Pregame: What to Watch For, Orlando Magic vs Dallas Mavericks

The Orlando Magic host the Dallas Mavericks in their second preseason game. There are a few things to watch for as the preseason rolls on.

The Orlando Magic still have some gelling to do after their first preseason game. It’s expected to have some hiccups and miscommunication in the first outing as a team. The important thing is to learn from it and get better before the regular season kicks off.  The Magic had some bright spots that they hope to build off of tonight. There are also a few things that need to be sharpened. So here are a few things to watch for in the Orlando Magic’s second preseason game.

Jonathan Isaac

Isaac came out a little nervous in his first preseason game but settled in nicely after back to back dunks. Getting the first game jitters out of the way Isaac will now play in front of his home crowd for the first time. I expect that the jitters won’t be as bad this go around but wouldn’t be surprised if they are. Isaac showed a solid all around game scoring from all over the court. At just about 7 feet tall it’s difficult to block Isaac’s shot or even get a hand in his face. Look for him to be less passive on offense and take his man off the dribble more often for jump shots.

Khem Birch

Birch played all of 7 minutes in the opener. During that short time he collected 3 blocks, 1 rebound and what should have been a monstrous dunk. The scouting report on Birch coming in was he has similar game as Bismack Biyombo, but with better hands. Recording 3 blocks in a short period also shows Birch has great anticipation and timing. The Magic need as much rim protection as they can get. I expect Birch to see the court a little more in this game with the second unit. Can Birch make the regular season roster with his preseason play? He may be battling Damjan Rudez for the final spot on the roster. He doesn’t stretch the floor like Rudez, but he plays great defense which is a priority for Orlando.

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Lineup Integration

Coach Frank Vogel still has to  figure out how all these new pieces fit for the Orlando Magic. After getting a taste of what newcomers Jonathon Simmons, Jonathan Isaac, Marreese Speights and Shelvin Mack among others can do, Vogel can experiment with lineups. Test out a lineup featuring Simmons, Isaac and Aaron Gordon together with Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic. Or tryout Speights as your stretch four with Biyombo at center. There are only 6 preseason games to get tuned up this year. Vogel has an idea of what the returning starters can do together if they execute, now is the time to experiment.

Bounce Back Performances

There were a couple of shaky performances Monday night. Terrence Ross had a rough time getting things going as he went 2-10 from the field and 1-6 from 3pt range. Ross looked to be rushing his shot a bit. The biggest knock on Ross his entire career has been his consistency. Coming to Orlando is supposed to unlock Ross’ potential as he gets more consistent minutes as a starter. Hopefully Ross will be able to find his rhythm and become a consistent contributor on offense.

Elfrid Payton did not have a great night on Monday either. Payton finished with 3 points on 1-5 from the field 0-1 from 3 pt range. While he did collect 5 rebounds and dish out 4 assist in 15 minutes, Payton could definitely be more aggressive on both sides of the court. The Elfrid Payton we saw getting triple doubles the second half of the season was not who we saw on Monday night. Last season the Magic found success when Payton played fast and attacked the defense. By all accounts the Magic want to play fast and get up the floor quickly on makes or misses. That leads me to think Payton’s play was not a coaching decision. The Orlando Magic go as Elfrid Payton plays. He has to step on the gas and give that first unit energy on both ends of the court or the Magic are in trouble.


Tonight’s Game: Orlando Magic vs Dallas Mavericks 7:00pm Amway Center Orlando, FL

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