Pelicans vs Magic Odds, Picks, Predictions | NBA Betting Preview (Thursday, March 21)

Pelicans vs Magic Odds, Picks, Predictions | NBA Betting Preview (Thursday, March 21) article feature image

Pictured: Brandon Ingram of the Pelicans and Paolo Banchero of the Magic for Action Network’s odds, picks, and predictions for New Orleans vs. Orlando.

Pelicans vs. Magic Odds

Thursday, Mar. 21
7 p.m. ET
Pelicans Odds
-110 / -110
Magic Odds
-110 / -110
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Here's everything you need to know about Pelicans vs. Magic on Thursday, Mar. 21 — our expert prediction and betting picks for today's game.

Two of the best young teams in the NBA will square off Thursday night when the New Orleans Pelicans visit the Orlando Magic. Both teams are currently on a winning streak: New Orleans is undefeated in its last three games, while Orlando has won four straight.

We can revisit their preseason win totals to get a sense of just how good these teams have been. The Pelicans (42-26) are two wins away from exceeding their projection of 43.5 — while Orlando, at 41-28, has obliterated its win total of 35.5 games.

Surprisingly, New Orleans is just 2-8 straight up and against the spread (ATS) in its last 10 games against Orlando.

However, with the makeup of this Pelicans team entirely different from what we've seen in recent years, I'm willing to overlook those lopsided numbers as they get set for this matchup.

New Orleans Pelicans

Although the Pelicans have won and covered the spread in only two of their last 10 meetings against the Magic, the good news is that both victories did come on the road in Orlando.

New Orleans is an absolute handful at the moment, winning 16 of its last 21 games while posting a 9.4 net rating. Per, only the Boston Celtics had a better net rating (17.0) during that stretch.

If you're familiar with any of my work, then you'll know that I'm a stickler for judging the quality of a team's recent form based on its defense. In this instance, the Pelicans' 107.9 defensive rating is second to only the Timberwolves (107.1) over this 21-game period.

That's pretty impressive because the Timberwolves have been the best defensive team this season, with a 108.4 rating.

Thus, New Orleans is playing elite defense, which requires effort, trust, and communication among its players.

These NBA players are so talented that they can pretty much score a basket with their eyes closed. But when you get a team that's playing solid defense collectively, there's a camaraderie that tends to bring a team closer together than one that's just made up of individual players.

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Orlando Magic

I'm not sure there's anything negative you can say about this Magic team. Per, it's the fourth-youngest team in the league, with an average player age of 24.3 years. Note that the three teams (Spurs, Jazz, and Trail Blazers) with a younger average age than the Magic are all under .500 by a combined 81 games.

As a result, Orlando deserves plenty of credit for what it's been able to accomplish.

It certainly helps to have a player with Paolo Banchero's qualities who is more than willing to assume the responsibility of team leader.

Banchero has been Orlando's best player since it selected him with the first overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He's led the Magic in scoring in each of his two seasons in the league.

While researching the Pelicans' recent success, I was surprised to see Orlando also in the mix as one of the better-performing teams over the last eight weeks.

In fact, since Jan. 31, the Celtics (.857) are the only team with a better winning percentage than the Magic (.773).

However, the key thing to note for this matchup is Orlando's 5.1 net rating is almost half that of the Pelicans (9.4).

Offensively, Orlando's 113.6 rating puts it at 18th during that span, which means it has to play with a much lower margin for error. Moreover, I have my doubts as to whether that level of success is sustainable against a team that's better balanced on both ends of the court, like the Pelicans.

Pelicans vs. Magic

Betting Pick & Prediction

Both teams enter this contest with eight wins in their last 10 games. Yet, while they've won the same number of games over that stretch, a closer look reveals their performance might not be as identical as it seems on the surface.

For example, Orlando's eight wins came against the Jazz, Pistons, Hornets (two), Wizards, Nets and Raptors (two). It's worth noting that none of those teams has a record above .500.

During this 10-game period, when Orlando finally played a team with a winning record, it suffered two double-digit losses by a combined 38 points. The Magic also only managed 85.5 points in those losses.

If we look at the Pelicans' last 10 contests, they had six games against teams above .500 and went 4-2.

While Orlando has undoubtedly been able to string together some wins, we must exercise some caution given the quality it's had to face.

The offense can also be unconvincing at times, which means the defense has to nearly play perfect game to have a chance of securing a victory.

New Orleans looks like the more battle-tested team right now, and I expect it to extend its winning streak to four games.

With the Pelicans laying two points as a road favorite, I recommend bypassing the point spread altogether and backing them on the moneyline at BetMGM.

Pick: Pelicans ML (-120)

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