With the working week winding to an end, let’s check the pulse of all things pinstriped.
Who won the week that was?
*reflects on games*
*re-visits the highlight packages*
Err … scorers going up against the Magic?
It really was one of those weeks! After having spent the post-All-Star run compiling numbers that suggested they’d been performing as one of, if not the league’s best defensive outfit, our pinstriped pals spent the majority of the last seven days letting all manner of opponents run absolutely wild on ‘em.
While the Timberwolves were largely held in check throughout a game that ended in a feel-good result, elsewhere things were significantly uglier. The 76ers posted three 26+ point scorers as they stole an OT victory. Kyrie was the personification of dominating brilliance as he sauntered his way to an absurd 60. Thursday night was then Saddiq Bey’s turn – that’s right, Saddiq Bey! – ruthlessly efficient from deep as he made his way to 51 points courtesy of an RJ Hampton assist in the dying seconds. It was a week in which the headlines were firmly owned by out-of-towners.
Otherwise, It’s probably worth pointing out that Bamba had maybe the best game of his career against the Timberwolves (before largely disappearing). Wendell Carter Jr. racked up another pair of double-doubles (before donning street clothes). Markelle Fultz flashed some nice run in limited minutes. Moe Wagner hit double-figures in each of the four games. Brother Franz had two great quarters in the contest against the Pistons. It’s just that all of it paled in comparison to the various offensive onslaughts that the team was victimized by.
The upcoming slate
This week’s schedule: vs Thunder (Sun); vs Warriors (Tue); at Thunder (Wed)
It’s an interesting seven-day sequence for the Magic, with a less-hectic schedule containing just three games – even though they’ll all come during a four night stretch. It’s also certainly a more winnable week for Orlando, with a home and home set against a similarly placed side in the standings, and the normally intimidating Warriors now being significantly weakened by the absence of their most brightly shining superstar.
At 20-49, the Thunder represent the most immediate threat to Orlando’s bid for top-three lottery odds, a circumstance which a pair of wins from this week’s games would bring into stark focus. Unlike this time last season OKC are still playing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a fact which would probably be enough to make them the favorite in any game against the Magic. However, with the spate of tank-influenced DNPs currently doing the rounds, it remains to be seen who will line up for either side in the two meetings.
Based on the current rate of attrition and defensive form it’s hard to see the Magic claiming a pair of wins over any one opponent in a single week, even one right by them in the standings. The Warriors will also likely find a way to overcome Curry’s absence with the firepower they already have elsewhere on their roster. Still, it’s a slate that certainly offers Orlando an opportunity for one more placating victory before the real tank business rolls into focus.
The crystal ball says …
1-2, although picking which game they’re most likely to actually steal is basically a fool’s errand at this point.
The next week is an important one for …
Jamahl Mosley. I’ve nominated him here before, because even during a season like this one there are moments when it’s important that the team re-establish some sort of grip over proceedings. With the rope having slipped in recent games, right now is one of those times.
The Magic have been woeful in their last two outings, with each featuring stretches during which it seemed the players simply stopped trying to execute the playbook. Obviously, the addition of a raft of absences to the general talent deficit certainly isn’t making the job any easier. However, Orlando simply looked too discombobulated, too disorganized, and too disinterested in some sequences. For any sort of developmental value to arise from this week’s slate, it’s essential that the side get back to doing what the coach expects of them – even if the end result is still defeat.
When all is said and done the Magic need to know that they extracted some value from a painful losing campaign. Although ping pong balls will cruelly measure success by the number of losses, the on-court product at the close needs to tilt more towards ‘courageous moral victory’ than ‘disheartening non-compete’. Let’s hope Coach Mose can get that ledger again pointing in the right direction as we enter the season’s final phase.
A figure for thought
3 – the amount of games Orlando’s won across the final 11 games of last season.