The Orlando Magic will again try to keep their once promising season from
heading further south as they host the struggling Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

After starting 13-4, the Magic (23-22) have gone 10-18 - lost eight of their last nine - and have a tenuous hold on seventh in the Eastern Conference.

Orlando can avoid a fourth straight loss with a victory Wednesday when it opens a three-game homestand. The Magic are 14-9 at home, but have dropped their last three games there.

Facing the Bucks, though, could be just what the Magic need. Milwaukee (18-27) has dropped five in a row on the road and 12 of its last 14 overall.

Things continued to go bad for Orlando on Monday in a 93-83 loss to Atlanta - its second loss to the Hawks in as many games. Orlando shot 39.4 percent from the field and 1-for-9 from the 3-point range, a performance that added to the overall frustration surrounding the team.

"I can't put my finger on it," Orlando coach Brian Hill said. "I don't have the answer. I don't know. I'm sorry. ... It's frustrating. It's disappointing.

"When you lose eight out of nine, you're never in a good place."

Grant Hill had 21 points while top scorer and rebounder Dwight Howard had 15 and seven rebounds.

Howard - who averages 17.0 points and 12.2 rebounds - has 32 double-doubles, but only two in his last five games.

With Atlanta leading by as many as 20 in the second half, each of Orlando's five starters played less than five minutes in the fourth quarter.

"The only thing I can do is control how I play when I'm on the floor," Howard said. "As a team we just have to play as hard as we can while we're on the floor."

Even with forward Charlie Villanueva and guard Mo Williams back in the lineup to provide some offensive punch, Milwaukee struggled in a 110-80 loss at Miami on Tuesday.

The Bucks shot 40.5 percent from the field and went scoreless during a 6:20 stretch of the first half.

"The only thing we took pride in was shooting the ball,'' Milwaukee's Ruben Patterson said. "We weren't like a professional team out there. We were like a high school team.

"That effort out there was terrible."

Villanueva scored 17 off the bench in his third game back after missing 11 with right shoulder tendinitis. Williams had 14 in his second game back from missing nine with a sprained left shoulder. He had 30 in a 107-105 win over New York on Sunday.

Michael Redd, Milwaukee's leading scorer and the league's sixth-highest scorer at 27.7 points per game, has missed 12 consecutive games with a left knee injury. The team is 2-10 during that span.

This will be the first meeting between the two teams this season after they split the four-game series in 2005-06.


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