Bucks-Magic Preview

The Orlando Magic have had plenty of time to rest and put an

ugly Christmas Day loss to one of their fellow Eastern Conference

contenders behind them.

A visit from the Milwaukee Bucks – and the rest of their

upcoming schedule – should ease the process considerably.

The Magic close their five-game homestand Wednesday night but

open a six-game stretch against sub-.500 opponents seeking an

eighth straight win over the fading Bucks at Amway Arena.

Orlando (22-8) began its stint at home with three consecutive

victories over above-.500 teams from the West but faltered on

Christmas against the team it beat to advance to the East finals

last spring.

The Magic were held to 27 first-half points and shot a

season-low 33.3 percent in an 86-77 loss to Boston.

“They’re a great defensive team, but there are ways we can get

good shots,” coach Stan Van Gundy told the NBA’s official Web site.

“We know it, but we just won’t play that way for long enough

stretches.”

Orlando fell to 7-7 against teams currently above .500, but the

Magic haven’t had any problems handling the league’s lesser clubs.

In going 15-1 versus sub-.500 teams, they’ve won by an average of

9.3 points.

Their closest call came Nov. 28 in Milwaukee. Vince Carter

returned from getting four stitches inside his mouth to score 19 of

his 25 points after halftime, and Dwight Howard had 25 points and

20 rebounds in a 100-98 win.

Howard took a season-high 15 shots in that game, and when the

reigning defensive player of the year is producing offensively

Orlando is at its best. The Magic are 20-4 when Howard attempts at

least seven shots and 19-3 when he scores 13 or more.

Van Gundy promised to get Howard more looks in coming games.

“I have to find an answer to that,” Van Gundy said. “I’m not

frustrated with Dwight, I’m frustrated with myself.”

The Magic have beaten the Bucks (12-17) five straight times with

Howard in the lineup, but Andrew Bogut missed four of those games –

including the loss last month.

Michael Redd has also been injured for Milwaukee’s last five

meetings with Orlando, and though both he and Bogut are healthy

this time, coach Scott Skiles isn’t happy with either player.

Neither took off their warmups in the second half of Monday’s 94-84

loss at Charlotte, and Skiles hinted changes could be coming.

“It’s not so much producing. It’s body language and the way we

look out there,” Skiles said. “The bottom line: this is the NBA.

You have to produce. It’s what pro sports is. And we need more

consistent production out of our key players.”

Rookie Brandon Jennings had 24 points and seven assists, but

he’s shooting 36.1 percent as Milwaukee has dropped six of seven.

Jennings had 18 points on 7-of-22 shooting last month against the

Magic.

Redd was 0 for 4 before exiting Monday and continued to struggle

on the road. He’s shooting 30.0 percent in seven games away from

the Bradley Center.

“I’m a competitor. Obviously I didn’t like it,” Redd said of

being benched. “… But at the same time, I support his decisions

and keep moving. I’ll be in the gym working hard (Tuesday).”

The Magic have won seven straight at home over the Bucks by an

average of 14.7 points.