Preview: Magic looking to pull out of slump as Celtics come to town
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
The Orlando Magic are on their third four-game losing streak of the season. Bouncing back from this one won’t be easy.
They recovered from an early season four-game skid to win at San Antonio to start a 7-2 run over nine games. Orlando later shook off a December slide by beating powerful Toronto, and then Detroit, at home.
The Magic (17-24) hope their home court helps again as they host the Boston Celtics on Saturday after a 1-5 road trip ended with losses to Minnesota, the Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento and Utah. After playing Boston, Orlando wraps up a back-to-back home set with surging Houston stopping by on Sunday.
“The bottom line is we have to get better play from more people. The nights that we do, we’re fine, but that’s every team in this league,” said coach Steve Clifford.
“The easy thing is when we say, ‘We can beat the best teams.’ Well, every team can beat the best teams, but that’s not what the NBA is about. The NBA is about being able to beat a really good team on Friday and come back and beat another good team on Sunday. That shows the talent and depth that you have.”
Boston (25-16) is coming off Thursday’s 115-99 loss at Miami that snapped a four-game winning streak. Point guard Kyrie Irving wasn’t satisfied with scoring a team-best 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting, so he went right to Miami’s practice court after the game for a workout.
“That’s my job, right? It’s always good to get some work. It was a tough loss. They shot extremely well and did some great things. You have to give credit to the Heat and the way they came prepared. They made some big shots,” Irving said.
“I just wanted to get some extra shots and feel good going into the next game. … It was good to see my shot go in a little bit. It was therapeutic.”
Irving leads Boston with a 22.6 scoring average, followed by forwards Jayson Tatum (16.2) and forward Marcus Morris (15.5). On Wednesday, the Celtics had their highest-scoring game of the season in a 135-108 rout of the Indiana Pacers.
While offense isn’t usually Boston’s problem, it is for the Magic. Orlando failed to hit triple digits in each of the past three games and ranked 27th in the league in scoring after Thursday night’s games, averaging 103.0 points.
Center Nikola Vucevic is having the most productive season of his eight-year career, averaging 20.2 points and 9.4 rebounds.
While Orlando is seven games under .500, having 17 victories at the halfway point of its season is still a five-win improvement over this time last season. And they are very much in the playoff chase, with only five Eastern Conference teams being above .500.
“A lot of stuff can still happen,” guard Evan Fournier said. “It’s going to feel good to be back in Orlando. The biggest thing, we just have to figure out when we have a lead, we have to keep it.”
Orlando coughed up a 21-point first-half lead in a 106-93 loss to the Jazz on Wednesday night. Rookie center Mo Bamba (6.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg) didn’t play in the game because of a sore foot and isn’t likely to play in either game this weekend, Clifford said Friday.
Orlando won 93-90 in Boston on Oct. 22, although the Celtics have won seven of the past nine games in the series.