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Tonight's Game: Orlando Magic at Washington Wizards

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2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Orlando Magic main logo
@
Washington Wizards main logo
47-17 15-50
March 13th, 2009
Verizon Center
7:00 PM
FSN Florida
Probable starters:
Rafer Alston PG Mike James
Courtney Lee SG Caron Butler
Mickael Pietrus SF Dominic McGuire
Rashard Lewis PF Antawn Jamison
Dwight Howard C Darius Songaila
Previous Meetings:
November 8th: Magic 106, Wixards 81
November 27th: Magic 105, Wizards 90
January 6th: Magic 89, Wizards 80

Hedo Turkoglu is once again a game-time decision due to left Achilles' tendinitis. Mickael Pietrus is slated to start in his place if necessary. Given that the Magic have the playoffs wrapped up, and given the record of tonight's opponent, I'd wager they'll sit him this evening as a precautionary measure. UPDATE: Turk went through the shootaround today and said he felt okay, leading Kyle Hightower to believe he'll "likely be back in uniform tonight."

Tonight, Stan Van Gundy will look to win his one-hundreth game as the Magic's head coach. The Wizards, with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, figure to be relatively amenable to giving Stan that admittedly trivial milestone. Despite their awful record, the Wizards still play their veterans--the ones who are healthy, anyway--heavy minutes. It doesn't make much sense, given the young talent on the team. Maybe this game will look more interesting next year, especially if current Magic assistant Patrick Ewing lands the Wizards' head coaching gig, a position in which he is reportedly interested.

I'd fear for my Karma if I bashed this team further, so I'll conclude this portion of the preview by saying Washington has been without Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood--its starting point guard and center, respectively--the entire season. Former starting shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson, who agreed to move to the bench for the good of the team, is also out for the season. Mike James is the least valuable point guard in the league, and he starts for them due to Arenas' injury. Worse yet, they traded reasonably steady reserve point guard Antonio Daniels and a first-round pick to the New Orleans Hornets in order to obtain James. If they have anything going for them, it's that Stewie Griffin lookalike reserve power forward Oleksiy Pecherov might be on his way to a historic, assist-free season.

With that said, the Caron Butler-led Wizards made a valiant comeback effort against Orlando when these two teams last played; the Magic should keep Butler's 21-point third-quarter performance in mind when they takes the floor tonight, just to fight complacency.

Orlando's gameplan against Washington must be to feed the ball to Dwight Howard on every possession. The Wizards are woefully thin up front without Haywood, and Howard should have no trouble scoring against Darius Songaila, even when double- and triple-team help arrives. If he can't get a shot up, he can try to kick it out to one of the many, likely-wide open shooters standing beyond the arc. The Wizards are the league's second-worst defensive team overall, and the very worst in terms of eFG% defense. Even better for Orlando is the Wizards' weak showing on the defensive glass. The Magic can afford to let fly from three-point range tonight with the knowledge that they stand a great chance of rebounding their own miss.

The game tips at 7. Go Magic.