The Orlando Magic aim to snap a modest two-game skid and defeat the Washington Wizards for the third time this season when the Southeast Division rivals meet in the nation’s capital on Wednesday.
To put themselves in a better position to do precisely that, the Magic must find a way to locate an offense that went missing in the second half of their 101-93 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
“We scored at times, but I feel like maybe for the first time this year, we didn’t play ball as a team offensively from the get-go, and it just caught up to us,” Orlando guard Evan Fournier said.
Fournier, who averages a team-best 19.5 points per game, finished with 22 points on Monday.
A good total to be certain, but the Magic answered a 36-point performance in the second quarter by mustering 36 total points in the second half. Orlando made 16 of 45 attempts from the floor (35.6 percent) after intermission.
Fournier and Orlando had little issue lighting up the scoreboard in the first two meetings with Washington. The 27-year-old scored 25 points in the Magic’s 125-121 home victory over the Wizards on Nov. 17 and pumped in 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the floor in a 127-120 victory in Washington on Dec. 3.
Nikola Vucevic erupted for 30 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the floor and added 17 rebounds in the first encounter with the Wizards.
The 29-year-old center scored 27 points against the Hawks, marking the sixth time in his last eight appearances that he has reached the 20-point plateau. Unfortunately for the Magic, they are 3-5 in that stretch.
“Obviously, there’s still a lot of basketball to be played but we have to figure it out soon,” Vucevic said, per the Orlando Sentinel. “We have to get better and, especially, this upcoming month is very hard for us. We have to figure it out.”
The Magic might have to figure it out without power forward Aaron Gordon, who is nursing an Achilles injury. The 24-year-old is third on the team in scoring (13.2) and second in rebounds (7.1), and he averaged above those totals — 15.5 and 10.0, respectively — in the two wins over the Wizards.
Washington answered its 12th loss in 15 games with a 123-105 victory over Miami on Monday, and the Wizards did it without All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal.
Beal, who is averaging a robust 27.8 points per game, has missed two consecutive games with soreness in his lower right leg.
Coach Scott Brooks said Beal is “getting better,” although his availability is not known for Wednesday’s game.
Beal blitzed the Magic for 34 and 42 points, respectively, in the first two meetings this season.
Without Beal, Washington looked to unlikely sources to produce against the Heat. Jordan McRae (season-high 29 points), Garrison Mathews (season-best 28 points) and Ish Smith (19 points) combined to score 76 of the team’s 80 points from its bench.
“It’s definitely the biggest win considering what has taken place,” Brooks said. “Going into the season, we lost a lot of guys, but our guys play hard. We know what we’re up against. You don’t win in this league by not playing hard, whether you have your full roster or you don’t have your roster, you got to play hard, you got to give maximum effort. It has to be consistent, with or without making shots you still got to do it.”
–Field Level Media