One positive about the shorthanded Magic taking on Golden State is that the Warriors are shorthanded at a key position themselves. The center position.
So, Nikola Vucevic should be able to give his All-Star campaign a boost while facing a Warriors team that doesn’t have a true center available to face the Magic.
The Warriors have been without No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman, as well as backups Kevon Looney and Marquese Chriss, forcing the 6-foot-6 Draymond Green to slid into the middle.
Draymond is one of the league’s premier defensive players, but handling one of the league’s premier centers in the post is a big ask. Also sharing minutes at center for the Warriors have been Eric Paschall and Juan Toscano-Anderson, both standing 6-foot-6. The small ball Warriors, coming off a four-game Texas trip, get there first true back-to-the-basket center test when they face the Magic. Could be a big night for Vucevic, who three games ago dropped a career-high 43 points.
While the Dubs may struggle to defend the center position, the Magic will have their hands full at point guard, where they might be forced to start Frank Mason, whose ink on his recently-signed two-way contract is barely dry. Cole Anthony is listed as questionable due to a right shoulder strain suffered in the Magic’s loss to the Blazers, and Michael Carter-Williams is also listed as questionable, although he was upgraded from out early Thursday.
The Magic’s backup point guard right now: pic.twitter.com/MQkIGhNTzx— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) February 10, 2021
If Mason does get the nod, he draws as challenging of a matchup as he could possibly get in his first start for the Magic. Steph Curry has returned to MVP form this season, having scored more points and hit more threes than any player in the league. Steph is averaging 29.6 points, 5.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds while putting up shooting percentages that could once again place him in the exclusive 50-40-90 club.
In five games during the month of February, Curry is averaging 37.4 points while making half of his 12.8 three-point attempts per game, including a 57-point, 11-for-19 three-point shooting performance on Saturday against the Mavs. The Warriors, though, with stand-ins like Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr., are nowhere near the offensive juggernaut they once were. Their offensive rating of 109.9 points per 100 possessions is 20th in the league, and even with Curry’s contributions, are 11th in the league in three-point efficiency at 37.4%. They do however still play fast, with a second-best pace of 103.58, and a top-10 defense, with a rating of 109.1 (7th).
The Magic, on the second game of a four-game West Coast trip, have lost 14 of their last 17 games. These aren’t your older brother’s Warriors, but they remain a challenging opponent. Particularly when faced with the possibility of being without Anthony, Carter-Williams, Evan Fournier and Al-Farouq Aminu, who are all listed as questionable.
The Magic haven’t won in Golden State since 2012, dropping their last seven games.
Who: Orlando Magic (9-16) at Golden State Warriors (13-12)
When: Thursday at 10 p.m.
Where: Chase Center - San Francisco, California
TV: Fox Sports Florida