Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors: Game Preview

Gary Harris
by Dan Savage

SAN FRANCISCO – Against some teams, turnovers can allow the opposition to hang around and make a game unnecessarily competitive. Against others, giveaways are flat out deadly.

The Orlando Magic hope they don’t have to learn that lesson the hard way. The Magic’s 18 turnovers against the Rockets on Friday kept Houston in the game and ultimately led to a heartbreaking 118-116 Orlando defeat. If the Magic offer up a repeat performance in terms of ball security against the Golden State Warriors, the result won’t be nearly as close.

Orlando (5-19) will need to limit its turnovers if it hopes to pull off a road victory against the Warriors (19-4), owners of the NBA’s best record, on Monday at 10 p.m. ET.

That task will be easier said than done. Golden State ranks first in the league in steals, taking it away 9.7 times per contest, and holds the NBA’s best defensive rating (100.2).

“(Limiting turnovers) is huge for us tonight,” said Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley. “Understanding how good they are defensively (with) reach ins, smacking, hitting at the ball, (and) being in great position. So, we talk about our guys just making the simple play (and) understanding the reads that they’re going to have versus their defense.”

If you’re wondering how the Warriors capitalize on those mistakes, they do it to near perfection. Golden State is scoring 19.7 points per game off opponents’ turnovers, second best in the NBA, and are crushing teams in transition, erupting for a league-high 16.6 fast break points per contest.

“(Ball security) is important every game, especially against a group like this,” said Magic guard Mychal Mulder, who spent the past two seasons as a member of the Warriors. “I think that’s something we’re continuing to get better at, it seems like, as the season is progressing. (For the most part) we’re having less turnovers, less live-ball turnovers leading to buckets for the other team. … That’s going to be important (on Monday).”

Equally critical will be slowing down Golden State’s high-powered offense led by MVP candidate Steph Curry. The 6-foot-2 guard is putting together a sensational campaign averaging 27.5 points per game, third most in the league. That helps fuel his team’s offensive rating (112.5), which is third best in the association.

“Mentally you have to lock in,” said Gary Harris, who’s scored in double figures in five of Orlando’s last six games. “You have to approach this game like this is a championship-caliber team, so you know it’s not going to be easy. But (we’re) up for the challenge, so we have to come out here and do the things we’re supposed to do.”

QUOTES TO NOTE: “It’s a good feeling being back in here. Obviously, a lot of good memories here, a lot of great opportunities kind of were born here. So, I’m excited, definitely, to be back in the building.

It meant a lot to me. This is kind of where I broke through and entered the league. So, those are big memories for me. There’s a lot that I learned here. You know what I mean? I had a great coaching staff, great teammates that I’m still in contact with daily. So, there’s a lot that’s been learned and still a lot to learn. But I’m fortunate, definitely, for all the memories that I have here.” – Mulder on his time with the Warriors and coming back to face his former team

“The conditioning and rhythm could have been done at home. For me, the biggest part was still being around the team, hearing what the coaches are saying, being on the bench, and being engaged into the game. That was the biggest piece for me for wanting to come and hoping they’d let me come. Again, just continuing to build the camaraderie because I love to be around these guys. I didn’t want to sit at home for two weeks and watch the guys play on TV. I wanted to be there live to support them. That was really the main reason that I came on the trip.” – Jalen Suggs, who traveled with the team out West. Read more about his recovery from a fractured right thumb here.

KEY STAT: In fourth quarters this season, Cole Anthony is averaging 6.7 of his 20.2 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting from the field. In Orlando’s last meeting with the Rockets, 12 of his 26 points came in the fourth. Although the 6-foot-3 guard missed a potential game-winning triple at the buzzer, he did drain four shots in the final four minutes to help Orlando tie the contest after once trailing by 13. Read more about his fourth-quarter efforts here.

IN AND OUT: Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain), and Suggs (fractured right thumb) all remain out for Orlando.

For Golden State, Jeff Dowtin (G League – Two-Way), Andre Iguodala (right knee soreness), Klay Thompson (right Achilles), and James Wiseman (right knee) are out.

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