Giannis Antetokounmpo drives for the basket against Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)
Benny Sieu/Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The NBA season reached something of a calendar milestone on Thursday with Thanksgiving coming and going.
Most teams have played about 15 games to this point and statistics and standings are beginning to settle in as identities get formed. The grind of the season will separate teams and the Playoff races begin to take shape.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the NBA season gets set fully on its course.
The Orlando Magic (6-10) know that. At least their veterans do.
Forward Jeff Green senses his team needs a little urgency in the final game of a three-game homestand, on Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks, before taking its first long trip of the season.
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"We have to correct things now," Green said after Wednesday’s loss. "We can continue to say it’s still early, but we have to come to a point where we have to fix it now in order for us to be there in the end.
"We have to go back to the drawing board, but Friday we have to fix it. For me, that’s a must win. And we must win Sunday."
The Magic did not quite fix things Friday against the Washington Wizards. They came out flat on both ends and fell 94-91 at home, needing a 19-point comeback to make it a game.
Perhaps November is not the time to take too much of a focus on the standings. The Magic are only 1.5 games out of the final spot in the Eastern Conference.
But offensive struggles have given the Magic plenty of pause and concern for the rest of their season. They are struggling to score even 90 points per game.
The games keep coming. And they all count the same when it comes to the year-end Playoff races. And that could make Sunday’s game against the Bucks all the more important.
The Bucks (6-8) are still in the thick of the early Playoff race too. And they have dealt with their own inconsistent play.
Milwaukee has started to hit its groove this season. Even coming off a 105-99 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday, the Bucks feel confident about their play and their chances.
"I thought we had this game today," swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo said. "They just made tough shots down the stretch. They made some threes. If we played the game again, they could miss those shots. As a team, we saw a lot of good things.
"Now we move forward to Orlando. I’m not putting pressure on my teammates, but if we go with the same mentality and the same focus we had tonight, we can get that game."
Antetokounmpo recorded his first triple double of the season against the Magic on Monday. His play was crucial to the Bucks coming back in that game and racing ahead at the end for the close win.
Having defeated the Magic earlier in the week in Milwaukee, Sunday represents an opportunity to score a decisive victory over a team they might compete with in the standings when March and April roll around.
The Magic and Bucks have split their season series each of the last three seasons. Both rebuilding teams are trying to find their fit in the early Eastern Conference race. And Sunday represents a chance for one to get the leg up on the other before things begin to get serious.