With the working week winding to an end, let’s check the pulse of all things pinstriped.
Who won the week that was?
In a week that didn’t exactly go to plan for the Magic, the consistently dependable play of Franz Wagner still managed to stand out. Across the three game schedule the sophomore forward averaged 18.3 points and 3.7 assists on 47.4% shooting from the field (18-38), including 45.5% from deep (5-11). He supplemented his scoring with 5 free throw attempts in each contest, going 14 of 15 from the line on the week (93.3%). Additionally, in his 91 minutes of court time he committed only 4 turnovers and 3 fouls, a reflection of the cool, calm and collected manner in which Wagner conducts his on-court business.
Collectively, Orlando should be frustrated by last week’s 1-2 outcome, both in terms of the record arrived at and the team’s play that produced it. However, even in the midst of an underwhelming stretch Wagner’s individual performance was worthy of recognition. As a scorer and offensive facilitator he has already established himself as a reliable option for the Magic – no mean feat for a player with just 115 games of total experience.
The upcoming slate
This week’s schedule: vs Wizards (Fri); vs Thunder (Wed); at Grizzlies (Thurs)
This coming week – complete with a calendar flip and with the campaign’s mid-point looming – figures to tell us a lot about the Orlando Magic. The back-to-back losses to the Lakers and Pistons were about as dispiriting as any stretch of the team’s season to this stage, a fact which places a little more emphasis on the response across the next three games. If the Magic can secure at least a pair of wins they can begin looking more closely at the play-in, currently 3.5 games ahead of them in the standings. If the slump starts to look more like a downward trajectory then the focus will likely shift to the other race, with the team sitting just 2.0 games ahead of a bottom three record. With contests against a pair of similarly sub-.500 opponents the hope is that the Magic can get back to the business of jostling for wins … despite the depleted nature of the roster in the short-term.
The crystal ball says …
With a point to prove the understrength Magic gut out a win over the Wizards, but then find the Western Conference showdowns a little tougher.
It’s time to keep an eye on …
Moe Wagner. His poor decision-making instigated the scuffle against the Pistons, with the shove on Killian Hayes at the very least unnecessary, if not dangerously dumb. We know that Moe likes to play with an edge that can infuriate the opposition, but such an edge must be arrived at via energy, effort and an unwillingness to be outworked – irritate the opponent with your basketball performance! Taking a physical liberty the likes of which Wagner did on Wednesday night only has the capacity to undermine the body of work being built, with consequences for both the individual and the team that it would be better to avoid.
Three from downtown
- Given the current context it won’t happen this week, but the Magic’s coaching staff are going to have to settle on both a starting five and a preferred rotation sooner rather than later. Specifically, it’s imperative that the frontcourt and wing minutes are going to those who project to be part of the long-term plan.
- One of the stories of Orlando’s season continues to play out at the free-throw line, with the team currently ranking seventh in accuracy from the stripe (79.8%), fourth in freebies made per-game (20.0), and second in free-throws per field-goal attempt (.236). Paolo Banchero is obviously an enormous part of that equation, but of note is how significantly the roster has followed suit.
- Speaking of Banchero, the dynamic rookie has hit the first offensive rough patch of his career. He’s been held below 20 points in four of his last five outings, while he hasn’t converted from the floor at a mark of 50.0% or above in three weeks now. Hopefully both he and the team can get back on track soon.
A figure for thought
1. The number of Magic players (namely, Bol Bol) still with a chance of playing in all 82 regular season games.