The Orlando Magic were missing their best player Tuesday night in Oakland, but they beat the NBA odds anyway. Will Nikola Vucevic be back on the court for Wednesday’s game against the L.A. Clippers?
Jason’s record as of Dec. 2: 12-10 ATS, 0-2 Totals
Clearly the Orlando Magic were motivated by the way we criticized them in our preview for last Sunday's game vs. the Phoenix Suns. The Magic beat Phoenix 93-90 as 9-point road dogs, then they visited The Oracle on Tuesday and came within an eyelash of upsetting the Golden State Warriors (–14.5) before losing 98-97. Not bad, especially with center Nikola Vucevic sitting out Tuesday’s game with back spasms.
Can the Magic keep this West Coast run going on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET) against the Los Angeles Clippers? The NBA odds have the same 14.5-point spread on the board, up from Los Angeles –13.5 at the open, so the bar is still set pretty low for Orlando. The betting market also doesn’t seem to care whether or not Vucevic will be healthy enough to play. This could be a solid “buy low” spot for Wednesday’s NBA picks.
Victor the Cleaner
We thought we had all the answers on the Magic (7-13 SU, 11-9 ATS) going into this road trip, but then they changed the questions. While we weren’t paying attention, rookie point guard Elfrid Payton (minus-2.2 BPM) was demoted from the starting lineup and replaced at the 1-spot by Victor Oladipo (minus-2.1 BPM), who missed the first nine games of the season with a broken face. Oladipo wasn’t supposed to play much point guard this year, but with Payton struggling, the sophomore was pressed into service.
There’s no question about Oladipo’s raw athletic ability. He’s capable of putting up big numbers, like the 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting that he dropped on Golden State. But that was his best game of the season thus far – and maybe one of the best five games of his career. Expecting the same offensive burst on Wednesday with zero days of rest would be a bit of a stretch.
The Mighty O’Quinn
We’ve also seen Kyle O’Quinn (plus-0.2 BPM last year) do some good things at center, primarily in a reserve role. But like Oladipo, O’Quinn is much more polished on the defensive end, so his 21 points against the Warriors on 9-of-16 shooting isn’t likely to happen again soon. It’s just the third time the third-year big man from Norfolk State has reached the 20-point mark.
But will his services be required on Wednesday? We don’t know whether or not Vucevic (plus-0.2 BPM) will play, which seems kind of important, considering he’s Orlando’s top scorer at 18.9 points per 36 minutes. Vucevic is also the only 7-footer on the Magic roster, not to mention the leading rebounder (11.9 per 36m) and shot-blocker (1.1 per 36m) among their regular players. As we go to press, Vucevic has been listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game, influencing the NBA odds
The Jordan Rules
It’ll be pretty tough for the Magic frontcourt to handle the Clippers (12-5 SU, 7-10 ATS) without all hands on deck. Center DeAndre Jordan (plus-4.2 BPM) has been a beast this year, primarily on defense, while Blake Griffin (plus-0.9 BPM) leads the team with 23.8 points per 36 minutes, along with 4.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists – gotta love those assists.
The Clippers are also on a big-time roll at 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS after a slow start. And it all began with a 114-90 victory over the Magic (+5 at home) on Nov. 19. Things have been going much better for L.A. ever since Matt Barnes (minus-0.1 BPM) was re-inserted into the starting rotation; Barnes hasn’t been playing the best basketball of his career, but he’s one of those glue guys that makes everyone around him play better.
As well as the Clippers are playing, we’re still going to have to make a speculative play on Orlando, just because of the upside that Vucevic would bring if he can play. In the real world, we suggest you wait for confirmation on his status before making your NBA picks.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Magic +14.5 at BookMaker