Game Preview: Magic vs Nets

(Bill Kostroun/AP)

New Jersey Nets head to Orlando to take on the Magic. Here is a preview of this matchup:

New Jersey Nets vs. Orlando Magic

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Records: New Jersey- 20-28, third place in the Atlantic division; Orlando- 31-19, 1st place in the Southeast division. Dallas on the road- 10-13; Orlando at home- 12-9

Line: Magic by 10.5

The Magic play their second of five straight at home against the New Jersey Nets. This is the second and final meeting in Orlando between the two clubs, with the first meeting going to New Jersey 96-95, back in January. Orlando won the first meeting between these teams, 95-70 back in November in East Rutherford. The Magic hold a 39-34 edge in the all time series.

The Nets are lead by their overpaid three-headed underachievement monster in the bodies of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Daytona Beach native, Vince Carter. Kidd is the ultimate point guard who can do everything well except shoot from the outside. Kidd leads the team in assists, rebounding, and steals with 10.4, 8.1, and 1.5 respectively. Jefferson and Carter are both the same type of player, extremely athletic, can look like Jordan for one night, then disappear the next. Jefferson leads the team in scoring averaging 24 points per game, and Carter is second with 20.5 points per game. Rookie Sean Williams from Boston College, for Uconn Husky Josh Boone round out the Nets starting lineup, which appears more fierce on paper than it is on the actual court. Former Orlando Magic fan favorite Darrell Armstrong will be making a return to the city which he played for nine seasons, and he will receive a nice ovation from the Amway Arena crowd. In Armstrong's last trip to Orlando, he scored 13 points on 6-7 shooting and sparked the comeback for New Jersey's thrilling 96-95 victory.

Statistically speaking

    Despite having three of the NBA's most talented offensive players, the Nets rank second to last in the league in points scored (93.6 ppg.). New Jersey is 29th in field goal percentage (43.48%), 26th in three point shooting (33%), 27th in free throw percentage (71.61%), 25th in steals (6.4/gm.), 19th in field goal percentage allowed (45.62%), and 25th in turnovers (15.1/gm.). So what do they do well? The Nets are 16th in opponents ppg. (99.3), 16th in opponents three point shooting (36%), 13th in rebounding (42.1/gm.), and 3rd in assists (23.6/gm.).

Here's how Orlando matches up:

    6th scoring (103.7 ppg.), 6th FG % (46.84%), 12th three point shooting (37%), 23rd FT% (72.5%), 27th steals (6.2/gm.), 7th FG% allowed (44.74%), 19th turnovers (14.5/gm.), 19th opponents scoring (100.4 ppg.), 15th opponents three point shooting (36%), 9th rebounding (42.4/gm.), and 22nd in assists (20.1/gm.).

Best matchup for New Jersey:

    Jason Kidd vs. Carlos Arroyo- Kidd is more of a distributor than a scorer, as evidenced by his 11.1 ppg. average with 10.4 assists per game, but he can do damage in the post and with penetration. Kidd has about a two inch height advantage over Arroyo and much quicker feet. Kidd has averaged nearly a triple double against the Magic this year, scoring 10.5 points per game, grabbing 14.5 rebounds, and dishing out 9 assists.

Best matchup for Orlando:

    Dwight Howard vs. Josh Boone- Josh Boone is neither big nor skilled enough to handle Dwight Howard in the post. Howard has averaged 17 points and 16 rebounds against the Nets this year, and Dwight should get plenty of opportunities to abuse the New Jersey youngster.

Keys to a Magic victory:

    1. Don't turn it over. New Jersey has a tough time operating in their half court offense as evidenced by their scoring average (93.6 ppg.). In the last meeting between these two teams, N.J. scored 20 fast break points en route to a one point victory. When the Nets win, it's because of easy baskets off mistakes by the other team.

    2. Hit your free throws. The Magic missed nine free throws in the last meeting against New Jersey and lost by one. Orlando can't leave any points on the court if they are going to be considered among the elite teams in the east.

    3. Stop the momentum. Orlando has lost just one in a row, but that's where they have to keep it. The Magic have been a streaky team all year long with five separate winning streaks of four games or better, and three separate losing streaks of three or more. Orlando can't afford another letdown at the hands of a lesser team at home.

Final thoughts:

    Orlando had a bit of a reality check Monday evening as they were dominated for much of the game against a tired Dallas Mavericks team. They will have to raise their intensity if they're going to defeat a talented, yet underachieving New Jersey Nets bunch. Dwight Howard needs to dominate down low, and Hedo Turkoglu must not replicate his 4-14 shooting effort of a few nights ago.

For our gamblers out there:

    New Jersey should keep it extra close until the three minute mark in the third quarter. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis will step up big down the stretch, but the Magic can't cover 10 and a half points.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of MagicIllustrated.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustrated.com. Charlie is also a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.


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