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Orlando Magic Weekly Observations: The rise of Robin Lopez

Some rapid-fire Orlando Magic observations as we head to the holidays

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

With the working week winding to an end, let’s check the pulse of all things pinstriped.

Who won the week that was?

NBA: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

In going 2-2 on the week the Magic were able to outperform the modest expectations I had for them, even with one less game on the schedule after a postponement. Powering much of that good fortune was the play of veteran center Robin Lopez, called into significantly greater duty than anyone would have predicted for him at the season’s outset. Fortunately for Orlando, the big man delivered in spades.

He kicked things off with 18, 7 and 3 against the Heat, logging 33 minutes and operating as the side’s lone big after WCJ exited with injury. He was even better in his next start against the Nets, powering his way to 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists on the back of a career-high 22 attempts front he field. That was followed by another career-best and another double-double, this one of the 10 point, 11 assist variety, with 5 rebounds and a pair of stocks for good measure. He averaged 34 minutes per contest across this stretch and was certainly among, if not the, team’s best each night.

Lopez’s week finished with a six-minute cameo in the loss against the Pelicans, with Wendell Carter Jr.’s return pushing him back to a more familiar supporting role. But for at least a brief burst the veteran big man was able to remind Magic fans that he still has the capacity to be more than just a warm body at the end of the rotation.

The upcoming slate

NBA: Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s schedule: at Heat (Sun); vs Bucks (Tues); vs Bucks (Thurs).

It’s a weird week on the horizon for the Magic, with showdowns against two teams also afflicted by injury and illness. In addition, they have a two-in-three-nights home set against the reigning champs, although it’s currently unknown whether the Bucks will be wading into battle with or without their MVP (among others). When you also consider that the Heat are currently without their top-billed duo (among others), it becomes almost impossible to predict what sort of contest might play out.

Despite both currently being comfortably among the Eastern Conference’s top six seeds, Miami and Milwaukee have been up and down of late in a manner befitting the current chaos sweeping the league. The Magic, in contrast, have been on a tear, piling up consecutive victories for the first time all season on the back of feel good Lakeland vibes, some sweet play by sweet Franz, Ro-Lo rolling back the clock, and the timely rejuvenation of both Chuma Okeke and Gary Harris’ corpse.

Can Orlando keep it up? Who knows?! Similarly, we’re not even entirely certain that these games will go ahead, with basically the entire league (and country) (and world) teetering on the edge of a(nother) major shutdown. Confidently predicting individual contests at this current point in time is an exercise in madness.

The crystal ball says …

*shoulder shrug*

*confused face emoji*

Let’s say 1-2, with the Magic stealing a win against an understrength opponent that would otherwise have been a red hot favorite had everyone been pulling on a uniform.

The next week is an important one for …

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Orlando Magic Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakeland Magic (and extended call-up crew). Honestly, as a collective these guys have been huge since being enlisted for duty under trying circumstances. Results at the G-League speak already to the competitive capabilities of the unit, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that they’re playing relatively effectively despite the chaos swirling throughout the league. Still, this is a group of players effectively auditioning for a chance on the bigger basketball stage. Could anyone play their way into a more permanent gig? The group will get another chance to showcase their wares this coming week.

A figure for thought

Orlando Magic v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

7 – the number of 20+ point games that Franz Wagner has compiled as a rookie, currently tied for equal-first among his draft class.