The Magic hit the road for the first time this season, spending the weekend in the nation’s capital.
That’s where they’ll face the Washington Wizards on a 2020-style back-to-back, with the first game tipping off on Saturday at 7 p.m. They’ll face a Wizards team that is one of the many new-look franchises in the East trying to leapfrog the Magic into the playoffs.
Charles Barley even “guar-an-teed” the Wizards would make the playoffs, so that obviously means it’s definitely happening.
But the Wizards did have an encouraging season opener, despite blowing a 10-point fourth quarter lead in a 113-107 loss to the Sixers. Their new backcourt showed why it’s going to be a problem in the East. John Wall’s successor, Russell Westbrook, recorded a triple double (through three quarters btw), posting 21 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds. Bradley Beal, who could end up leading the league in scoring this season with the uncertainty surrounding James Harden, scored 31 points.
But they didn’t get much help, and they’ll be dependent on from the recently re-signed Davis Bertans, still-developing center Thomas Bryant and 2019 No. 9 overall pick Deni Avdija to provide it.
Westbrook, no stranger to putting on a classic performance against the Magic, will now make his home debut, albeit in an empty arena.
The Magic will look to slow him down — except a healthy dose of defensive agitator Michael Carter-Williams this weekend — and build on a very impressive season-opening win against the defending Eastern Conference champion Heat. If Evan Fournier (25 points on 9-for-13 shooting) and Aaron Gordon (20 points on 8-for-11 shooting) play the way they played during Wednesday’s opener, the Magic are a difficult team to beat.
“I don’t think, outside of Orlando, people have a lot of belief in us,’’ Gordon said after the game. “I don’t think they think that we’re going to become potential contenders or even have a playoff slot and I don’t think that’s true. I feel like we’re really ready to make that next leap.’’
The efficiency of Fournier and Gordon - along with a solid, turnover-inducing defensive performance that limited the Heat’s three-point opportunities, as well as some instant offense off the bench from Terrence Ross - helped compensate for a relatively low-scoring night for Nikola Vucevic (15 points on 5-for-13 shooting) and temporary starting small forward Dwayne Bacon, who had a goose egg in his official Magic debut (0 points on 0-for-5 shooting).
Expect that too change this weekend as Vooch faces the Wizards, a team he averaged 26.3 points against while shooting 57.4% from the field in three games last season.
The Magic in recent years have shown they can beat any team and lose to any team, so coming off an encouraging win over the Heat, this weekend’s D.C. doubleheader will be a very interesting early-season gauge to see how they fare against a fellow fringe playoff team.
Who: Orlando Magic (1-0) at Washington Wizards (0-1)
When: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Where: Capital One Arena - Washington D.C.
TV: Fox Sports Florida