Magic Have Favorable Schedule Over Next Couple Weeks

By John Denton
Dec. 6, 2017

ORLANDO – Road warriors much of the past four weeks, the Orlando Magic are now about to get the payoff in the form of stretch of home games that could prove critical to their season.

Orlando (10-15) plays four of its next five games at the Amway Center starting with tonight’s showdown against the rival Atlanta Hawks (5-18). In addition to facing the slumping Hawks tonight (tipoff: 7 p.m.; TV: Fox Sports Florida) and Saturday in Atlanta, the Magic have home games against Denver (Friday), the Los Angeles Clippers (Dec. 13) and Portland (Dec. 15).

``It’s definitely a big stretch because if you want to be good in this league, you have to win at home,’’ Magic center Nikola Vucevic said. ``I think, so far, we’ve been decent (at home), but hopefully we can use this stretch to get some wins and climb back up in the rankings.’’

The Magic are 5-5 at home, a somewhat disappointing record considering that they started the season 3-0 at the Amway Center. Orlando last played at home last Friday, dropping a 133-112 decision to the powerful Golden State Warriors.

Orlando split its most recent road trip, beating the Knicks in New York and losing in Charlotte on the second night of a back-to-back set of games. Those games wrapped up a grueling stretch where the Magic played 10 of 14 games on the road. Going 3-11 during that span wiped out much of the cushion that the Magic built up during a feel-good 6-2 start to the season, but they are hoping to get back on track with the upcoming stretch of winnable games.

To this point, the Magic have had the NBA’s second-most difficult schedule based on the winning percentage of their opponents. In the coming weeks, the level of competition will soften a bit and the Magic hope to make their move.

``Definitely, we’ve got to take advantage of having some home games and take advantage of having a couple of days when we can get some practice in,’’ Magic point guard Elfrid Payton said. ``So we’re looking forward to this stretch.’’

The Hawks are coming off a lopsided 110-90 loss to Brooklyn in which they surrendered the first 17 points of the second half and trailed by as much as 29 points. Atlanta will likely be without big men Dewayne Dedmon and John Collins tonight because of injuries. Upcoming opponents Denver (Nikola Jokic) and the Clippers (Blake Griffin) have also been hit hard by injuries, potentially giving the Magic an advantage.

With Atlanta shorthanded on the inside, the Magic would be wise the feed the ball inside to Vucevic. The 7-foot center scored a season-best 34 points and hit the game-sealing 3-pointer in Sunday’s win in New York. However, he never got much going on Monday in Charlotte, scoring just 10 points. This season, the Magic are just 2-10 when Vucevic – the longest-tenured player on the Orlando roster – scores fewer than 15 points.

Magic coach Frank Vogel said his team needs to do whatever it takes to rack up a host of victories in the upcoming stretch.

``I did mention (to the team) that we’ve got a lot of home games coming up and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing in these games and we’ve got to take care of business,’’ Vogel said. ``I think we’re .500 right now at home and clearly, we’ve got to do better there. We dropped a bunch of games of late on the road, but we started out strong with our road record. We’ll get that back under control and this is an opportunity now with a lot of home games to get ourselves back above .500 (overall).’’

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