struggle to close out games defensively and they are typically outscored in the fourth quarter. This all adds up to a team that is clearly growing through some growing pains and can be expected to struggle a bit more before they find success.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They do a good job defending the three point line. If the Magic don’t make 3s, they don’t stand much a chance of winning this one. The outside shot is one of their primary offensive weapons and if Portland can do a decent job defending the perimeter, they should win this one.
Orlando wins if: They shoot 25 FTs. The Magic don’t get to the line with any consistency, shooting a league worst 16.5 free throw attempts per game. If they want to pull the upset in Portland they need to best that mark by a fair bit.