Finishing Preseason Against Quality Opponents Will Help Magic

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic played Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics on Friday, will take on Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday and then will wrap up their preseason schedule on Thursday against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat.

Hosting three quality teams each featuring several of the Eastern Conference’s best players will – as point guard D.J. Augustin sees it – help the Magic be ready when the games count in the standings.

“It’s a test,” Augustin said. “That team last night (Celtics), they play great defense, they play hard, so that was a good test for us. Moving forward, we have some tough preseason games, so it’s just going to make us better (as we get) ready for our first game against Cleveland. Like I said, just learn from it and get better.”

Really, Orlando’s entire exhibition schedule is proving beneficial. Going on a three-game, six-day trip to kick things off, which is extremely rare, gave the Magic an opportunity to jell, both on and off the court.

“We handled it (road trip) well,” said Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who sat out Friday’s game with a mild sprained ankle and is questionable for Sunday’s contest against the 76ers. “To start off on a week road trip, three games on the road, thought we handled it really well. Preparation was good. I just liked where we were mentally.”

The Magic now hope that a good practice session, which they had on Saturday, will help them bounce back from Friday’s lopsided loss. Unlike what it showed during its 3-0 trip, Orlando didn’t execute well offensively and turned the ball over way too many times against Boston.

What Clifford has really liked about this year’s preseason is that his team has played or will play against opponents all with dissimilar strengths.

“I love the six games that we play,” he said. “Every team is good and they all present different challenges. We’ve been able to prepare against different types of teams and it’s been very good for us.”

Even without Embiid, whom Philly Head Coach Brett Brown opted to rest, the Sixers crushed the Charlotte Hornets in their last game. New addition Josh Richardson led the way with 18 points, while former Magic player Tobias Harris, who re-signed with Philadelphia this past summer, scored 16. The plan, according to reports, is for Embiid to play against the Magic.

Orlando, meanwhile, is unlikely to have starting shooting guard Evan Fournier, who left Friday’s game early with back spasms and didn’t practice Saturday. If he is out, expect Michael Carter-Williams, who started for the Magic when Fournier sat out against the Hawks, to get more minutes. MCW, whom the Magic brought back following his strong finish with the team last season, has been one of Orlando’s best defenders this preseason.

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