Orlando suffered a body blow over the summer when Dwight Howard, their superstar Centre, forced a trade to the Lakers. The Magic was supposed to be easy pickin’s this season, but they visit the ACC sporting a 3-5 record. Their pattern has been odd – 2 wins to start, then 5 losses (including a 39-point wipeout by the Nets), before beating the eminently beatable Pistons. J.J. Redick, who’s been waiting in the wings for many seasons, has helped them so far with 15+ PPG, plus 5 assists. The Raps’ guards will need to close out on him, because no distance is too deep for his jumper. Glen (Big Baby) Davis’ 15+ PPG is, like Redick, the highest of his career. He’s a chunky forward who likes to take mid-range jumpers, but he’s crashing the glass this year with authority, a skill he seldom showed as a Celtic. Aaron Alfalo, the starting Shooting Guard, will give DeMar DeRozan all he can handle. Hedu Turkoglu, who’s nickname in Tdot is BOOOO!, has played 1 game so far. One hopes he plays down to the level he displayed when he was
stealing MLSE’s money a Rap. The jeering will turn to cheering when the Magic’s solid rookie Canadian Forward, Andrew Nicholson, hits the floor. He grew up in Mississauga, played in Buffalo at St. Bonaventure, & graduated with a Physics degree. All that, & he’s on our national team. Play well, young man, & welcome home.
The Magic man who has been the most pleasant surprise is their Centre, Nikola Vucevic. A 7-footer from Montengro, Vucevic has started all 8 games & is averaging 11 points & 9 boards in his second NBA season. Jonas Valanciunas will have his hands full, as he’s giving both height & poundage to this guy. I would expect Aaron Gray to see significant minutes, since JV has been in consistent foul trouble.
Andrea Bargnani needs to find his game in a serious hurry. After being invisible in the first half against the Celtics (4 points), he drained 11 in Q3, but the game spun out of control so Coach sat him down. He will be fresh & ready to seize the opportunity against a team he should dominate. Ed Davis wasn’t great against Boston, but he made enough good plays to warrant being first big off the bench. The guard play needs to be much better. DeMar should be able to beat his man off the bounce, so expect to see him attack the bucket a lot.
Is this game a must-win? I’d say so. Raps take it 108-98.