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Magic vs. Warriors preview: Improving Magic defense looks to contain Steph, Dubs

Steph Curry and Nikola Vucevic are both coming off poor shooting games. Who has the better bounce-back game?

NBA: Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, an undermanned Magic team gave the Warriors about all they could handle but came up short in the end.

The Magic entered that game last Thursday basically not knowing who their starting point guard would be. It ended up being Frank Mason, who lasted less than five minutes before suffering injury himself and leaving the Magic with eight players, none of whom were a point guard.

This time around Orlando will have a few extra bodies to throw at a Golden State team that is shorthanded themselves. Michael Carter-Williams has assumed the starting point guard role, Evan Fournier is back in the starting lineup, Al-Farouq Aminu is available off the bench, and Chasson Randle is the new backup point guard.

And the Magic themselves seem to be getting back to playing a Steve Clifford brand of basketball on the defensive end, coming off what was arguably their most complete victory of the season in a 107-89 win over the Knicks. The Magic’s defensive rating is trending upwards, sitting at 17th best in the league at 111.5 points per 100 possessions. Over their last five games, the Magic have been third in the category, allowing 105.6 points per, as they have limited points in the paint and second-chance-points. That was bolstered by their strong defensive showing against the Knicks, which was the second time this season Orlando held an opponent under 90 points.

The Magic defense, along with a season-high 30 points from Terrence Ross, helped compensate for what was one of Nikola Vucevic’s worst shooting performances of the season as he finished with 16 points on 8-for-24 shooting, including 0 of 7 from three.

Vooch also struggled in last week’s meeting with the Warriors despite the fact that the Dubs were without all of their big men (James Wiseman, Kevon Looney and Marquese Chriss. Vucevic, playing opposite Draymond Green, finished with 25 points but shot just 8-for-23 from the field. The Warriors will again be without their bigs on Friday, and now Draymond is listed as questionable after missing his last game with an ankle injury. If he is unable to go, that would leave Eric Paschall, Juan Toscano-Anderson and a swarm of double teams to deal with Vucevic.

The Warriors when healthy may boast a top-five defense with a rating of 108.8 (5th), and do a good job of limiting points in the paint (44.5, 7th best), but expect Vooch to post some big numbers and recover from Wednesday’s tough shooting night.

Another player who rarely has back-to-back poor shooting nights is Steph Curry. Or as our friends over at Golden State of Mind so eloquently put it “Steve Kerr is fond of saying that Curry doesn’t have consecutive bad games, so ... say a prayer for Michael Carter-Williams.”

Steph is coming off his worst shooting games of the season, despite hitting the dagger in Golden State’s 120-112 overtime win in Miami on Wednesday, Curry finished with 25 points and 11 assists, but shot just 8-for-25 from the field, missing 15 of his 20 three-point attempts. But with a balanced effort that saw four player scored 20-plus points (Steph, Wiggins, Oubre, Bazemore), the Warriors managed to win and are now in position to win three-straight games for the first time this season.

Oubre, since dropping 40 on the Mavs two weeks ago, has improved drastically from the perimeter, shooting 41.5% on his 5.9 three-point attempts per while averaging 17.3 points per game during that seven-game stretch.

We’ll see how the improving Magic defense handles the Warriors’ perimeter shooters.

Who: Orlando Magic (11-18) vs. Golden State Warriors (16-13)

When: Friday at 7 p.m.

Where: Amway Center - Orlando, Florida

TV: Fox Sports Florida