With the working week winding to an end, let’s check the pulse of all things pinstriped.
Who won the week that was?
With the team mired in the midst of an ongoing and seemingly interminable losing streak, it was always going to be difficult to find a player who stood out as a figurative winner this week. Still, despite the lack of team success there is someone on the roster who has managed to do just that, posting a positive plus/minus rating in all three games that came in the last seven days and comfortably winning the court time he saw by a margin of +23.
Terrence Ross averaged 20.6 points across the stretch, arriving there on the back of 48.9% shooting that included 42.9% from deep. In addition, he sprinkled in a little rebounding and a few helpers, as well as a disruptive defensive stat or two and just three turnovers on the week. Considering that the Magic dropped all three games, the fact that he came out comfortably ahead in the 96 minutes he played speaks to the impact his microwave scoring can have on this side.
Sure raw plus/minus is one of the noisiest numbers in basketball analysis, and sure the Magic picked up losses eight, nine and ten of the current skid despite his contributions. However, it’s still fair to say that the Human Torch used this week to send another reminder of his potential value, both to this rebuilding side and as a target on the trade market. It might not have resulted in any literal victories, but Ross’ efforts were still good enough to claim the W in this space.
The upcoming slate
This week’s schedule: at Hornets (Fri); at Mavericks (Sat); at Blazers (Mon); at 76ers (Wed).
The immediate schedule features few favors for the Magic, with road showdowns against a number of surging sides slated for the next week. There’s LaMelo and the Hornets, winners of four straight as they re-enter the thick of the playoff race. That game will be followed on the second night of a back-to-back with a tilt against the returned Luka Doncic, once again quarterbacking a Mavs team that had won a half-dozen in a row before their last-start stumble against the Knicks. There’s also the Sixers and Embiid, 8-2 across their last ten and seemingly removed from the malaise that threatened to engulf them late last year.
However, even if we rule those three out as possibilities, there’s still a chance that the young Magic can nab a win in the week to come. Portland have been marked by under-performance and ravaged by injury so far this season, with Dame Lillard’s upcoming surgery just the latest blow suffered. Sure they’ve nabbed a couple of recent victories, but this is an Orlando side that feels poised for some sort of breakthrough … even if it is only short-lived.
The crystal ball says …
1-3, with the losing streak failing to reach the baker’s dozen mark courtesy of a drought-busting W in Oregon.
The next week is an important one for …
Chuma Okeke. Shooting has been a visibly ugly struggle for him since returning from injury, an obvious blight that is perhaps obfuscating some of the elements of his game that are slowly returning to brightness. He’s been playing significantly more minutes recently, finding ways to impact the contest despite not having his shot fall. 10 rebounds and 3 assists against the Pistons. 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and a block against the Wizards. 4 rebounds 2 steals and a block in the return date. Zero turnovers in his last three.
Okeke has spent most of his time this season at the four, a situation that holds some advantage based on the current front-court absences on the roster; the Magic need dependable contributions with so many out, so it builds a natural opportunity for Okeke to find his feet. In fact, Jamahl Mosley has shown some willingness to experiment with his deployment recently, even lining him up at center in the last contest for a short burst. It’s the sort of adaptability that suggests he is seen as part of the solution, even if as a team they still haven’t arrived at a complete answer.
Much like the Magic as an outfit, it feels like the second-year forward is inching ever closer to the proverbial turning of a corner. Considering the team’s current circumstances, there may be no better opportunity than right now for that to happen. It feels like Okeke is close to getting back to where he was as a rookie. Let’s see if this is the week that it finally happens.
A figure for thought
5.0 – the percentage that the Magic are shooting from three-point range during clutch sequences that have occurred during the current ten-game losing streak.