April 7 Orlando Magic at Charlotte Hornets Preview

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The Charlotte Hornets (40-39) will host the Orlando Magic (21-59) on Thursday. In three head-to-head meetings this season, Charlotte has beaten Orlando twice, but the Magic have managed to cover twice. The last meeting took place on January 14, when the Magic upset the Hornets in Charlotte 116-109 as an 11.5-point dog.

Magic last in the Eastern Conference

Orlando is 36-44 against the spread this season and has a 40-39-1 over/under record.

With two games remaining, you have interest in the Magic if you bet the over or under on their wins total before the regular season, which was set at 22.5 by BetMGM. Otherwise, the last two contests are relatively meaningless, as Orlando is one game ahead of the Rockets in the race to avoid the worst record in the NBA.

The Magic snapped a six-game losing streak on Tuesday by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 120-115. Mo Bamba led the Magic with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the victory. For the game, Orlando outshot Cleveland 50.5% to 48.8% from the field, 45.7% to 44.4% from three, and overcame making five fewer free throws. Ignas Brazdeikis added a season-high 20 points off the bench.

This season, the Magic have been abysmal on offense, ranking 29th in scoring and 28th in field goal and three-point field goal percentage. The team’s leading scorer and assists man, Cole Anthony (16.3 ppg, 5.7 apg), is out for Thursday’s game with a toe injury. The following two leading scorers, Franz Wanger (15.2 ppg) and Wendell Carter Jr. (15 ppg), are also out with injuries. Amongst the healthy players, rookie Jalen Suggs is averaging 11.9 ppg and 4.4 assists.

Charlotte has been embarrassed in last two games

The Charlotte Hornets are on their way to the play-in tournament, but their fate has not been decided. With three games left, the Hornets are 10th in the East and trail the Nets and Hawks by 1.5 games for the 8th and 9th spots. If the season ended today, Charlotte would need to win consecutive road games in the play-in tournament for the right to face the Miami Heat.

The Hornets’ last two games have been ugly. They were blown out at Philadelphia 144-114 on Saturday and at Miami 144-115 on Tuesday. Miles Bridges, who scored 29 points on Tuesday, has led the Hornets in scoring in each of the last four games and leads the team with 20.4 ppg for the season. LaMelo Ball averages 19.9 ppg and leads the team with 7.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game, followed by Terry Rozier with 19.2 ppg.

The only player on the Hornets’ injury report is Gordon Hayward (15.9 ppg in 49 games), who is doubtful with a foot injury.

Unlike Orlando, the Hornets have shined on offense, ranking fifth in the NBA in scoring and ninth in three-point percentage. The defense has been more of a struggle. Charlotte ranks 28th in points allowed, 20th in field goal percentage, and 23rd in three-point field goal percentage allowed.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

The biggest question coming into this game is what is the motivation on both sides. The Hornets did face Eastern Conference contenders on the road in their last two games, yet still, the effort was pathetic. After losing consecutive games in such embarrassing fashion and having two full days off to sit on it, Charlotte should be motivated to bounce back, even though the odds of them moving up higher than 10th in the East are not favorable. On the other side with their top three scorers out with injuries, the Magic have a young group of players who have a lot to prove right now when it comes to their futures in the NBA.  Still, the Magic “should” get annihilated “if” the Hornets bring a strong effort.

When it comes down to it, I am going to back the Hornets. The last two losses were on the road, and home cooking against a bad team should be a recipe for Charlotte to get its confidence back. The Hornets are 16-6 ATS in their last 22 homes games against a team with a road winning percentage of under .400. Laying the 13.5 points is a lot, but three of Orlando’s last four road losses have been by at least 16 points or more. With Bridges, Ball, Rozier, and Kelly Oubre Jr. all healthy, the Hornets’ offensive skill and athleticism will be too much for the Magic.

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Prediction: Charlotte Hornets -13.5

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