The Orlando Magic will look to extend their winning streak to 8 games tonight when they visit Verizon Center to take on the cellar-dwelling Washington Wizards, who've lost 6 straight. Washington has the distinction of being the only Eastern Conference team not to fall to Orlando yet this season, having won each of the first two matchups after surmounting double-digit deficits. But those wins came before the Wizards cleaned house by shipping out Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and others at the trading deadline. Further, tonight marks Washington's third game in as many nights due to its having to play a make-up game on Thursday. It would seem that the Magic indeed have all the advantages.
|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|46-20 (19-14 away)
|21-42 (12-21 home)
|March 13th, 2010|
|Sun Sports / NBA TV|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Randy Foye|
|Vince Carter||SG||Mike Miller|
|Matt Barnes||SF||Al Thornton|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Andray Blatche|
|Dwight Howard||C||JaVale McGee|
|January 8th: Wizards 104, Magic 97|
|February 5th: Wizards 92, Magic 91||Advanced Stats|
|92.6 (15th)||Pace||92.0 (18th)|
|109.8 (8th)||ORtg||104.5 (22nd)|
|102.5 (3rd)||DRtg||109.1 (19th)|
The Wizard on whom the Magic need to focus is Andray Blatche, who's blossomed since the Wizards' roster-clearing trades, with per-game averages of 23.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 56.2% True Shooting, which recall those of perennial All-Star Chris Bosh. And it may surprise you to learn that he leads the entire NBA in points per post-up possession. Rashard Lewis and Brandon Bass have to attend to Blatche, whose range extends to 15 feet, not unlike Bosh. And if he sneaks free inside and draws Dwight Howard's attention, JaVale McGee figures to benefit. He dunked eight times against Atlanta on Thursday, which beats Lewis' season-long total by three.
Apart from Blatche, though, the Wizards have little offense. In theory, Mike Miller could average 20 points per game on a lottery team, but he's continued his puzzling trend of refusing to shoot even when incredibly wide-open, with his usage rate less than two-thirds what it was just three seasons ago. Al Thornton, Randy Foye, and Nick Young are all inefficient, perimeter-oriented chuckers, as long two-pointers comprise 39.2% of their combined shot attempts. We should acknowledge, though, that Foye has caught fire against the Magic twice this year, and Young can get hot in a hurry. But overall, this is a team without much firepower, and one Orlando's defense should handle easily.
The Magic have spent much of the season giving away big leads to bad teams, and ultimately losing. But not during this winning streak, during which they've raced out to, and subsequently maintained, huge leads against bottom-feeding teams. Jameer Nelson has noticed a change in attitude, telling the Orlando Sentinel, "It's a lot more serious and especially now. Everybody is focusing in on everything." Tonight's game will put his assertion to the test.