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Preview - Orlando Magic (15-7) @ Utah Jazz (16-7)

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This is a game the scares me a bit.  Orlando comes in on a three-game losing streak after falling in Portland last night.  They held a team meeting afterwards to discuss their recent struggles.

Their offensive hasn't been good in their losses to in Milwaukee, at home versus Atalanta, and last night against the Blazers.  They play at a slow pace so you'll want to look at the offensive rating for each game.  Against the Bucks it was 93.  Against the Hawks it was just 84.  And last night they put up just a 92.3.

Perhaps the bigger issue is that the number 2 defense in the league (based on their defensive rating), it giving up a lot of points in the fourth quarter.  They gave up 27, 26, and 30 respectively.  When the Jazz beat them earlier this season by 10, the Jazz scored 39 points in the final quarter.  Deron had 17 of those points with some of them coming late as the Magic tried to foul.

Orlando has also been cold from the arc.  They've shot near 38% for the past couple of seasons.  This year, it's down to 36%.  Over the past three games, they're hitting on just 24% (16/66).  What's a bit weird is that they've taken exactly 22 3PAs the past three games.

My biggest fear tonight is that with Bell and Fesenko out, they go off on offense and break out.  Hayward will get the start according to multiple reports.  He may not end up getting the most minutes, but Vince Carter is going to be a difficult cover for him.

I wonder how much of the match-up zone we'll see tonight from the Jazz.  Sloan went to that and was able to keep the ball out of Howard's hands as the Jazz made their comeback.  He had just 8 field goal attempts in that game and none in the fourth.  The reason why they were able to stay with it for so long was that the rest of their shooters couldn't knock anything down.

The Jazz have been playing better than the Magic offensively over the past three games but haven't exactly been tearing it up.  The offense needs to show up tonight.  As usual, that means getting stops on the defensive end and getting out in transition for easy buckets.  I suppose that Orlando will pack the middle tonight as well until the Jazz show that they can hit an outside shot.  I don't think you can say we have an outside threat right now.  AK is leading the team in three-point shooting (with at least 20 attempts) at 39%.  I still don't know if I want him taking that shot though.

They need to take advantage of a team that's on the back end of a back to back on the road.  I don't know how much the Magic can be rattled given that they're a veteran team.  Where the Jazz can win though is in hustle and determination and some nastiness.  We saw the cocky Mavs come in and take it to the Jazz.  The Heat did the same thing in the fourth quarter.  We need a little SWARM from everyone tonight.