Are they good in general?: They won 52 games last year with a strong point differential, and are 4-2 this year with a strong point differential. They were upset in the playoffs last year and they have played easy competition this year, but we can safely say they are good.
Are they good against the Wizards? In a word: duh. The Magic swept all four games from Washington last year, with three of them coming by at least 18 points. They spoiled John Wall's debut on opening night last year in a dominating performance, routed the Wizards by 18 in Gilbert Arenas' return to Verizon Center in early-February and beat them up by 25 in a game in Orlando later that month. The only close game was a one-point win in December.
Are they fast or slow? This year, they've been among the slowest-paced teams in the league, but it's a small sample size. Last year, they were 19th in pace. They'll run, but it'll be for three-pointers, not layups. That makes them tough to defend, because you have to go against your natural instincts to get sucked into the lane on transition plays.
Are they especially good at anything? Besides Dwight Howard, you mean? Once again, the Magic have been one of the best shooting teams in basketball. This year, they're fifth in the league in effective field goal percentage. Last year, they were also fifth. The year before, they were second. The year before that, they were third. You get the picture. The reason is obvious: they are proficient in the paint with Howard, and they are proficient from three-point range. Those are the two most efficient shots in basketball, and they do both well. The Magic also are historically very good at shot defense, so it's no accident that they have been one of the best teams in basketball over the past four years.
Are they especially bad at anything? Orlando has never had anyone who could create offense off the dribble, which is why they traded for Vince Carter and Gilbert Arenas over the past few years. None of it has worked, and the problem persists.
Are there any people involved with the organization that Mike really likes? I've always loved Ryan Anderson. He's an uber-efficient stretch four that you have to account for out there, and the rest of his game is underrated. He's not a great defender, but he rebounds well, cuts without the ball and has a bit of a post game.
Are there any people involved with the organization that Mike really doesn't like? Big Baby's kind of bad.
Are there any players poised for a breakout? J.J. Redick's been very good so far this year, picking up where he left off after a tough year last season. The Wizards need to watch out for him.
Are there any players the Wizards especially need to worry about? Obviously, the Wizards need to worry about Howard, who killed the Wizards last year (27.3 points, 11.5 rebounds on 55 percent shooting). Many have talked about this being a key litmus test for JaVale McGee, and it is. But McGee alone won't stop Howard. The Wizards' guards need to help judiciously to make sure they don't open up three-point shooters. The team needs to stop Orlando' pick and roll play where they swing the ball to the wing as Howard dives down the lane for deep post position. Kevin Seraphin needs to come in and use his fouls. Etc. McGee will need to be better, but if Howard goes wild again, it's the entire team that will be at fault.
Is their mascot cool? This thing is called "Stuff," which accurately expresses its ambiguity.
Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images
Any other random quirks? I'm told Dwight Howard has been involved in lots and lots of trade rumors!
Game thread at 6:30, recap right after the game. GO WIZARDS!