Suddenly hot Magic face skidding Spurs

The enigmatic Orlando Magic look to continue their burst of success when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Friday in both teams’ final game before Christmas.

The Magic have been one of the NBA’s hottest teams over the past two weeks. They have won seven of their last eight games, including a two-game sweep of Boston on the road, another two-game sweep over Toronto at home, and victories at home against the Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta.

Orlando won three of four on its road trip, including a 116-110 victory in Houston on Wednesday, overcoming a 15-point deficit in the second half.

Franz Wagner scored 25 points, while Paolo Banchero added 23 points and 13 rebounds, Cole Anthony had 15 points, Moritz Wagner 12 and Markelle Fultz 11 for the Magic.

It was Banchero’s sixth double-double of the year, which is tied for the most among rookies, and his 20th game with 20 points is tops among them.

The hot streak for Orlando came after it had lost 20 of its first 25 games and endured a nine-game losing skid along the way.

“I think we’re really now starting to show that we belong,” Anthony said.”This is not a fluke. We’ve done it for a pretty good stretch of basketball, and I believe we will continue to do it. We’re a super-talented team. We have a chance to do some things.”

The Magic’s comeback on Wednesday was aided by a switch to a zone defense and a never-say-die attitude.

“Going into the zone was a great changeup to just give a different look,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said afterward. “Our guys understood that we just had to get some energy and momentum going, and that gave us what we needed.”

Orlando could get Wendell Carter Jr. and Gary Harris back for Friday’s game. Carter has missed 17 straight games with a right foot injury, while Harris is nursing a right hamstring strain and has not played since Nov. 30. Both are listed as questionable.

Friday’s game is the second of a road back-to-back for the Spurs, who lost 126-117 in New Orleans on Thursday. San Antonio has lost three of its past four games and has split the first two on its three-game road trip.

The Spurs were down by 20 points after a ragged first quarter but clawed back to within eight points on two occasions in the fourth period before running out of gas. The 17 points were their fewest in an opening period this season.

“We can’t give away a quarter the way we did, you know,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We played them pretty even after that first quarter, but we do that too often where we’re just following people around. We’re not touching them, we’re not physical, they do whatever they want, and then we just take it.

“They’re more physical with us at the offensive end, and so we get on our heels and we’re not aggressive offensively. And we’ll get down, figure it out, and then start playing. We can’t have those first quarters.”

Jeremy Sochan scored a career-high 23 points in the loss, with Tre Jones adding 19, Josh Richardson 14, Jakob Poeltl 13, Stanley Johnson 12 and Devin Vassell 10.

The Spurs played without leading scorer Keldon Johnson, who missed the game with right hamstring tightness.

–Field Level Media