After a dismal start to the season, the Orlando Magic have come alive on their current seven-game homestand and hope to finish that stretch strong Wednesday night when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Orlando saw its first, albeit modest, winning streak of the season end at two games on Monday in a 112-105 loss to Charlotte.
The Magic had ticked a game above .500 for the homestand with back-to-back victories over Dallas and Phoenix — in both cases holding the competition to less than 100 points.
However, the Orlando offense sputtered to 36-of-88 shooting and committed 22 turnovers Monday. The Magic rank at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with an average of 17 turnovers a game.
“That was the game, right there,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “Turning the basketball over, losing possessions and obviously giving up wide-open layups on the other end.”
Orlando will look to regroup offensively against a Minnesota defense that has struggled this season. The Timberwolves are surrendering an average of more than 116 points per game to rank in the league’s bottom third.
With a win, the Magic would close the homestand at 4-3. Mosley said finishing with a winning record during this stretch could be a significant step for a team that started the season 1-7 and was last in the Eastern Conference.
“It would mean a lot,” he said. “Our guys understand what we’re capable of doing — when we take care of the basketball, when we win the possession battle.”
Orlando will look for that pivotal win with some roster uncertainty. Leading scorer and rookie sensation Paolo Banchero missed Monday’s loss with an ankle injury and didn’t practice Tuesday. He is listed as day-to-day.
The Magic opened the season with a rash of injuries that have delayed the debuts of assorted would-be contributors, including Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac.
Minnesota, meanwhile, snapped a three-game skid its last time out, weathering 51 points by Cleveland’s Darius Garland to down the Cavs 129-124.
The win moved the Timberwolves to 1-1 early in a tough road swing that includes four consecutive road games and six of seven away from home. Orlando will mark the third in that stretch.
Minnesota stormed to a 25-point lead against the Cavaliers but had to hold off a late rally that narrowed the deficit to as few as two points.
“This is a game that could have slipped away from us, and we didn’t let that happen because we stayed focused,” Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert said. “We still got some stops when we needed them, and we knocked down our free throws.”
Sunday’s win at Cleveland also marked an offensive resurgence for D’Angelo Russell, who finished with season highs in points (30) and assists (11). Russell has endured scoring struggles this season, shooting a career-low 32.9 percent from 3-point range.
“He was really locked in on his shooting,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said after Russell sank four of five 3-point shots. “Then we blew the game open when he was able to get his teammates involved.”
–Field Level Media