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Preview: Hawks finish first half schedule in Orlando

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NBA: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks kicked off the month of March with a strong performance on Tuesday, picking up a road win over the Miami Heat. Though the All-Star break is looming, the Hawks have one more game scheduled, and Atlanta travels only a short distance to face the Orlando Magic on the second night of a back-to-back.

This is the first matchup between the two teams this season after a 2-2 split for the Hawks and Magic in 2019-20. Orlando is struggling this season with a 13-22 record, and that includes four straight losses as the Hawks arrive. However, the Magic do have the rest advantage in this game, last taking the court on Monday.

From a matchup standpoint, Orlando is not a dynamic offensive team. The Magic rank 26th in the NBA in offensive rating, scoring 105.5 points per 100 possessions, and they have a lack of perimeter shot creation. Nikola Vucevic is on his way to the All-Star Game, however, as the veteran center is averaging 24.5 points and converting 41.8 percent from three-point range as Orlando’s offensive centerpiece. As such, the presence of Clint Capela will be critical for Atlanta, but the veteran center is listed as questionable to play Clint Capela as a result of right foot pain.

On the other end, the Magic are better, but they are only 20th in defensive rating (112.1) as the first half of the season comes to a close. Orlando does lead the entire NBA in defensive rebound rate (76.1 percent), and the matchup on the glass will be interesting against a Hawks team that is No. 2 in the league in offensive rebound rate (30.3 percent). Overall, the Magic are well-coached and execute reasonably well, but the Hawks should be able to score effectively if they can convert shots at a standard (or better) level.

Injuries

As noted above, Capela is listed as questionable for the Hawks, and there would be an interesting trickle-down effect if he was unable to play. Rookie big man Onyeka Okongwu showed intriguing flashes on Tuesday and would be in line for a larger role if Capela cannot play, with Nathan Knight and Bruno Fernando providing depth and the option to deploy John Collins for a larger period at the center spot. From there, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kris Dunn remain sidelined. Bogdan Bogdanovic is off the injury report entirely after returning to action on Tuesday, though he is expected to have a minutes restriction.

The Magic continue to operate without Jonathan Isaac (knee) and Markelle Fultz (knee), both of whom are sidelined with long-term injuries. In addition, Aaron Gordon (ankle) is out for Orlando, and Evan Fournier (groin) is listed as questionable. Fournier has a career scoring average of 17.3 points per game against Atlanta in 23 appearances. That represents his highest mark against any NBA opponent.

The Line

Despite the rest disadvantage and the location of the game in Orlando, the Hawks are favored in the betting market. Currently, Atlanta is a 3.5-point favorite in this game, and that makes sense when recognizing that, in terms of point differential, Orlando is the third-worst team in the NBA. Still, the Hawks will need to bring a solid effort to enter the break on a high note, and the potential absence of Capela could complicate matters.

Stay tuned throughout the day for all the latest.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Wednesday, Mar. 3, 8:00 pm ET

Location: Amway Center

TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass (out of market)

Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta); Hawks Radio Network

Streaming: Fox Sports Go