After a quick two-game road trip, the Magic are back in town for a five-game home-stand as they look to get their season back on track.
Orlando dropped both of their games on the road this week, in Oklahoma City Tuesday night (102-94), and then again in a close game against the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night (107-106).
The Magic had a chance to escape Dallas with a win, but a Nikola Vucevic three-point attempt at the buzzer was off-target. Wednesday night was the first time the Magic eclipsed the 100-point mark through the first eight games of their season.
The Magic have now lost their last four contests, dropping their record to 2-6 overall on the year.
The Grizzlies grabbed their second win of the young season the last time they were on the floor, defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves at home 137-121. The Grizzlies’ starting back-court of Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks scored a combined 57 points against Minnesota.
The Magic are in desperate need of a win. Here are three keys to tonight’s Magic/Grizzlies contest:
1) Who will be able to score the ball?
The 137 points the Grizzlies scored their last time out is the highest total points the Memphis organization has scored in over a decade. Turbo-charged by their rookie point guard Morant, the Grizzlies are playing at the sixth fastest pace in the NBA this season (106.5).
However, the Grizzlies weren’t exactly lighting up the NBA before last Wednesday. Even after their offensive explosion against Minnesota, Memphis still ranks 27th in the NBA with an Offensive Rating of 101.8. The Grizzlies really struggle from three-point range (60-204 for the season); they currently rank 30th in the NBA in three-point makes and 28th in three-point percentage.
Even so, the Grizzlies have found more success scoring the basketball than the Magic (who hasn’t). The Grizzlies have averaged 110.0 points per game this season (25th in the NBA), whereas the Magic have yet to even score 110 points in a single game. The 95.1 points per contest Orlando is producing is the worst scoring average in the league.
Through eight games, Orlando ranks in the bottom-four in the NBA is field goal percentage, three-point percentage, three-point made field goals, point per game, offensive rating, and pace.
2) Will Orlando get some help from their veterans?
Outside of Jonathan Isaac, there really hasn’t been anyone on the Magic roster that has found sustained success so far this season. Steve Clifford’s club needs more contributions from everyone on the roster. But Orlando’s veteran players have been particularly bad in areas where historically they’ve been successful in the NBA.
For example, Vucevic is shooting 41.5% from the field through eight games this season. Vucevic has been inefficient in the paint (47.9% on two-point attempts) as well as from beyond the arc (20.7%). The All-Star center went 11 for 30 from the field on Orlando’s two-game road trip to Oklahoma City and Dallas.
Evan Fournier, a career 37% three-point shooter, is knocking-down less than 32% of his attempts from long-range this season. After scoring in double-digits in Orlando’s first six games, Fournier has gone 3 for 12 from the field in his last two games. He failed to score from the field (0-7 FGA’s) Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
D.J. Augustin, who has come off the bench in Orlando’s last three contests, has been cold from beyond the arc as well. Augustin is a 38% career marksman from three-point range, but he’s only connecting on 26% of his long-range attempts this season.
And without question, there’s not a player on the Magic roster that has started the season colder than Terrence Ross. Ross is shooting 28% from the field (19% on 3PTA’s) in ‘19 and missed Orlando’s last game in Dallas with a sore knee. It’s doubtful that Orlando’s sixth-man plays Friday night, but it will be imperative nonetheless to get Ross going on this five-game home-stand.
3) A showcase of “Who’s got next”.
Friday night’s contest between the Magic and Grizzlies will feature five former lottery picks from the last three drafts in Markelle Fultz (#1 in ‘17), Isaac (#6 in ‘17), Jaren Jackson Jr. (#4 in ‘18), Mohamed Bamba (#6 in ‘18), and Morant (#2 in ‘19).
Morant is averaging 20.4 points per game through his first seven career NBA games. On October 27th, the lead guard from Murray State scored 30 points against Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets, helping lead the Grizzlies to their first victory of the season.
The Magic must find a way to slow Morant down. If the rookie can beat Orlando defenders off the dribble and get into the lane, it could be a long night for the home team.
Jackson (20 years old), one of the most exciting young big-men in the NBA, has started 62 of his career 64 games played. The Michigan State product scored 13.8 points, grabbed 4.7 rebounds, and blocked 1.4 shots per game last year as a rookie.
For the Magic, Isaac is coming off arguably the most impressive game of his young career. The third-year forward did a bit of everything against the Mavericks Wednesday, scoring 13 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, dishing out five assists, swiping four steals, and swatting six shot attempts. Isaac is averaging an incredible 4.8 combined steals/blocks per game in ‘19-20.
Check back with Orlando Pinstriped Post later this evening for our live Magic/Grizzlies GameThread to join the discussion. Go Magic!