With forward Glen Davis back and a soft portion of their schedule beginning, the Orlando Magic hope to make their recent losing streak a distant memory.
They can start by taking care of business Friday night against the visiting Charlotte Bobcats, who have lost 24 of their last 26 games.
After losing 10 consecutive games, Orlando (14-24) has won two of three with impressive victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana sandwiched around a 29-point defeat at league-worst Washington.
“We’ve beaten some good teams this year,” guard J.J. Redick said after the Magic beat the Central-leading Pacers 97-86 on Wednesday. “And we’ve been in games against good teams.”
The Magic, however, have lost five straight to teams with losing records and can’t afford more slip-ups if they hope to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Starting with the Bobcats (9-29), Orlando begins a stretch of five in a row – four at home – against teams well below .500.
Having won 19 of 21 against Charlotte, the Magic appear primed to end their skid against losing teams.
“We’re trying to win games,” Davis said. “We’re behind. We lost a lot of games. We’ve gotta go and kind of catch back up.”
After the Magic lost 10 of 11 without him, Davis has given Orlando a boost with 24 points over 43 minutes in two games back from a sprained left shoulder.
Nikola Vucevic has been the team’s hottest player, though, averaging 15.6 points and 16.1 rebounds while posting eight consecutive double-doubles.
Davis and Vucevic combined for 33 points on 13 of 21 shooting and 17 rebounds in a 107-98 win at Charlotte on Dec. 15. The Magic are likely to look inside again after finishing with 60 points in the paint while shooting a season-high 54.4 percent in that victory.
Charlotte was outscored 52-22 in the paint Tuesday against the Pacers in a 103-76 loss, its fifth straight, and was outrebounded 60-31 – the largest differential in franchise history.
The Bobcats have been outrebounded by 11.2 per game during their latest skid as they continue to play without leading rebounder Byron Mullens (sprained ankle).
“I don’t remember us having a game like that where we got outrebounded that bad,” guard Ben Gordon said. “I think there are a lot of times where we put teams on their heels when we have (our) guards out there. We just need to continue to use that to our strength.”
Leading scorer Kemba Walker (17.3 points per game) scored a career-high 32 in the first meeting against the Magic, but he’s averaged 13.6 in his last 10 games.
The Bobcats have failed to score more than 90 points in each of their last four, averaging 82.8 points during that stretch.
They’ll try to break through against an Orlando team that has given up 109.0 points per game while allowing eight of its last 10 opponents to reach 100.
Charlotte has been held to 86.8 points per game while losing 15 of 16 in Orlando.