The Orlando Magic have won five of their past six games and Jonathan Isaac looks great.
As a reward for their impressive string of performances, Steve Clifford is taking them to the circus!
The Pelicans would prefer to sit, and protect the health of, Anthony Davis until trying to trade him this summer, but the NBA threatened to fine the team $100K per game under the NBA's anti-resting policy--a policy that relates to anti-tanking. More here: https://t.co/He9xwPcGyo pic.twitter.com/XD1FyuCDiO— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) February 11, 2019
Dun dun dun-nunna nunna nun nun nun na, dun dun dun-nunna nunna nun nun nun na!
The New Orleans Pelicans may carry the same record as the Orlando Magic, but the two respective franchises are in vastly different places with opposite trajectories.
The NBA is currently forcing the Pelicans to play their franchise’s best player of all-time after Davis tried to force his way to Los Angeles prior to the deadline. Amidst the impending divorce, commissioner Adam Silver is forcing fines upon owner Gayle Benson and the Pelicans for any games in which Davis sits.
Even in back-to-backs, or so we thought.....
After Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Davis would play around the 25 minute threshold and sit on back-to-backs, the Pelicans played Davis 35 minutes on Saturday night after sitting him during the fourth quarter on Friday.
It just doesn’t get any stranger than a home crowd that boos their favorite player during introductions and when touching the ball, but reins cheers after plays like this:
So, he scored 32 points in just 25 minutes in his return from a finger injury after missing nine games on Friday night, but then fired up just eight shots on Saturday against the completely overhauled Grizzlies.
So....like....what should Magic fans expect from him?
Expect around his typical 25/10/two blocks in 30 minutes of action. However, he should have a great degree of difficulty with the attention lobbied to him by Vucevic, Gordon and the pterodactyl help arms of Jonathan Isaac.
Did we mention Isaac has been good lately?
Jonathan Isaac in the six games since the NBA Rising Stars roster was announced and he wasn’t on it:— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) February 11, 2019
Thank you, NBA. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/U9f9TT14PW
Magic fans should also expect a standout performance from Jrue Holiday. Holiday is having an All-Star caliber season and seems destined to repeat his performance as First-Team All-Defender. He should be able to mitigate much of what Fournier and Augustin design on doing, and should score and create on the other end.
But what you may not expect, is the surprising play of Jahlil Okafor, and undrafted rookie, Kenrich Williams.
In previous eight starts, Jahlil Okafor's averages:— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) February 5, 2019
18.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, two blocks on 67% from the field.
Okafor has been a revelation since earning meaningful minutes back on December 19th, and in the starting lineup has been downright fantastic. He’s even improved his defensive range, but it’s his bevy of sweet post moves that should dazzle even Nikola Vucevic. He lacks any kind of range whatsoever but finds his way to the rim without hesitation. He has missed the past two games due to a lingering ankle, but should be available for this one.
Williams has been the energy spark plug this lucid unit desperately needed, and has been impressive from deep range as well. In his past six games, he’s averaging 13.3 points, 11.2 rebounds, and three assists, all on 50% and 44% from three-point range.
Led by Jrue and Kenrich, the Pelicans were playing smart, tough basketball with five of their six scorers out last week. Since returning AD, Randle and Moore to the lineup, they have regressed back to the mean.
Speaking of the mean, like Okafor, Julius Randle imposes his will offensively, but is putrid at recognizing matchups and switches defensively. He’s a turnstile from the perimeter on pick-and-rolls and should give the Magic what they want in the paint.
The Pelicans will turn up the tempo, especially with Tim Frazier at backup point guard, and will get points in the paint early and often. But they will give up far too many open looks from three-point range and fail to communicate when getting back in transition.
The Magic, who have won three straight to move within 1.5 games of the eight-seeded Heat, should also look to get out of their comfort zone offensively and cross the mid-court line a bit faster than usual. By getting into their half court offense sooner, they can take advantage of Pelican defenders’ indecisiveness and get easy looks from all over the floor, especially when Julius Randle occupies the court.
One other cringe worthy note. After missing 38 of a possible 57 games this season due to a variety of ailments, the New Orleans Pelicans should make available....Elfrid Payton.
If you haven’t heard much of Payton since his departure, it’s because, well, he hasn’t played much. But in his rare glimpses he’s been solid if unspectacular, keeping right along with his career averages (10 points, six assists this season) while displaying an improved deep ball (35%).
And what could be more terrifying than watching Payton decisively attack the basket all while sinking a few threes?!
Alvin Gentry says Elfrid Payton is a “maybe” for tomorrow night’s game.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) February 11, 2019
Given the Magic’s steady showings over the past two weeks and the drama clouding over the Pelicans’ organization, the Magic have a chance to steal this one and climb a little bit closer to the Miami Heat.
Where To Watch
What: Orlando Magic (25-32) at New Orleans Pelicans (25-32)
Where: Smoothie King Center, Nola
When: Tuesday, February 12th, 2018, 8:00 p.m. Eastern
How: Fox Sports Florida