The Orlando Magic have been one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2018-2019 NBA season and they’re still alive to make the playoffs. Right now they’re in 9th place, 1.5 games behind 8th place Miami, 2.5 back of 7th place Brooklyn and 3.5 back of 6th place Detroit. They have some company in their rear view mirror–Charlotte is just 1.5 games behind but having lost 6 of 10 might not have the form necessary to run down Orlando, let alone any of the playoff contenders in front of them. The problem for the Magic is that they’re running out of time with just 10 games remaining in the regular season. That makes every game a significant ‘must win’ situation.
They’ve got an opponent tonight that doesn’t look like much at first glance but who could provide the Magic with some problems. The Memphis Grizzlies are having a forgettable season and at 13th place in the West have already been eliminated from playoff contention. Even so, they’ve been playing with a lot of tenacity down the stretch. In fact, they’re something of an anomaly. The stereotype is that a NBA team that is ‘playing out the string’ will get lazy on the defensive end. The Grizzlies have been anything but lazy–they’ve been downright nasty. Heading into Friday’s action the Grizz have the #2 scoring defense in the NBA at 104.9 PPG. That’s just .7 points below league leading Indiana.
Orlando enters this contest off a three game SU/ATS winning streak but it has to be pointed out that this schedule sequence was ‘made to order’ for them. They played 3 games at home in six days with substandard opponents Atlanta, Cleveland and New Orleans. Every game was an almost carbon copy of the other with the home team being a -8.5 to -9.5 favorite and covering with relative ease. They did have a close one from an ATS standpoint against Atlanta, winning by 10 as -9 favorites. Prior to this run they were playing some of their worst ball of the season going 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS.
That gives us a lot of pause with the Magic. The ‘glass half full’ view is that they’ve worked out their issues and are now back in form. The ‘glass half empty’ view is that they have temporarily been obfuscated by a favorable schedule sequence against weak teams. Memphis isn’t in killer form–they have lost two of three both SU/ATS but overall their record in march is impressive. 5-3 SU isn’t bad for a team with nothing tangible to play for but more impressive is their 6-2 ATS record for the month. Orlando has three days off before a stretch of very important games against Philadelphia at home and against Miami, Detroit and Indiana on the road. They could be in ‘lookahead’ mode thinking that Memphis is just another doormat like the rest of their foes on the current homestand. Orlando is a very good team defensively but Memphis is better and there’s every reason to think the Grizz will be the more focused and ‘hungry’ team.