NBA Pick on Hornets to go Over Magic in Battle of Playoff Hopefuls

LT Profits Sports Group

Wednesday, December 16, 2015 6:28 PM GMT

The Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic both look like lower-tier playoff contenders in the weak Eastern Conference, but the Hornets have the edge as small road underdogs as our NBA Pick.

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NBA Pick: Charlotte Hornets Against the Spread
Best Line Offered: +1 (-105) at Heritage

The small road underdogs appear to hold some value in a matchup of two young teams Wednesday night each with NBA Playoff aspirations in the watered down Eastern Conference as those Charlotte Hornets (14-9, 13-9-1 ATS) pay a visit to the Orlando Magic (13-11, 16-7-1 ATS) at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on FOX Sports - Florida.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Charlotte as a tiny underdog for this contest with the current line at +1½ with odds of -105.

 

Looking for Return Trip to Playoffs
The Eastern Conference is by far the weaker of the two conference, and a .500 record by an East team would almost certainly mean a playoff spot. The Hornets made the playoffs for the second time in franchise history two years ago by going 43-39 as NBA picks before slipping to 33-49 last season, but they seem primed for a return trip to the playoffs this year with perhaps the best Charlotte team ever, currently sitting five games over .500 at 14-9.

The Magic on the other hand have been conference doormats for a while, but that is beginning to change as they are not out of the playoff discussion this season either. Orlando improved to 13-11 on the year with a nice 105-82 blowout of the Nets on the road in Brooklyn on Monday, and the Magic have been one of the better bets in the NBA this season at 16-7-1 ATS. With that being said however, this is one instance where the wrong team may be favored.

 

Charlotte is Well Balanced
The Hornets have come a long way over the last few years, notwithstanding their brief hiccup last season, as they are well coached under Steve Clifford and do a lot of the little things well while not blowing you away in any individual category. When you add it all up though, Charlotte finds itself seventh in the NBA in points scored and eighth in points against, making the Hornets the only team in the league ranked in the top eight in both areas.

You probably would have won a lot of bar bets before the season if you could have predicted the Hornets being that team to pull of that feat about six weeks into the season, but this is a very cohesive unit whose sum may be better than its parts. And keep in mind the Hornets have achieved those rankings while being without suspended center Al Jefferson for the past seven games. Jefferson will be eligible to return Saturday night in Washington.

Granted the Hornets played with very little energy in their last game Saturday back home in Charlotte in a 98-93 loss to the Boston Celtics, but that was the second of a back-to-back and they are now playing following three days off, so look for improved shooting tonight after shooting just 40.9 percent overall vs. Boston including going 11-for-35 from behind the three-point arc.

 

Three-Point Differential to do in Magic?
Now, the Magic and the Hornets were both close to 300-1 on the NBA Futures entering this season, so while both teams have probably exceeded expectations somewhat, it should still not be too surprising that their records are so close. Still, the three days off for the Hornets and their increased reliance on the three-point shot recently could be too much for Orlando to overcome.

Coach Scott Skiles has the Magic playing defense in his first year at Orlando, as they are 10th in the league in points against allowing only 98.5 points per game. However, the Hornets are one team that can shoot right over that defense and do it well, as even with the stinker on Saturday the Bees are have still averaged 11.6 made three-pointers over the last five games, more than offsetting the loss of Jefferson down low.

If that marksmanship returns for Charlotte, and we believe that it will thanks to the much needed days off, then Orlando may not have quite enough firepower to keep pace with a team ranked 17th in the league in scoring and 20th in field goal percentage at 43.9 percent, especially vs. a good Hornets’ defense.

 

Bees Love the Sunshine
Finally, the Hornets have certainly enjoyed their trips to Orlando in recent years as they are 8-1 ATS in the last nine head-to-head meetings here at the Amway Center! In fact, the road teams won straight up in all four meetings between these clubs last season with Charlotte winning their two visits to Orlando by scores of 98-90 and 98-83 respectively.

Although the Magic are improved this season, so are the Hornets so look for more of the same with Charlotte again coming away with the victory on the road in Orlando on Wednesday.