Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 27rd game of the season against the Magic in the District are TAI’s John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend) and guest Nate Drexler (@natedrex), who writes about the Magic for the ESPN TrueHoop blog Magic Basketball.
Wizards Starters (3-23):
Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene, Emeka Okafor
Magic Starters (12-16):
Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Mo Harkless, Gustavo Ayon, Nikola Vucevic
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Magic over the past week?)
@natedrex: The Magic are losing, but losing close games. That’s a good thing, especially considering they are still only two games out of 8th place in the East. Here’s the other thing: In their last three losses, Orlando shot themselves in the foot and gave away games they should have won. Toronto should not have controlled the tempo as much as they did, Orlando shouldn’t have turned the ball over 18 times against Utah, and New Orleans’ stars struggled against the Orlando defense and had to rely on non-stars to seal the win. Coulda, shoulda, woulda … but at least the Magic know they can compete with anyone.
All that say this: Orlando is still right in the hunt with plenty of fight. They come into Washington expecting to win, and with a big chip on their shoulder after three straight losses.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@natedrex: Nikola Vucevic. His minutes haven’t spiked since Glen Davis’ injury, but his production definitely has. Vucevic has a double-double in two of his last three games, and scored 19 points in the loss against Utah. If you’re going to take him out of the game you have to beat him on the boards, and that’s no easy task, especially considering Vucevic is playing his best basketball of the season as of late.
Q #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
@natedrex: Jordan Crawford vs. anyone in the Magic backcourt. He scored 17 off the bench (WHY WAS HE ON THE BENCH? [Ed. note: Crawford was benched for showing up late to shootaround.]) on Wednesday and is expected to get back into the starting rotation Friday. Any time a leading scorer goes up against a good team defense it makes for a compelling matchup. How will Orlando attempt to shut down Mr. Crawford? I’ll be waiting with bated breath.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@JohnCTownsend: Over the last five games, the Magic have the second-worst turnover differential in the NBA—they commit 16.4 turnovers per game (four more than their opponents). The Wizards have been better over the last five, but they’re still in the bottom-10—they commit 14.8 turnovers per game (one more than their opponents). This season, the Magic are 8-14 when having more (or the same) number of turnovers than opponents; The Wiz are 1-11. The takeaway: Don’t give the ball away. Neither team can afford to, not with the players available in each rotation.
The Wizards are 1.5-point dogs against the Magic … at home. The over/under is 182 points (via USA Today).
@natedrex: I think the Magic will keep the Wizards in the 80-90 point range like they did a week ago when they got a nice scoring spread from the backcourt. I expect Orlando to repeat that perimeter performance and couple it with a big night from Vucevic. Magic win, 97-89.
@JohnCTownsend: The Wizards lost the first meeting against the Magic this season, but they appear to be in better hands and in better shape this time around. Nene looks healthy, finally. Bradley Beal, who has disappointed even the most ardent Wizards fans, was sidelined with a sore back in the loss in Orlando, but is available tonight. He’s Washington’s third-leading scorer (12.1 points per game) and should be fresh after being benched for the second half against Cleveland. Shelvin Mack and Garrett Temple, both recent D-League call-ups, have looked better than ever—at the very least, they looked better than Shaun Livingston (granted, that’s not saying much). I’m picking the upset. Wizards win a close one at home, 94-93.