The Orlando Magic’s homestand continues as they take on the Brooklyn Nets and another juggernaut duo for their defense to handle.
Orlando Magic (18-51) vs. Brooklyn Nets (35-33)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line via WynnBet: Nets by 10.5
Tickets: $60-$1,241 on StubHub
2022 Season Series: Nets 123, Magic 90 in Orlando on Nov. 10; Nets 115, Magic 113 in Brooklyn on Nov. 19; Magic 100, Nets 93 in Brooklyn on Dec. 18; Tonight in Orlando
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The Orlando Magic got some stern reminders of how tall a hill they have to climb. The Magic defended Joel Embiid and James Harden well all game and they still put up big numbers and paraded to the foul line continuously. The Magic have had to deal with their lack of star power on several levels. But the biggest way is just how the best stars in the world can just enforce their will.
That is how the Philadelphia 76ers pulled out the win over the Orlando Magic in overtime on Sunday. The Magic just ran out of gas and Embiid and Harden paraded to the line, putting pressure on a cracking defense that had played well for so long.
The Brooklyn Nets are like the Philadelphia 76ers right now. They are leaning heavily on Kevin Durant to carry the scoring load. And then splitting that between him and Kyrie Irving on the road. The Magic will be undermanned at guard with Jalen Suggs out Tuesday with a bone bruise in his ankle. It will be another test for this defense even if Brooklyn has an imperfect supporting cast.
3 Keys To Watch
At a certain point, the light flicked on for Wendell Carter. He came to understand just how good he can be and how much his team needs him to be aggressive and look to score. This is not the Wendell Carter of the Chicago Bulls who was hesitant to shoot and struggled to find his place within the team concept. The offense did not really tailor to him or emphasize his skills. He was just there.
But Carter has found his place in Orlando. He has been a fulcrum as a high-post organizer, a bully on the block, able to hit turnaround fadeaways and post moves or kick it back out. And, yes, he sometimes hits from the outside or freezes the defense with a pump fake before driving to the basket.
Carter is averaging 17.3 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game while shooting 55.8-percent from the floor in his last 21 games. He was named a nominee for the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award last week, the second time he has gotten a nomination for the weekly honor. A big reason for the Magic’s success is because of Carter.
Kevin Durant is Kevin Durant
Of course, the guy who won this week’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week award is Kevin Durant. And it was very well-deserved.
Durant scored a cool 53 points to help the Brooklyn Nets hold off the New York Knicks in Sunday’s win at Barclays Center. He is averaging 32.0 points per game and 7.0 assists per game while shooting 52.3-percent from the floor in his last five games since returning from injury. He has not missed a beat.
And as the Magic learned in their first meeting with the Nets, where Durant scored 30 points on 11-for-12 shooting without breaking a sweat, he does not need much space to make anything work.
Test for R.J.
Jalen Suggs got the primary defensive assignment on James Harden in Sunday’s game and did a really good job. Suggs’ defense has been really good for a rookie and it is something he will continue to build on as his reputation grows. But Suggs will be OUT for Tuesday’s game.
That puts the pressure on another budding young defender in R.J. Hampton. He is quickly building a defensive reputation and the Magic see him as a potential 3-and-D, pace-changing guard at this point. He has certainly thrived playing alongside Markelle Fultz. Fultz has gotten good at spotting Hampton lining up on the perimeter and Hampton has been great at running with Fultz.
But this will be a test of how much Hampton has gained defensively. The Magic have always liked his defensive tools. But like everything else with Hampton, he will sometimes go a bit too fast and get overeager going for steals or reaching. Hampton can show a lot of growth in his matchup with Kyrie Irving.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism