The Orlando Magic had their three-game winning streak snapped by the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night. They’ll try to start a new streak when they host the New Jersey Nets Friday night. The Nets are coming off of a victory over the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night. The win improved their record to 15-29. The Magic enter with a record of 28-16.
These two teams met back on December 29 in Orlando. The Magic came away with a 94-78 victory. They met again in New Jersey on February 22 and the Magic again dominated the Nets, this time winning 108-91.
The Magic rank 12th in offensive rating (105.0), 11th in defensive rating (102.5) and play at the league’s fourth-slowest pace (89.5). The Nets are 18th in offensive rating (103.8), last in defensive rating (110.5) and play at the third-slowest pace (89.4).
Tip-off from the Amway Center is scheduled for 7:00 pm EST and will be shown locally by Sun Sports.
As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen on the radio – in English on AM 580 WDBO and FM 96.5 and in Spanish on AM 1270 WRLZ.
The officials for tonight’s game are Derrick Stafford, John Goble and Matt Myers.
The Line: Orlando – 11.5 (191u)
New Jersey Nets
Deron Williams Sundiata Gaines**
*Brook Lopez remains out with a sprained left ankle.
**Deron Williams will miss his fourth consecutive game with a calf injury.
***Jason Richardson will return to the lineup (sprained left ankle).
The Nets dealt center Mehmet Okur, small forward Shawne Williams and a top-3 protected pick to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for forward Gerald Wallace. The Nets won’t have Wallace Friday night.
The Nets have been the worst defensive team in the league lately, so look for the Magic, who have been excellent offensively as of late, to take advantage.
Dwight Howard is always the focal point of the Orlando offense and he’s torched the Nets this season, averaging 18.0 points and 20.5 rebounds in two games despite playing over three minutes less than usual because the games weren’t very competitive. With Brook Lopez hurt and Okur now in Portland, look for Howard to really take advantage. The Nets will have to throw the likes of Johan Petro, Kris Humphries and Shelden Williams at Howard.
However, as of late, Jameer Nelson has been the catalyst for the Magic. He defense obviously leaves a lot to be desired (Tony Parker torched him for 31 points and 12 assists Wednesday) but Nelson has scored 25 points in each of the last two games on 19-of-31 shooting (61.3%).
Nelson will have to play well because he could be matched up with all-star Deron Williams if Williams returns from his injury. Williams is having another excellent season, averaging 22.0 points and 8.1 assists per game. However, Williams has averaged just 16.5 ppg and shot 33.3% from the field against the Magic this season.
Kris Humphries (13.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg) and Gerald Greene (11.0 ppg in nine games) have played well lately while rookie MarShon Brooks is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 14.8 ppg (unless you count Lopez, who’s averaged 19.2 ppg but has played in just five games). The Nets will need to exploit a Magic defense that has had a lot of problems and breakdowns this season if they want to have a chance in this one.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him onTwitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here)
Topics: Brook Lopez, Chris Duhon, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, J.j. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Kris Humphries, Larry Hughes, New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, Quentin Richardson, Ryan Anderson, Von Wafer