The Washington Wizards will face off against the Orlando Magic Friday night in the second of two consecutive matchups between the two in central Florida. The Magic won comfortably Wednesday night, 139-120,
The 3-15 Wizards avoided stretching their losing streak to 10 games earlier this week by grabbing a win against the Detroit Pistons in the NBA’s “Tank Bowl.” Kyle Kuzma has been shining for the Wizards, averaging comfortable career highs in points per game (23.4) and assists per game (4.8). Unfortunately, the Wizards’ other marquee player, Jordan Poole, has been struggling mightily this season. Poole is averaging just 17.4 points per game on under 40% shooting from the floor.
The Magic, on the other hand, have been off to a tremendous (it took everything in me not to say “magical”) start to the season. At 13-5, Orlando is sitting on the second seed in the Eastern Conference behind their second-ranked defense. They’ve beat some serious teams along the way, including the Lakers, Bucks, Celtics, Pacers and defending champion Nuggets. Leading the charge for Orlando is the Swiss Army Knife duo of Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero — the pair of do-it-all forwards could both notch their first career All-Star selections this year if the Magic keep up their outstanding play.
The Magic have accomplished all of this mostly without 40% of their starting lineup, as Wendell Carter and Markelle Fultz have each only played five games. Instrumental in picking up the slack has been Jalen Suggs, who locks up opposing guards on a nightly basis.
Every high school coach in the country going to show their guards Jalen Suggs tape. He imposes his will into the game as well as anyone in the league this season.— NBA University (@NBA_University) November 26, 2023
The key for the Wizards Friday night is a more balanced scoring attack. Kuzma has been carrying this team offensively all season long with occasional outbursts from guys like Deni Avdija and Poole, but shouldering the offensive load for back-to-back road games against one of the NBA’s stingiest defenses is a steep ask.
Most importantly for this game and for the season in general, Jordan Poole needs to step up. NBA Twitter penciled in Poole as one of the league’s top scorers prior to the season, but so far he’s had more Shaqtin’ A Fool-type moments than 25-point games. There is still plenty of time for Poole to turn his season around, but he needs to start scoring as advertised for the Wizards to start being a little more competitive in games.
On a lighter note, Wizards-Magic is inarguably the most fun name matchup in American sports. It’s not even close, actually: the best runners-up I could come up with are MLB’s Rays-Jays and the NHL’s Ducks-Canucks. In honor of this whimsical name pairing, here are three random stats and fun facts I could find tying these two teams together:
- The Magic lead the all-time series 76-60.
- 46 players in NBA history have played for both the Wizards and Magic. According to BasketballReference.com, the top five players who played for both teams are Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Rod Strickland, Ben Wallace and Marcin Gortat.
- Jaren Jackson, father of reigning Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr., played for both the Wizards (1997) and Magic (2002).
What are your expectations for the game? Comment below!