The Orlando Magic, losers of six straight and fifteen of the last sixteen overall, roll into D.C. to take on the Wizards of Washington. John Wall and company have had the edge over their Floridian counterparts in recent times, although tonight they will be looking to arrest a two-game slide that has, at least temporarily, pushed them out of a top four spot in the conference.
When the teams last met in the lead up to Christmas it was the Wizards who ran away with an easy victory, burying the Magic essentially by the end of the first half under an avalanche of three-pointers and trips to the charity stripe. For Orlando, the game is best remembered as the one that sidelined Nikola Vucevic with a broken finger, as well as Elfrid Payton setting a career high with 30 points.
It’s likely that the outcome of this game will be determined in the backcourt, a fact which does not bode well for the Magic. The Wizards rank among the league’s best in terms of getting to the free throw line and limiting turnovers, both of which are advantages largely generated by their All-Star duo of Wall and Bradley Beal. Payton, Jonathon Simmons and D.J.Augustin figure to have their hands full.
Something else to keep an eye out for is Washington’s 1-5 and 2-5 pick-and-roll action. Fans of the Magic know just how much trouble Payton has navigating screens, and seeing as Marcin Gortat is one of the best in the business in setting (and resetting!) advantageous picks it figures that the Wizards will look to them early and often. It will be imperative that Orlando are locked in at this end of the floor if they’re going to stay in the contest.
Can Aaron Gordon bounce back from an outing of poor shooting and questionable decision making? What are the chances of ‘Juice’ busting out of his current slump? Is Mario Hezonja ready to string together a handful of good stretches into a more complete performance? Will Wesley Iwundu continue to flash intriguing potential? The Magic enter the contest with a lot of question marks, but seemingly few good answers at this point of the season. Let’s see what tonight brings.
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