With the working week winding to an end, let’s check the pulse of all things pinstriped.
Who won the week that was?
With all due respect to Mo Bamba’s first half outburst against the Sixers, the crown this week has to sit atop the head of another Moe – specifically one of the Wagner variety.
Moe Wagner had a stretch that no one outside of his immediate family could have confidently expected coming into the season, leading the Magic in scoring on three occasions and finishing the week with a personal point differential of +30, far and away the best mark on the team. He exploded for 26 points in 28 minutes against the Hornets, helping to propel the side to an unexpected victory with his four long-range bombs. He continued the rapid scoring pace against the Blazers (14 in 15 minutes) and the Mavericks (16 in 20 minutes), before seeing limited opportunity in the team’s showdown with Philly (6 in 10 minutes).
It was ultimately one hell of a run for a guy who was pretty firmly at the end of the team’s rotation during training camp, equal parts impressive and unexpected. For a week at least he even stole some of the shine from his younger brother, proving in the process that he’s a good chance of sticking in this league in the years to come.
The upcoming slate
This week’s schedule: vs Lakers (tonight); vs Bulls (Sun); vs Clippers (Wed).
The Magic did end up going 1-3 last week, with a surprisingly impressive fourth quarter sealing a feel-good win over the Hornets. Elsewhere though … things got pretty ugly, which was largely expected given the quality of opponents. A quick glance at the looming schedule makes for slightly friendlier reading, with a game against a Bulls team that only recently snapped a four-game skid being sandwiched between a pair of contests against sub-.500 Western Conference foes. That’s good, right?
Well, such a description is a deliberate undersell; the Bulls are still tied for first place in the East despite their recent swoon, while the two teams visiting from out West happen to be a Lakers outfit led by LeBron and a Clippers team who are still nabbing some quality wins despite the absence of their top two superstars. All three showdowns figure to be a tough task for the battling Magic, even with each taking place on their home court – remember, Orlando is just 2-16 in Central Florida so far this season! Add in the fact that the familiar face of Frank Vogel is currently coaching for his job and that the Clips are scrambling to stay in the playoff race and it’s looking like a tall order for the team in pinstripes.
The crystal ball says …
Expect Orlando’s losing streak to hit a half-dozen come Wednesday evening as the winless stretch at home nears the two-month mark.
The next week is an important one for …
Jalen Suggs. The rookie has been able to make a positive impact since returning from his thumb injury, playing with a determination and physicality that suggest he is starting to figure out how to best attack the professional game. On offense, this has involved getting out in transition and making a point of attacking the hoop, simplifying his game in a way that provides some insulation against the cold shooting spells that marked his opening stretch. Defensively he appears to have further dialed up his ball hawkish instincts, pouncing on opportunities and generally using his body to make a nuisance of himself. It’s been pleasing to see!
However it’s becoming increasingly difficult to overlook the turnovers marring his game. Suggs has coughed the ball up fifteen times in just four outings since returning, a worrying rate that continues an early-season trend – somehow, the rookie has had only seven games in which he’s committed less than three turnovers, not yet finishing any contest without at least one. In fact, he’s got almost as many giveaways on the season (82) as he does assists (92), a bitter pill to swallow for someone who spends almost half of their time manning the point guard position.
There are plenty of reasons to expect a high turnover rate when it comes to Suggs. He’s a rookie playing the position with the highest degree of difficulty in the league. He’s more of a physical athlete than a cerebral tactician. He’s already had to battle injury. And while these realities ensure the situation is an understandable one, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is currently the area of his game which requires the most improvement. A little more care and control should bring that number down and allow him to take another step in the right direction.
A figure for thought
.538 – the combined winning percentage of the teams that the Magic have beaten this season.