The Magic are looking for their third straight win. And they may have to try to get it with Jerian Grant running the offense.
D.J. Augustin, in the midst of perhaps his best stretch as a member of the Magic, suffered a sprained ankle after landing on Blake Griffin’s foot in the Magic’s buzzer beater victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday. Faced with an untimely back-to-back for a team suffering from a lack of point guard depth, Augustin has little time to heal and has been listed as questionable for Monday’s game against the Hornets.
“Right now, it’s sore,” Augustin told reporters after Sunday’s game. “It’s pretty painful right now. As you can see, I’m icing it right now, going to get treatment when I get to the hotel in Charlotte. See how it feels tomorrow. Try to go tomorrow.”
Making matters worse is that Jonathon Simmons, the recently-named back-up point guard, is also questionable with a sprained ankle. So...
As Jim Ross might say, “THAT’S JERIAN GRANT’S MUSIC!!!”
Oh no, Jerian Grant has to come back in now pic.twitter.com/KaxRgzLAcZ— Ⓜ️agic ️asketball (@TrustTheRoscess) December 30, 2018
If Augustin and Simmons are both unable to go, odds are that the recently benched Grant will now be getting a temporary promotion. He would be handed the keys to an offense that has found its way after struggling mightily in the month of December.
Magic Twitter, as you see above, has been unkind to the struggling Grant. And, given the stats, for good reason.
The 26-year-old Grant, averaging 4.1 points and 3.1 assists in 18.5 minutes per game this season, has an offensive rating of 94.9 points per 100 possessions while playing mostly with the second unit. Grant is shooting a career-low 39.1 percent from the field, and has connected on just 33.3 percent of his three-point attempts (combining for an effective field goal percentage of just 47.1 percent).
In his last two games, Grant has played just 3:22 and 5:31, respectively. On Sunday, even with his limited playing time, Grant committed the cardinal sin of fouling a three-point shooter while up three in the final seconds. Luckily, Evan Fournier bailed out Grant with his game-winning shot.
With the good, comes the bad...— David Baumann (@DavidBaumannORL) December 31, 2018
DJ Augustin played a game-high 37 minutes in the win largely because he HAD TO. Backup PG is a big issue.
Jerian Grant was a team-worst -9 in 5:31 had a stat line of:
0 PTS 0 AST 0 REB 0 STL 1 PF#PureMagic https://t.co/AFzYK6y2Cu
As a team, with Grant on the floor instead of Augustin, according to NBA WOWY, the Magic suffer a dip in points per possession (1.118 to .989) effective field goal percentage (53.3 to 48.1), turnover rate (13.1 to 14.2) and assist rate (27.0 to 23.1).
The Magic also have point guard Isaiah Briscoe, who has played a grand total of 83 minutes this season. Also available if need be is two-way guard Troy Caupain, averaging 16. 1 points and 4.9 assists for the Lakeland Magic, who has been transferred to Orlando.
Or maybe Augustin (or Simmons) will be available to start, making all of this irrelevant. That would be case scenario considering, over his last three games, Augustin is averaging 23.3 points and 6.7 assists, shooting 52.8 from the field, and getting to the line 8.0 times per game.
The Magic (16-19), coming off a rout of the Raptors and buzzer beater victory against the eighth-seeded Pistons, will be kicking off a six-game road trip. It starts in Charlotte, where Steve Clifford faces the team that fired him last summer.
Clifford on returning to Charlotte:— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) December 30, 2018
"(It's) another game. Listen, we're back to three games under. I love my time there, it was great. You got to be locked into the game. It's hard enough having just 24 hours to get ready."
Steve Clifford entering the arena in Charlotte for the first time since the Hornets fired him... pic.twitter.com/aBGWrKg6rF— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) December 31, 2018
Orlando has lost 12 straight games to the Hornets, including a 120-88 rout in the second game of the season when the Magic shot just 38.3 percent.
The Hornets (17-18), losers of three of their last four, enter with the league’s ninth best offensive rating at 111.0 points per. The challenge for the Magic, regardless of who is at the point tonight, will be containing Kemba Walker and limiting him in the pick-and-roll. Good luck with all that.
If the Magic can manage to win in Charlotte (on the second night of a back-to-back and with who knows playing point), they will enter 2019 tied with the Hornets for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
Happy New Year!