With the working week winding to an end, let’s check the pulse of all things pinstriped.
Who won the week that was?
Just last week I called on Cole Anthony to find a level of consistency with his scoring, and boy did the second-year guard (largely) deliver! Across the three games before the Boston debacle he averaged 23.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists, shooting a red hot 51.2% from the field and a net-scorching 66.7% from deep. His scoring punch kept the Magic in the games against the Raptors and the Pistons, while his offensive onslaught in Minnesota was the primary reason the team got win number two.
More impressive than just the boxscore numbers, however, is the manner in which Anthony is racking up his point totals. He looks much more measured and in control in his second season, navigating screens effectively and flashing a nasty ability to pull up on a dime and convert when afforded even an inch of space. His instincts in tighter spaces remains solid, with his improved accuracy in the painted area speaking to better decision making aiding more efficient finishing. During the early season Cole has emerged as the heartbeat of the team.
The upcoming slate
This week’s schedule: vs Spurs (tonight); vs Jazz (Sun); vs Nets (Wed)
Things are about to get real brutal for Orlando real quick, with eleven straight games against teams that were play-in participants or better last season. Two of those opponents — Brooklyn and Utah — represent some of the most favoured picks for an NBA Finals matchup, even if the Nets have been slow starters thanks to the Kyrie Irving drama and whistle dilemmas for James Harden. Still, regardless of circumstances the pair figure to be too much for an out-gunned Magic side, who will be happy just keeping things close against two of the league’s heavyweights.
Luckily for Orlando the current team from San Antonio are not your papa’s Spurs, and the Magic will be keen to extract some payback for the season-opening shellacking that they suffered in Texas. With Anthony having rediscovered his stroke, Franz Wagner exceeding all expectations, and Chuma Okeke back to offer some depth to second units, it’s possible to envision a week in which the Magic add another win to the ledger.
The crystal ball says …
Orlando gets one win and a handful of moral victories, accounting for the Spurs while admirably keeping the margin to single digits in the other games.
The next week is an important one for …
Mo Bamba. He tore the house down during the season’s opening week, and while there continue to be a number of pleasing aspects to his game — stingy shooting numbers ceded to his direct opposition; improved passing nouse; generally strong offensive numbers — some cooling off has seemingly begun. It’s also fair to wonder if he can effectively keep up his early torrid pace; Bamba’s metrics in a handful key areas — rebound rate; block rate; defensive box plus/minus — are noticeably down when compared to season’s previous. Big Mo has another big chance this week to prove that the big improvements to his play ain’t just a big fluke.
A figure for thought
45.8 — The percentage of shot attempts for the Magic that have come from beyond the arc, good for equal third league-wide.