The Magic, who have mostly been cold shooting the basketball to begin the season, found some success last night against the Spurs. Orlando defeated San Antonio 117-110, scoring the most points they’ve produced all season. Orlando shot 50.5%, knocked down 12 three-point attempts, and dished out 29 assists as a team. It was only the sixth win for the Magic in San Antonio in the franchise’s thirty year history.
Orlando was extremely balanced Sunday with six Magic players scoring in double-figures. They were led by Aaron Gordon, who scored 26 points (4-10 3PTA’s) and grabbed 8 rebounds. D.J. Augustin orchestrated the offense beautifully, scoring 18 points and dishing out 7 assists (1 turnover). Terrence Ross and Mohamed Bamba were huge presences off Orlando’s bench. Ross scored 17 points (3-6 3PTA’s) and Bamba recorded his first career double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds in 16 minutes).
The Magic will look to keep the offensive efficiency going Monday night as the Cleveland Cavaliers limp into town. Monday’s contest will conclude Orlando’s second back-to-back of the season so far.
The Cavs, who’ve dropped eight of their first nine games, have yet to win a game on the road this season. Cleveland last played Saturday night, dropping a contest in Charlotte to the Hornets (126-94). The Cavs were outscored by 25 points against the Hornets in the second half of that game.
Cleveland will be playing without their All-Star forward Kevin Love, who’s leading the team in points, rebounds, and assists on the season, for the foreseeable future. Love had surgery on his left foot (toe) last Friday and is estimated to miss at least the next six weeks.
Here are some things that I will be watching closely Monday night:
1) Keep the offensive aggressiveness going
Orlando must continue to attack the basket Monday night. Points in the paint should be easy to come by. Cleveland ranks 30th in the NBA in DRtg, 30th in opponent field goal percentage, 30th in defensive eFG%, and 30th in blocked shots.
Magic players should find little resistance at the rim when they drive the ball to the basket. Sinking the defense in off the dribble should create plenty of open looks for Orlando’s perimeter players. Cleveland is 29th in the league in defending opponents beyond the arc (41%).
2) Magic must find bodies to box out
If there’s one thing Cleveland does well, it’s rebounding the ball effectively off offensive misses. The Cavaliers are top-5 in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game and third in offensive rebound percentage.
It will be key for Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and company to find Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. in particular, before either of those guys can create second chance opportunities for their team.
3) Have a good showing on the home floor
Things haven’t been easy for the Magic at home so far this season. Orlando defeated the Miami Heat inside the Amway Center on Opening Night, but have dropped four contests since (Hornets, Trail Blazers, Kings, and Clippers). In those four contests, the Magic outscored their opponents in only four of sixteen possible quarters.
I realize Cleveland will be a little bit more rested than the Magic (because of the Texas/FL back-to-back), but that shouldn't matter too much this early in the season. Orlando must come out with energy early and often. Getting out to big lead early would be ideal; this would allow Coach Clifford to extend deeper into his bench and possibly get guys like Jarell Martin, Khem Birch, and Isaiah Briscoe more involved.
Prediction: I think the improved shooting Orlando showed in San Antonio carries over into Monday’s game against the Cavs. Behind strong play from Gordon and Vucevic, I predict the Magic will cover and break their four-game home losing streak.
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