Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Orlando Magic Pick & Prediction JANUARY 13th 2024

Two seasons ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic were in a race toward the bottom of the NBA standings.

In the process of a rebuild, the teams were battling for the top picks in the 2022 NBA Draft.

The Magic ultimately won out, selecting Paolo Banchero with the top overall pick. The Thunder got the second overall pick, taking Chet Holmgren.

While Holmgren missed all of last season with a foot injury, Banchero went on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year.

Saturday night in Oklahoma City, Banchero and Holmgren will meet for the first time in the regular season when the Magic and Thunder square off.

Banchero has been even better in his sophomore year than he was in his first season, when he averaged 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

After Friday’s 99-96 loss in Miami, Banchero is averaging 23.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

Before the game, Magic coach Jamahl Mosley lobbied for Banchero to be selected as an NBA All-Star.

“I really hope they see it,” Mosley said of the league’s coaches, who vote on the reserves. “It’s hard not to. The way he dominates the game, the way he impacts the game, the way he makes those around him better. I mean, he is the focal point of game plans.

“I think with that being said, coaches should recognize exactly why he is an All-Star.”

And the Magic have been even better, as well, after making a big leap last season to win 34 games after 22 the prior season. Orlando has won 21 games this season.

Holmgren is a leader in this year’s Rookie of the Year race, averaging 18.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.5 blocks while shooting 55.9 percent from the field.

The Thunder enter Saturday’s game on a three-game winning streak and having won eight of their past 10.

Oklahoma City is shooting 55.6 percent from the floor during that 10-game stretch, going above 50 percent each time out.

During the current winning streak, the Thunder are shooting 58.4 percent and are averaging 38 assists. Oklahoma City has 13 games of 30 or more assists this season, setting a franchise record.

Oklahoma City is coming off a 139-77 home win over Portland on Thursday, setting a franchise record for margin of victory.

That win came a little more than two years after the Thunder suffered an NBA-record 73-point defeat to Memphis on Dec. 2, 2021.

That loss, Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said after Thursday’s victory, was a crucial milestone for the franchise’s rebuild.

“That was an important game for us,” Daigneault said. “You learn that the sun comes up the next day. … It built some good fortitude in the team and some good scars to the point where now it’s kind of a badge of honor.”

The Magic have lost five of their past seven.

Saturday’s meeting will be the first of the season between the teams. They will meet again Feb. 13 in Orlando.

The teams split their two-game season series each of the past three seasons, with the Thunder winning in Oklahoma City each of the past two seasons.

–Field Level Media

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