Bricktown Beat

Thunder vs. Magic Game Preview: What Are The Game’s Key Matchups, and What to Expect.

Oklahoma City Thunder (1-1) vs. Orlando Magic (3-0)

Tip Off: 7pm CST

How To Watch: FSOK

Overview:

The Thunder enter this game coming off a 109-110 loss to the hands of the Utah Jazz. Playing in their second game of a back to back set, it will be interesting to see how the players hold up after having minimal rest. For the Orlando Magic, they have been a pleasant surprise thus far as they are one of four teams still undefeated with a 3-0 record, with their last victory being a 120-113 handling of the Wizards. The Magic enter the Peake rested after not playing on Monday, but their back to back games over the weekend could still show some lingering fatigue on their players.

Game Notes:

The Thunder have three players listed as out for tonight:

Al Horford (Rest)

Ty Jerome (Left Ankle Sprain)

Trevor Ariza (Personal)

They also have a game-time decision:

George Hill (Neck Strain)

The Magic have three players listed as out for tonight:

Jonathan Isaac (ACL)

Al-Farouq Aminu (Knee)

James Ennis (Hamstring)

Starting Lineups:

Key Matchups:

Mike Muscala vs. Nikola Vucevic

With Al Horford out due to load management, Mike Muscala will likely be the next man up for the Thunder at the center position. Vucevic has quietly been one of the better centers in the league these past few years, and he has continued his success with averages of 17.3 points, and 12.0 rebounds in his first three games. Just like Rudy Gobert did for the Jazz, Vucevic will be setting a multitude of high ball screens to get his teammates open from outside, or free himself up down low.

Muscala did not have many opportunities to defend the P&R on Monday but he will have a major chance to in this game. If Muscala is able to match up nicely with Vucevic on defense, the Thunder will have a great shot to take this game.

For Muscala, his shooting ability is elite for centers, shooting a career____. If he can get Vucevic outside of the paint it will be nice to see how the opened up floor works for the Thunder starters. And Muscala could maybe even find himself cashing in a 15+ point performance if left open from deep.

Luguentz Dort vs. Terrance Ross

Both Dort and Ross are coming off spectacular games as both players dropped in 26 points in their previous games. Dort was active on both ends shutting down Donovan Mitchell to 8-23 shooting (2-10 from 3) in his previous game. Ross has been the Magic’s favorite target averaging just over 23 points thus far, and it looks like that should continue with them being thin at the SF. This duel between Dort and Ross should be put under a magnifying glass as both players have the ability to take over the game.

What To Expect

With the Thunder being void of Horford tonight, expect to see Muscala take a good portion of his minutes. However; this backup center spot will really be up in the air with no other experienced centers active in the game. Isaiah Roby may be a name to look out for, the 6’8″ forward played excellent as the team’s power forward and small ball center in the preseason and with this would be the perfect game to test him out again.

Moses Brown, the 7’2″ center, is currently under one of the team’s 2-way contracts, but it appears that he is active for tonight’s game. Brown is your traditional plug-in big man as most of his production comes from working inside the paint and crashing the glass.

Even looking past the center position, with most of the team’s starters playing 30+ minutes on Monday, there should be a lot more minutes going around to other positions off the bench as well.

Look at this game as a perfect opportunity for the Thunder’s bench players. With Horford and potentially Hill gone, minutes will open up. You can bet that Coach Diagneault will be experimenting with lineups tonight.

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