- Tip Off: 7:30 p.m. (PT)
- Television: CSN-BA
Orlando Magic Team Profile
- Offensive Efficiency: 96.5 (28th in NBA)
- Defensive Efficiency: 101.2 (15th in NBA)
- Points: Arron Afflalo, 15.6 PPG
- Rebounds: Glen Davis, 8.4 RPG
- Assists: Jameer Nelson, 6.4 APG
- Steals: Hedo Turkoglu, 2.0 SPG
- Blocks: Nikola Vucekic, 1.3 BPG
- Field Goal Percentage: Andrew Nicholson, 54.5% FG
- 3-Point Field Goal Percentage: E’Twaun Moore, 42.0% 3PT FG
Scope the Opposition: Magic Basketball.
Preview: The Orlando Magic were victorious last night against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center and will be trying to win back-to-back games for the third time this season when they stroll in to Oracle Arena to take on the Golden State Warriors tonight.
We previewed the game by going 3-on-3 with the Warriors World staff.
Jordan Ramirez: No, the Clippers are the best team in the Pacific division. Yes, the Warriors beat the Clippers in their only meeting this season, but the Clippers have the best PG in the league and the deepest bench, a great combination that should have the Clippers in the Western Conference Finals. If head coaches didn’t exist, I’d say the Clippers are the best team in the Western Conference, but I can’t say that and thus the Thunder still are the team to beat. The Lakers are still alive, sort of, barely and the return of Steve Nash will surely help their offense (while equally hurting their defense). The Lakers obviously have talent, but without a philosophical accord they won’t have much success.
Jack Winter: Not quite, but that’s more to do with the star power and individual talent of the Clippers and Lakers than a referendum on the play of the Warriors. Even the most optimistic preseason expectations had the Warriors a comfortable third in this division behind the teams from down-state. The Lakers, obviously, have struggled more than anyone anticipated and the Clippers have cooled off after arguably the league’s best start. Nevertheless, one would think Golden State leading the Pacific would mean almost dominant play thus far, and that hasn’t been the case. Look no further than the Warriors point margin of plus-0.13, a mark that ranks just 13th in the league.
All that said, Golden State is 7-3 in their last 10 games and continues to find a way to win. That’s definitely more than we can say for the Lakers, and even more than a Clippers squad that recently lost four straight. But superstars win divisions, conferences, and championships, and the Warriors don’t boast players like Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Blake Griffin. Ultimately, the thought is the division standings will more closely align with our original assumptions and the eye-test even confirms that with respect to the Clippers. For now, though, Golden State is the best team in the Pacific whether they look like it or not, an achievement that deserves a small celebration.
J.M. Poulard: The Dubs are entertaining to watch and hold the potential to be the best team in the Pacific. But at present time, that title belongs to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were already one of the best tandems in the league, but the team got better with the addition of Jamal Crawford, the return of Chauncey Billups and the improvement of DeAndre Jordan.
With that said, if Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson ever get back to playing consistent basketball and Andrew Bogut comes back sooner rather than later, I might just be changing my tune.
2. The Warriors are 7-2 in games decided by five points or less. Trend or fluke?
Jordan Ramirez: I sense a trend here. There’s a new, savvy presence on the Warriors this season, one that the Warriors haven’t had in years. The additions of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, while not being on the floor for every late game situation, have held court and provided this team with late game smarts. For the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, this knowledge is invaluable. This growth can somewhat be attributed to the new veteran presence, but the Warriors are simply smarter (less turnovers, better passes) this season in these situations. The Warriors are in no way a flawless late game team, but they’re improving, and their record in these close games is indicative of this. The question now is whether this young team can keep it up and if the errorless conclusions are few and far between.
Jack Winter: Trend-ish. No team in the league will have won 78% of their close games by the time the season is over, so the Warriors are bound to regress to the mean a bit. But that doesn’t mean we should take their hot start here for granted, as there are individual and team-wide indicators that they’ll continue to have success in close games.
Curry leads the league in scoring in the last five minutes of games within five points with 43, and that’s despite pedestrian shooting numbers from the field and beyond the arc. Where he’s making his mark is at the free throw line. Curry has made (16) and attempted more free throws (19) in the clutch than any player in the NBA, a sign of his confidence and aggression as the game comes down to the wire. There’s no reason why he can’t continue this type of late-game success, a huge development for a Warriors squad that needs the proverbial “closer.”
Golden State has the league’s third best clutch net rating in the NBA at plus-20.0. Given Curry’s play and the team’s disposition as a whole, you’d think that would be owed mostly to the offensive end. You’d be wrong. The Warriors are seventh in both offensive and defensive ratings in crunch time, a fact that speaks to the newfound balance of this team. Scoring and getting stops at a top 10 rate? That’s a recipe for clutch success if there ever was one.
J.M. Poulard: Initially, I would have been tempted to say fluke, because the Warriors were winning in spite of some horrible late game miscues, but it sure seems as though they have figured out how to play together down the stretch of games. Indeed, Curry, Jack, Landry and Lee look completely comfortable in the clutch and play as such. They willingly share the ball in late in games and trust one another to make the plays needed to stir the ship to victory. In other words, I see this as a trend.
3. Biggest factor that will decide tonight’s game versus the Magic is…
Jordan Ramirez: Laziness. If the Warriors come out and establish their game on the lowly Magic this should be an easy win. The Warriors embark on a tough December (nine road games) and to finish this short homestand 3-0 would be a huge confidence boost to this young squad. The Warriors are good enough now to say they should beat a team, whereas in the past they were always hoping to beat one. They’re more talented, are playing better and will be playing at home. This would be a disappointing loss in an otherwise impressive early season.
Jack Winter: Defense. The Warriors are better than we’d ever thought they would be on this end even without Andrew Bogut, and the Magic are a bottom-three team offensively. Glen Davis, Arron Afflalo, and JJ Redick are all capable of big nights individually, but Orlando just doesn’t have the balance or consistency needed to score on one of the league’s better defenses. And believe it or not, Golden State has one. Unless the Magic get hot from three-point land, they won’t score enough to stay with the Warriors.
J.M. Poulard: Keeping the Magic out of the paint. Other than Jameer Nelson, Jacque Vaughn doesn’t have any other great ball handlers capable of consistently breaking down defenders off the bounce; thus keeping him in check will go a long way towards keeping Orlando out on the perimeter. Mind you, it’s important that the Warriors do not sacrifice their core defensive principles to accomplish this, otherwise they may get stuck in switches where Big Baby Davis is a terror on the block against smaller players.
Bonus: The winner of tonight’s contest will be…
Jordan Ramirez: The Warriors 6-2 record at home will move to 7-2 as they will handle the Orlando Magic in their own house. I suspect the first half to be perturbingly close, with the Warriors pulling away in the third quarter. Warriors win 104-91.
Jack Winter: Golden State. But don’t take the Dwight-less Magic for granted. First-year coach Jacque Vaughn has this team playing together and with great effort, and they’re just talented enough to steal a surprising road win. Just ask the Lakers.
J.M. Poulard: The Golden State Warriors will have the benefit of being relatively fresher than a Magic team that played in Los Angeles last night, and additionally I suspect that their defense will put the clamps on a team that already struggles to produce points.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.