Game time: 7PM EST
I like the Magic to win this game. Here are my reasons why;
-The Wizards will be without their starting center, Thomas Bryant, due to a stress reaction. Their backup center has been out the entire season in Ian Mahinmi, and Mo Wagner, the 6’11 small forward, is also out tonight, meaning the Wizards don’t have many big men left. Bryant and Wagner are 2nd and 6th on the team in points per game, respectively, and Bryant leads the team in rebounds. The Magic should get plenty of second chance opportunities in this one.
-The Wizards played 4 games on the west coast before returning home Sunday evening/Monday morning. This is a situational spot that I believe in, especially when you factor in this team is just not that good to begin with. I think the Wizards will look lethargic in front of a lackluster Tuesday night crowd in DC.
-The Wizards don’t play any defense, and with the issue I just mentioned above, I don’t expect that to just magically change. They gave up an average of 131 points on the 4 game road trip, and I don’t expect them to have much success stopping the Magic either. The Wizards are going to simply have to win this in a shootout because they aren’t stopping anybody.
-The Magic will be without their starting center in Nikola Vucevic, but they did just get back Aaron Gordon, and the combination of him, and 6’11 forward Jonathan Isaac, will overwhelm this undersized and thin front court of the Washington Wizards.
-Playoff mentality. What do I mean by that? The Magic made the playoffs as a 7 seed in the Eastern conference last season, and are currently in the 8th spot in the Eastern conference despite being without the aforementioned Nikola Vucevic for an extended period of time. They know these are the games that they have to win if they want to get back to the playoffs. The Wizards know they are a long shot to make it to the postseason (sorry Wizards fans), so the sense of urgency will naturally be lower for Washington than it will be for Orlando, in my opinion. While the Wizards may technically only be 1.5 games behind the Magic for the 8 spot, so are three other teams in the Bulls, Hornets, and Pistons. The eastern conference is a jumbled mess from the 7 seed on down. I expect the 8th spot to come down to the Magic and the Pistons when all said and done, with the Wizards and everybody else hoping for a solid draft pick at the end of the day.
OFFICIAL PICK: MAGIC (to win) -110 odds (per Bovada)