The Orlando Magic are on the brink of their longest winning streak in nearly three years behind a stingy defense and a lineup reshuffling.
They seek a fourth straight victory Tuesday night when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Orlando has won eight of 12 and a 9-6 record in November was its first winning month since March 2012. The three straight victories have come by a combined 42 points, including 110-91 against visiting Boston on Sunday. It was the fourth time in five games the Magic (9-8) held their opponent below 42.0 percent shooting.
Now they can claim a fourth consecutive win for the first time since Dec. 14-19, 2012.
“We're playing with a lot more energy, focusing on a lot of the little details, especially defensively,” forward Tobias Harris said. “We're just letting our defense dictate our offense. I think that's been the biggest difference.”
The Magic's bench is outscoring the opponent's by an average of 18.7 points over the past three games. Victor Oladipo scored a team-high 19 on Sunday along with eight rebounds and six assists. He's averaging 20.0 points on 43.6 percent shooting in three games as a reserve after averaging 12.8 and shooting 37.0 percent while starting each of his first 12 games.
“I didn't know what to expect and honestly, I didn't care,” Oladipo said of being moved to the bench. “I had to be more aggressive. That's when I'm at my best so this is something to build on.”
Channing Frye, who has joined the starting lineup the last three games, is 9 for 14 from 3-point range over his last four.
The Timberwolves (8-9) had a three-game winning streak of their own prior to losing 107-99 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. They were held to 37 first-half points and let the Clippers shoot 52.0 percent overall.
“That's a very good basketball team over there, and they're going to be in the playoffs,” coach Sam Mitchell said. “They've got two All-Stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and they made shots at the end.”
Ricky Rubio, who owns a career-best 3.9 assist-to-turnover ratio, missed a second straight game due to a sore left ankle but Mitchell expects him to play in this one. Zach LaVine started in Rubio's place and had 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting with seven assists and one turnover.
“Any time a starter is out, it's difficult to win. That's just the NBA,” Mitchell said. ''But I think Zach is growing up before our eyes at that position. Today he missed some shots, and that's going to happen.”
The Wolves have won two in a row at home after dropping their first six there, while Orlando is 2-5 on the road with three straight defeats.
The Magic won the season's first matchup 104-101 in overtime Nov. 18 for their 12th victory in the last 14 meetings. Evan Fournier scored 26 and was 5 of 7 from 3-point range, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with three seconds remaining.
Andrew Wiggins scored 28 while Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 with 12 rebounds and six blocked shots for Minnesota.
- Andrew Wiggins
- Channing Frye
- Evan Fournier
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Orlando Magic
- Ricky Rubio
- Tobias Harris
- Victor Oladipo
- Zach LaVine