It’s safe to say that Hawks-Magic has to be the least-anticipated game of the day. There are 6 contests on the NBA schedule for Thursday night, and you can bet the Atlanta-Orlando tilt will draw the lowest number of eyeballs. Still, it presents some interesting opportunities from a betting perspective.
This is a battle between arguably the 2 worst teams in basketball. The Hawks enter tonight’s action at 17-37 on the year, which is tied with the Mavericks for the worst record in the NBA. The Magic are 17-36, which is tied with the Kings for the second-worst record. You do the math. This game is probably going to be awful.
Most bad teams don’t play much defense, and Atlanta and Orlando certainly qualify as bad teams. The Magic rank 27th in the league in defensive rating, while the Hawks aren’t much better (24th). Orlando plays at the seventh-fastest pace in the Association, while Atlanta checks in at 14th. So, this figures to be a fast-paced, high-scoring game between a couple of teams that would prefer to abstain from playing defense.
There are a few injury situations to monitor, though nothing all that pressing. The Magic will be without Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic again, while Jonathon Simmons is expected to play despite a sore ankle. There’s no telling whether Marco Belinelli will even be on the Hawks’ roster by the time the game tips off. The Hawks sat him out of their last game due to trade talks, though the deadline will hit hours before the game. We’ll know his status ahead of time, but he’s not a player of much consequence, anyway.
The Magic have been miserable for a long time, but they actually come into tonight’s game as winners of 3 of their last 4 overall. They absolutely blasted the Lakers and followed that up with quality wins over likely playoff teams in the Heat and Cavaliers. The Hawks have seen an uptick in performance, too, as they’ve won 3 of their last 5, including 2 straight. They demolished the lowly Grizzlies in their most recent outing.
This will be the third of 4 meetings this season between the Southeast Division foes. The teams split a home-and-home series back in December, with the home team winning each game. The first game in Orlando went into overtime, while the second game was a 7-point Hawks victory.
As expected, Vegas thinks we’re in store for another close one tonight. The Magic are currently listed as 1-point favorites, which surely isn’t a position we’ve seen them much this season.
The matchup to watch (if anyone watches this game) will be between the point guards. Dennis Schroder and Elfrid Payton have essentially emerged as the top options in their respective teams’ offenses. Schroder is a guy that doesn’t get a ton of media hype, but he’s quietly posted solid averages of 19.4 points and 6.4 assists as the lead dog. His shooting hasn’t been good, but his game has always been centered on penetration, anyway.
Orlando’s Mario Hezonja has also been a pleasant surprise. The former lottery pick looked like a serious bust over his first few seasons, which led to the Magic declining to pick up his option for next season. That’s now looking like a mistake, as the Spaniard has had some nice moments while filling in for the injured Aaron Gordon. His per-game averages look modest, but he’s averaged a solid 15.2 points on blazing 57% shooting from 3-point range over his last 5 games.
This total of 214 is screaming to be bested. As mentioned earlier, these are a couple of teams that want to play fast and don’t want to defend. This could always be a ragged 90-79 game considering how atrocious these teams are, but I’m optimistically hoping we get a hotly-contested shootout here.
Hit the over on 214 points.
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