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Open thread: Regular season game 67

The essentials:
Wizards (33-33) at Magic (45-24)
7 p.m.
Amway Arena
Comcast Sports Net

This year:
November 3: Magic 94, Wizards 82.
March 2: Magic 122, Wizards 92.

Notable Magic numbers this season:
T8th in expected winning percentage (.684), third in the East.
10th in pace factor (92 possessions per game), second in the East.
3rd in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (113.8), first in the East.
11th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (107.8), fifth in the East.

Key links
Third Quarter Collapse.
Believing in Magic.
Truth's game preview.
Magic BasketBlog writer Brian Schmitz tears into Billy Donovan.  Wow, vicious stuff.
Corey Maggette in Orlando?
3QC game preview.
Third Quarter Collapse blog preview.
Believing in Magic blog preview.
Competition discussion: Orlando

Starting lineups:
PG: Jameer Nelson.
SG: Maurice Evans
SF: Hedo Turkoglu.
PF: Rashard Lewis.
C: Dwight Howard.

PG: Antonio Daniels
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Brendan Haywood

Tonight's lines:
Magic at Wizards: Magic by 7
Over/Under on total scoring: 212 points.

Sans Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards march into Orlando, for a date with the formidable Orlando Magic.

He's not the only injured one: It's stuff like this that makes me wonder whether this franchise is snakebitten.  One game after returning from a hip injury, Caron Butler hurt his wrist, and while he will play through it, it clearly affected him against Atlanta, when he shot 4 for 13 and only grabbed three defensive boards.  Antonio Daniels is also nursing a left wrist problem, which also manifested itself Monday in a 27-minute, 8 point, 3 assist, -15 performance.  I assume both will play through the pain, and I'm confident Butler will recover like he did in 2006, but it sure would be nice if we had a healthy crew more often.

That said, I found AD's comments really interesting.  It almost seemed like he was taking a shot at a certain injured someone (emphasis mine).

"It is what it is," Daniels said. "If you can play, you go out and play. You do what you have to do to help the team win basketball games."

One can only hope he was, in fact, talking to Gilbert.

The missing kid: Once again, we're seeing a disturbing trend emerge with Eddie Jordan and his handling of Andray Blatche.  

Look, I know Blatche is not playing all that well right now.  After averaging 10.6 points and 7.5 rebounds on 48 percent shooting in about 29 minutes a game in February, he's down to just 6.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 39 percent shooting in 19 minutes a game in eight games this month.  Fine.  But for him to get just five minutes against an Atlanta team he dominated in a key win earlier in the year is just absurd.  I know there's more to a player than what he does in a game, but with so many guys banged up, Blatche needs a chance to show his skills.  The young bench, of which Blatche has been a big part, has made great strides since earlier in the year, so it must be used.

On Gilbert, again: I figured this post would generate more discussion, but since it didn't, thoughts related to Gilbert's potential return and impending free agency can go here too.

Let's not mince words, they're a contender: The Magic officially scare me.

They've won eight of their last nine, all in blowout fashion.  Sure, none of those wins were against a good team (except Cleveland), but they have been blowouts, which is how good teams are separated from mediocre teams.  They've improved their defense, surrendering over 100 points only three times during the stretch.  That officially makes them tough, because offensively, they're easily the best team in the Eastern Conference, and as the best shooting team, they can burn you no matter how well you guard them.  

I'd rather face Cleveland at this point, to be honest.  Cleveland has the playoff experience, but they're still getting acquainted to each other, and they haven't been the same defensively all year.  Toronto is fading, so the 5 spot is in reach.  We just have to find a way to win the games we should win.

This is an open game thread, so reflect on the nondescript career of former Magic and Bullet Scott Skiles.  Did you know he never made it out of the first round of the playoffs as a player?  Damn.