Following a meager two-game NBA slate on Tuesday, we’ve got 10 games scattered across the Association on Wednesday. It’s safe to assume that the game between the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves won’t draw too many eager viewers on League Pass, but this game does have one of the tightest spreads of the day. The Magic are three-point road favorites tonight in Minneapolis.
Betting on a game is a great way to make it more interesting to watch, right? Orlando comes into this game hurting, with the likes of Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, Evan Fournier, and Michael Carter-Williams all sidelined due to various injuries. The Wolves aren’t in much better shape, though, as All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns is out after testing positive for the virus late last week. Minnesota will also be without Ricky Rubio and Juancho Hernangomez.
The Timberwolves enter this game at just 3-9 on the season. Minnesota actually started 2-0, but they have since lost nine of their last 10. Orlando is off to a 6-8 start after an impressive 4-0 start themselves. The Magic have dropped six straight games coming into this one.
The Magic raised plenty of eyebrows when they started the season 4-0, but the wheels have fallen off the wagon ever since. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Orlando’s struggled have coincided with the schedule getting more difficult. The Magic’s six straight defeats have come at the hands of the Rockets, Mavericks, Bucks, Celtics, Nets, and Knicks. Every team other than New York on that list has legitimate playoff aspirations this season.
It’s not a huge surprise that putting the ball in the basket has been a challenge for this team. Orlando ranks just 27th in offensive rating, averaging 102.6 points per 100 possessions. Only the Knicks, Thunder, and Cavaliers have been less proficient on offense so far in 2020-21. The absence of Fultz really hurts the Magic’s ability to generate much penetration, while their shooting has suffered with Fournier sidelined.
With so many injuries, Orlando is having to lean heavily on Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon to carry the offense. While Vucevic is one of the best scoring big men playing in the NBA, the lack of offensive firepower alongside him makes this a one-dimensional team. Guys like Dwayne Bacon, James Ennis, and Gary Clark aren’t striking much fear into opposing defenses these days.
Still, Vucevic should have his way against a Wolves team missing Towns in the middle. Minnesota isn’t exactly a defensive stalwart to begin with, but Towns has emerged as a useful shot-blocking presence over the past couple of seasons. We’ll see whether the Magic look to exploit their favorable mismatch in the middle in this one.
Much like Vucevic is tasked with doing most of the offensive damage for Orlando, D’Angelo Russell has to pick up the slack left by Towns for Minnesota. It’s been an up-and-down start to his first full year with the T-Wolves, but Russell did show up in a big way against the Hawks on MLK Day. Russell scored a game-high 31 points along with seven assists, albeit in a losing effort.
Russell is averaging better than 21 points per game while shooting nearly 40 percent on high volume from long distance. A lot of responsibility falls on his shoulders without any other consistent scoring threats in the rotation right now. Minnesota will likely need Russell to show up in a big way if they want to keep up in this one.
While the Magic have had a difficult time scoring, Minnesota has had a tough time keeping opponents off the scoreboard. Ryan Saunders’ team has allowed over 111 points per 100 possessions thus far, which ranks 26th out of the league’s 30 teams.
The Wolves have allowed at least 100 points in 11 of their 12 games so far this season. This is one of the youngest rosters in basketball, and young teams tend to have issues on that end of the floor. The Magic won both of the meetings between these teams last season by double digits. They also managed to score at least 130 points in both games against Minnesota.
Neither of these teams comes into this game in particularly good form, so it’s a bit difficult to get a read on how things will play out when placing your bet. While the Magic are lacking much of an offensive wing presence right now, the Wolves are even less potent offensively with Towns out of the lineup.
Minnesota is just 5-7 against the spread so far this season, while Orlando is 7-7 ATS. The Magic have been a playoff team in each of the last two seasons, and they’re the team more likely to emerge from their early-season funk. The Wolves are in the midst of a rebuild and figure to be one of the worst teams in the Western Conference all year long.
I like the Magic to cover here. The Wolves will have no answer for Vucevic, who should be able to get whatever he wants offensively.
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