Game Preview: Magic at Nets

(Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

The Orlando Magic travel to New Jersey to take on the Nets in this Tuesday night matchup

Orlando Magic vs. New Jersey Nets

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Records: Orlando- 35-22, 1st place in the Southeast division; New Jersey- 25-31, 3rd place in the Atlantic division. Orlando on the road- 20-11; New Jersey at home- 14-15

Line: Magic by 3.5

The Magic hit the road again as they play two games in consecutive nights against New Jersey then Philadelphia. This is the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs, with the Magic winning two out of the first three, most recently a 100-84 Orlando victory nearly three weeks ago. The Magic hold a 40-34 edge in the all-time series.

New Jersey has retooled their team with the big Jason Kidd trade, and now start Devin Harris and Vince Carter at the guard positions, Richard Jefferson and Nenad Kristic at forward, and Josh Boone at center. 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 23.5 points per game, and Carter is second with 20.7 points per game.

The New Jersey depth includes power forward Sean Williams, who is an extremely active player who averages 7.2 ppg. and 5.4 rebounds, in a little over 20 minutes of action per night. Along with Williams are the newly acquired DeSagana Diop and Trenton Hassell, both solid defenders, as well as Marcus Williams at point guard. Bostjan Nachbar is a scorer off the bench, and former Magic point guard and fan favorite Darrell Armstrong also gives the Nets good minutes.

Statistically speaking:
The Nets rank 28th in the league in points scored (94.2 ppg.), 29th in field goal percentage (43.76%), 25th in adjusted FG% (47%), 22nd in three point shooting (34%), 25th in free throw percentage (72.64%), 10th in field goal percentage allowed (45.1%), 15th in opponents ppg. (99.1), 14th in opponents three point shooting (36%), 24th in steals (6.4/gm.), 17th in blocked shots (4.7/gm.), 25th in turnovers (15.0/gm.), 8th in rebounding (42.7/gm.), and 3rd in assists (23.8/gm.).

Here's how Orlando matches up: 6th scoring (104.1 ppg.), 5th FG % (46.91%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (53%), 9th three point shooting (37%), 23rd FT% (72.69%), 14th FG% allowed (45.2%), 21st opponents scoring (100.9 ppg.), 20th opponents three point shooting (37%), 27th steals (6.2/gm.), 23rd in blocked shots (4.3/gm.), 13th turnovers (14.2/gm.), 12th rebounding (42.2/gm.), and 23rd in assists (20.0/gm.).
Best matchup for Sacramento:
Vince Carter vs. Maurice Evans- When properly motivated, the Daytona Beach native (Carter) is one of the game's best scorers, and Evans will have his hands full with Vince's athleticism and outside shooting. Carter is averaging 18 ppg. against Orlando this season.
Best matchup for Orlando:
Dwight Howard vs. Josh Boone- Josh Boone is neither big nor skilled enough to handle Dwight Howard in the post. "Superman" has averaged 18.3 points and 15 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. The Nets offense is still adjusting to life without Jason Kidd, and they had a tough time scoring in the halfcourt with him. As long as Orlando limits the opportunities for easy baskets by the Nets, the Magic should be able to slow down the New Jersey offense enough.

2. Attack the rim. New Jersey has some undersized shot blockers, but the Magic can really put pressure on the Nets defense by attacking the basket and playing inside out, rather than outside in.

3. Even bench play. If the Magic can play the Nets bench to a stalemate, they should win this game on the road. The New Jersey depth is the only place where they seem to have an advantage over Orlando, and the advantage should be minimal.
Final thoughts: Orlando is back on the road and that's where they seem to play best. They should get the Nets best effort, as they've had a couple days off and are fighting for playoff positioning.

For our gamblers out there: My record has been horrible lately so if you bet the opposite of my prediction(s) you should be in good shape. I like the Magic to cover on the road.


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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