Opening Statements: Wizards at Magic, Game 21 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Magic, Game 21

Updated: December 10, 2014

Washington Wizards vs Orlando Magic

Tonight the Wizards and Magic will meet for the third time this season. Washington won the first contest in Orlando on Oct. 30, 105-98, and the second contest in D.C. a couple weeks later on Nov. 15, 98-93.

Both games were a little too close for comfort, at least for Wizards fans, but that would take credit away from Orlando, which has a nice combination of young talent and good coaching.

John Wall zapped Orlando in the first meeting with 30 points, 12 assists and just two turnovers. Marcin Gortat, a former member of the Magic who makes Orlando his U.S. offseason home, contributed 20 points and 12 rebounds. Washington’s bench, however, did not provide much, getting outscored 36-15 (Ben Gordon scored 22 of Orlando’s 36 bench points).

In the second meeting the Wizards led by 10 points at halftime, 48-38, but got outscored in the second half, 55-50. Wall checked the box with 15 points, 10 assists and three turnovers, but Gortat didn’t fare as well with just eight points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Part of the reason is that Washington’s bench stepped up, scoring 48 total points (Humphries 16, Porter 13, and Butler 10), while Orlando’s bench contributed just 13.

The Magic are returning home after a six-game road trip in which they went 3-3 (wins against the Suns, Jazz, and Kings; losses against the Pacers, Warriors, and Clippers). Starting center Nikola Vucevic, who has missed the last four contests with back spasms, is said to be a game-time decision [UPDATE: he is out]. Vucevic totaled 37 points and 23 rebounds over his previous two meetings versus the Wizards. The capable Kyle O’Quinn, to be discussed below, will likely challenge Washington’s interior (which is also dealing with a day-to-day Nene, who apparently is available).

Orlando is a good team and shoots 37.1 percent from 3-point land, tied with Memphis and New York for the seventh best mark in the NBA. The Magic, however, attempt just 18.0 3-pointers per game, tied with Charlotte for fifth fewest in the league. Not to be out-done, Washington boasts the second-best 3-point percentage (38.2%) but attempts the fourth fewest shots from deep (16.4).

Bradley Beal, of any Wizard, needs a bounce-back game this evening. Boston hounded the third-year players on defense over the past two games, causing Beal to shy away from the moment and emit semi-frowny faces instead. He went 9-for-30 from the field with seven turnovers and seven fouls in back-to-back contests versus the Celtics. In Boston on Sunday, Beal did not secure one rebound or dish out one assist in 36 minutes; he fared better with three boards and five assists on Monday. We won’t issue an Amber Alert for the Big Panda just yet, but we’re considering it.

Stopping by TAI today is Joe Atmonavage (@Uncle_Joefus), contributor of pixels in several places on the InterWebs, including (@MBNhoops). Leggo…

Teams: Wizards at Magic
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Amway Center – Orlando, FL
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 5 points.

Q #1: As of now, Elfrid Payton is ranked 27th in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus, the second point guard ranked behind John Wall (14th).

What does the eye test tell you so far as to why such a high ranking does or does not bear out for the rookie?

@Uncle_Joefus: The eye-test solidifies that ranking. Payton has some of the quickest hands and best instincts I have seen from a young guard in quite some time. A few times a game he completely wows you with a defensive play. Take this five-steal game against Miami earlier in the year, for example:

Q #2: How has Victor Oladipo played since returning from a broken face?

Does he look closer to being a point guard? Or has that been essentially scrapped with Payton on the roster? How will those two ultimately mesh?

@Uncle_Joefus: Oladipo is beginning to find a rhythm after the injury. He has now played 15 games, starting 14 of them, and is averaging 14.8 points per game along with 3.6 assists on 45.7 percent shooting. He had his best game of the year last week when he scored 27 points on 10-of-14 FGs against arguably the best team in the NBA—the Golden State Warriors; the Magic lost, 98-97 (thanks, Steph Curry).

The jury is still out on if Oladipo is going to develop into a true point guard. However, in his second year, I think he looks more comfortable handling the ball and is making strides as a pick-and-roll player. It is unfortunate that right when Oladipo was getting back into tip-top playing shape, Magic center Nikola Vucevic, their best pick-and-roll (or pop) option, missed games nursing a back injury.

Whether Oladipo and Payton can play together is one of the most intriguing questions for the Magic moving forward. Both are awesome players in their own ways, but neither are consistent shooters, making them not too difficult to guard. Oladipo is shooting more efficiently so far this year (54.5 TS%) and should improve, but Payton is straight-up an abysmal shooter. He is rocking a 41.1 TS% currently. Right now, the Magic are getting outscored by 10.1 points per 100 possessions with the two of them on the floor, per But hell, both are pieces moving forward and now is the time to experiment and figure out things like this.

Q #3: A recent post on Magic Basketball speculated that Kyle O’Quinn, a restricted free agent this summer, might receive monetary attention from other suitors that Orlando might not be in a position to match.

Tobias Harris will be in the same situation. Who is more likely to remain a member of the Magic (and is that answer the same as who you’d rather have)?

@Uncle_Joefus: The Magic are in a tough position with both players. If I had to guess, Harris is not a part of the long-term plan. There is going to be a market for a wing who can score in a hurry, and I think Harris is a numbers guy who doesn’t make anyone around him much better. I could see the Magic using him as a trade piece.

I think O’Quinn is a relatively unknown commodity. And could be a reason why the Magic are able to retain him. With Vucecvic out with injury lately, O’Quinn has filled in very nicely as the main big guy. I think the Magic should entertain the idea of keeping him around as a quality backup big man.

Q #4: The Wizards proclaimed, upon drafting John Wall in 2010, that they had a three-year plan.

Between the lockout in Wall’s second year and a stress injury that derailed the start of his third season, the plan got set back by a year.

But Washington made it to the second round of the postseason in year four and now in Wall’s fifth season, they have a chance to compete for a conference title (thanks to the lowly state of competition in the East). Have the Magic set a timetable for their rebuild? If not, what should it be (since being forced to trade Dwight Howard)? And where do they currently stand in said timetable?

@Uncle_Joefus: I am not sure if the Magic have a set timetable, but they are certainly moving in the right direction. It appears Vucecvic is a franchise center. Oladipo continues to get better, and it seems they nailed last year’s draft so far, getting Payton and Aaron Gordon, who is injured but looked awesome before that. That is a good start, but by no means enough. They will likely have another good draft pick this year to add to the core. The problem for the Magic is they don’t yet have a guy like Wall—a guy who makes everyone around him better and gives the team a distinct identity. It may not happen as fast as the Wizards, but the Magic are developing a core to build around—the first step in any successful rebuild.


Kyle Weidie on EmailKyle Weidie on GoogleKyle Weidie on InstagramKyle Weidie on LinkedinKyle Weidie on TwitterKyle Weidie on Youtube
Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.