|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|December 5th, 2009|
|Jason Williams||PG||Stephen Curry|
|Vince Carter||SG||Monta Ellis|
|Mickael Pietrus||SF||Corey Maggette|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Vladimir Radmanovic|
|Dwight Howard||C||Mikki Moore|
|Tommy Nuñez Jr.|
The Orlando Magic will try to set a new franchise record with their 7th consecutive road win tonight against the injury-depleted Golden State Warriors, who will have more unavailable players than available ones. Starting small forward Anthony Morrow, shooting 51.2% on three-pointers this year, will miss the game due to a death in the family, and Marcus Thompson believes former Magic swingman Corey Maggette will start in his place. Not even Don Nelson, their coach, is immune from the injury bug, having recently suffered from a bout of pneumonia. He's expected back on the bench tonight, taking over for Keith Smart, whose reputation as a defensive-minded coach may be overstated.
The Warriors have proven they can win shorthanded before, most recently with a 111-103 road victory over the Dallas Mavericks in which only 6 Warriors got into the game; of those 6, 3 played the entire 48 minutes. Also, late last season, Golden State won in Utah with just 7 healthy players. The Magic must fight complacency, as will often be the case against lower-tier teams with something to prove.
Golden State's inability to defend has hampered them so far, allowing opponents to score 111.1 points per 100 possessions, which was the league's fifth-worst figure before Friday night's action. More specifically, the Warriors rank 30th in effective field goal percentage defense, 29th in defensive rebounding, and 26th in opponent's free-throw rate. In other words, teams light it up against them from all over the floor, and even if they miss, they're there for the offensive board. What's more, if they can't get a shot off, they can still get to the foul line with relative ease. Given the amount of weapons at the Magic's disposal, I expect a big showing from them tonight. Mikki Moore is the Warriors' only healthy "true" big man, so Dwight Howard should try to establish inside position fairly easily to score over him and/or draw fouls. With Moore out, the Warriors would have to move Maggette or Vladimir Radmanovic to center, in which case they might just be better off intentionally fouling Howard, since that's just about the only way either stands a chance of preventing him from dunking.
The Warriors' perimeter D is pretty weak as well--apart from the ball-hawking, anyway--which is why Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis need to attack the basket and finish strong. They'll get their fair share of open three-point looks, but they can't fall in love with the long ball.
If there's one area of concern for Orlando, it's that the Warriors have quick hands defensively, ranking second in opponent's turnover rate. The Magic have had problems coughing up the ball lately, so they'll need to stay focused in order to avoid wasting possessions and, worse yet, feeding the Warriors' running game.
Monta Ellis leads the Warriors' attack, and he's gone absolutely bonkers this year. Check his per-game stats so far: 23.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 4.2 turnovers on 46% shooting from the field and 37.9% from three-point range. He's incredible. Former Warrior Mickael Pietrus will have his hands full defending Ellis tonight. I get a feeling that M.P. will wind up in foul trouble trying to stay in front of Ellis, which means J.J. Redick might have the next crack at him. Good luck.
Pietrus isn't the only Magic man having a homecoming of sorts. Reserve forward Matt Barnes and center Adonal Foyle used to play for Golden State, with Foyle topping the Warriors' all-time blocked-shot list, with 1140 swats in 641 games. Forward Ryan Anderson and head coach Stan Van Gundy grew up nearby, while the Warriors employed GM Otis Smith as player and later in their front office. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel detailed these connections here.
The game, and the Magic's four-game, West-coast swing, tips at 10:30.