Non conference game in the NBA tonight as the Orlando Magic make the two hour flight over to New Orleans to take on the flatlining Pelicans. The Pelicans were in the headlines for all the wrong reasons at the trade deadline with the ongoing crybaby antics of Anthony Davis getting all the ink. Davis doesn’t want to be part of the team anymore but since he’s under contract through next year the Pelicans correctly aren’t in any rush to trade him. The team briefly considered sitting him for the rest of the season to protect their trade asset but were strong-armed by the NBA into letting Davis play while he pouts.
At least the Pelicans don’t have to worry about finishing in the Western Conference basement. That doesn’t have anything to do with their play, however, which has been very shoddy. The Phoenix Suns have sunk to embarrassing depths and have all but clinched last place in the West. Phoenix is 30.5 games out of first place and 12.5 games back of the next to last team in the conference, the Memphis Grizzlies. The Pelicans are 14.5 games ahead of the moribund Suns but just two up on Memphis.
Orlando has been a bit of a surprise this season and enters this contest on a three game winning streak. They might actually make the playoffs this year for the first time since 2012. They’re just two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot currently held by the Detroit Pistons. The team made a clear commitment to a playoff push by not dealing the expiring contracts of Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross at the deadline. The team hopes to re-sign both players and while they may try to get a bigger paycheck elsewhere from a basketball standpoint they’re a perfect fit in Orlando.
The Magic have been doing it with defense and currently have the #8 scoring defense in the league. New Orleans gave up on any type of defensive effort long ago and are near the bottom of the scoring defense rankings allowing 7 points per game more than the Magic. The Pelicans are one of the highest scoring teams in the NBA but that was achieved before Davis pitched his fit. Injuries and trade deadlines transactions have also hurt the New Orleans offense. Most importantly, that offensive stat line isn’t as significant as a team that works hard on defense like the Magic.
The Pelicans have lost 9 of their last 13 SU and while they’ve been fairly decent against the spread most of that was done as an underdog. They’re not a team t be laying points with as evidenced by their 13-17 ATS record as a chalk play. The Magic have made money on the road (15-11 ATS) and as an underdog (21-17 ATS) and have covered eight of their last eleven games. At this point, they’re the better team and we’ll gladly take points against the dysfunctional Pelicans.