The Orlando Magic have very little time to get back up to speed as they resume the 2019-20 season in the first of eight seeding games.
Their quest to move into the seventh seed and thereby avoid both a play-in tournament with the Washington Wizards as well as the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round requires them to usurp the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets may be woefully shorthanded but they still hold a half-game lead over the Orlando Magic and could extend that advantage to 1.5 with seven games to play should the Magic falter.
Though seven games is more than enough time to account for that disadvantage, a loss today would be downright disastrous. The Brooklyn Nets enter the bubble with only ten healthy players after having lost Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Nicolas Claxton and Wilson Chandler due to injury or the understandable decision to avoid entering the bubble.
I mean understandable in that neither the Nets or Magic should expect to advance past the first round. Why assume the risk and why leave their families during such an uncertain time?
But the Nets roster is still littered with NBA players that should cause considerable concern for the Magic. First and foremost is Caris LeVert. Though injuries have hampered much of his career, he’s been a fringe All-Star level talent when healthy. Over the last 15 games of the season, LeVert scored 23.7 points with 5.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 41 percent from three on 6.7 attempts per game in just over 33 minutes per contest. Those are All-Star level numbers. By comparison, All-Star Jayson Tatum averaged 23.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists over the course of the season on 39.8 percent shooting from three.
The Nets also boast Jarrett Allen, a springy defender and shot-blocker who finished 20th in blocks despite playing just 25.7 minutes per game.
Joe Harris is one of the NBA’s most dangerous marksmen yet again. One season after leading the league in three-point percentage, he’s followed it up by shooting 41 percent on 6.8 attempts. Rodions Kurucs is a solid 3-4 who can both attack the basket and shoot the deep ball (38.5 percent on 1.7 attempts per game).
Garrett Temple is a savvy veteran who can defend and knock down an open shot. The dark horse difference maker could be veteran Tyler Johnson.
“His play has been pretty good for us.” Jacque Vaughn said of Johnson. “He gives you someone who’s pretty steady out there on the floor and has the ability to get to the rim, break down the defense, play with the basketball in his hands, and be a recipient of the basketball.”
For the Magic, they get help just when they need in most. Jonathan Isaac was incredible in seven minutes in his lone scrimmage appearance scoring 13 points with seven rebounds in that time. He and Markelle Fultz combined for a run that obliterated the Denver Nuggets second unit. The two should come off the bench, giving the Magic a dynamic one-two punch against the short-handed bench of the Nets.
DJ Augustin and James Ennis are expected to assume starting duties once again.
The game can be found on Fox Sports Florida at 2:30 pm eastern today.
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