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Game On: Magic @ Hornets
New Orleans wraps up their two-game season series against Orlando at home, looking to finish off the sweep.
In a game that could make a difference in the draft lottery this summer, the 16-44 Magic take on the 21-39 Hornets in the New Orleans Arena tonight. While the Magic and Bobcats are likely in a two-team race for the most ping pong balls in May, the Hornets are one of six teams within two games of each other after that. Lottery ramifications aside, the Hornets’ defensive philosophy is one that is well-designed to prevent Orlando’s offense from succeeding, and they have far more firepower on offense than the Magic. As a result, I fully expect New Orleans to win tonight and pull off the season sweep of Ryan Anderson’s former team.
Three Keys to the Game
- Pack the paint and encourage threes on D. The Magic score 42.9 points in the paint per game, an average which puts them in the top third of the league. Conversely, Orlando has the NBA’s third-worst 3-point percentage of 33.5%, and that includes 50 games of J.J. Redick. With Redick now in Milwaukee, Jameer Nelson and E’Twaun Moore are the only players on their team making over 1/3 of his attempts from beyond the arc, shooting 34.5% and 36.3% respectively. If the Hornets play strong interior defense, this game shouldn’t even be close.
- Don’t make stupid mistakes. The Magic are far and away the league’s worst team at creating turnovers, forcing just 12 of them per game, which is right in line with Orlando’s league-low 13.7 points off of turnovers per game. They also have the lowest free throw rate in the NBA, earning just .194 free throw attempts per field goal attempt, so New Orleans needs to make sure they don’t commit any unnecessary fouls. As long as the Hornets don’t beat themselves, they should be in good position to win tonight.
- Keep Nikola Vucevic off of the offensive glass. In wins, Vucevic has an offensive rebound rate of 14.1%, which would be top-10 in the NBA this season. In losses, that number drops to 11.3%, which is still above average for a center this year but not nearly elite (as a reference point, Robin Lopez’s ORR this season is 11.3%). Expect Robin Lopez to see heavy minutes tonight, with his main focus on defense being to not necessarily grab defensive rebounds, but instead to make sure Vucevic is boxed out and pushed away from the rim.
Tip-off is at 7 PM tonight in the New Orleans Arena. Tickets are still available, and let’s be honest, what else do you have to do on a Monday night? Get to the Hive and cheer on your Hornets! Hell, cheer for them to lose for the sake of the draft for all I care, just go to the game!