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After a 7-3 run, ending with a heart-breaking loss at the buzzer to the Toronto Raptors, the Orlando Magic are looking to regain some consistency through a tough five-game road trip and gain a foothold in the upper-tier of the Eastern Conference.
Athletically the Orlando Magic look like theyre a squad built to get up and down the court with the absolute best of the NBA, plus they have recent NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week Nikola Vucevic. Their problem is that they are one of the league’s most average three-point shooting teams, knocking down a mediocre 34.5% of threes with over thirty attempts per game.
Of the Magics top five players in field-goal attempts per game – Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross, and Jonathan Simmons – three are shooting above league average 35.2% from three. Once the bench enters however, only Jerian Grant has been able to hit above average from range, however on a very small sample size.
After a rocky start, the Los Angeles Lakers have settled into a groove with the acquisition of veteran C Tyson Chandler (thank LeBrons former teammate James Jones for that one). His presence on the inside has settled the Lakers while allowing better balance on the interior as he alternates C duties with Javale McGee.
LeBron James has not just maintained his incredible standard of play, but by ESPNs real plus/minus hes increased his defensive rating 0.57 since last season (-0.68). Sure, LeBron doesnt go into top gear during the regular season, but with the combination of youth and lack of depth on this Laker team hes been forced to shoulder more of a load on both ends and the results are apparent.
The Lakers are already above .500, but they need more of a contribution from Brandon Ingram. After LeBron James, Ingram is the Lakers most valuable asset and if the Lakers want to make more noise in the West he needs to be more of a force on both ends of the court.
The Orlando Magic are right on the cusp of the top eight in Eastern Conference at the moment. The Boston Celtics are going through an incredible rough patch as they struggle to find their identity, while the Washington Wizards seem one more team spat from having an absolute firesale. If the Orlando Magic wants to make an impact on the East they have to gain some ground now before the likes of Boston, Washington, or even the upstart Brooklyn Nets gain some steam.
The Los Angeles Lakers are on a bit of a roll recently, going 8-2 in their last 10 with an inspiring win over LeBron James former squad the Cleveland Cavaliers. As always, the Western Conference is incredibly volatile in the standings. There are currently ten Western Conference teams with a plus-.500 record and any game could decide the Lakers playoff fate. Considering the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz havent found their rhythm yet, LeBrons Lakers need to gain a foothold early and not lose winnable games at home.
Will the Lakers find someone to spell LeBron James?
Who will step up as Orlandos main man?
Can Nikola Vucevic maintain his standard of play?
Will Jonathan Simmons find his form?
The odds will be updated as soon as theyre made available.
Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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