Magic Hope to Feel Refreshed When They Host Timberwolves

By John Denton
Jan. 16, 2018

ORLANDO – Rarely ever does the schedule work out where a NBA team gets consecutive days off or a three-day stretch without a game during the marathon-like NBA schedule.

However, a confluence of events led to the Orlando Magic getting such an extended break over the weekend. Following Friday’s loss in Washington, D.C., bus troubles at Capital One Arena delayed the Magic’s departure more than 90 minutes. The Magic were originally scheduled to practice on Saturday, but that session was scratched because of the 3 a.m. arrival back into Central Florida. The team kept its scheduled off day on Sunday and then had a lengthy practice on Monday that head coach Frank Vogel compared to a training-camp style of workout.

Now, Vogel and the Magic are hoping that the time off will refresh the team and ready it for a stretch that could potentially get its season back on track. Vogel will be looking for immediate dividends tonight when the Magic (12-31) face the surging Minnesota Timberwolves (29-16) at the Amway Center. Tipoff is just after 7 p.m.

``(Monday) was like a training-camp-level practice with a lot of running and conditioning stuff to get their legs back under them,’’ Vogel said. ``I think (the three-day break) was good for everybody in our whole organization to have, really, a day-and-a-half off. The guys have been fresh and energetic.’’

The Magic will need to be fresh and energetic to take down a star-studded Minnesota team that has won five games in a row – all by double digits. Not only are the blossoming Timberwolves two wins shy of last season’s total, they are trying to win six in a row for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Magic guard Evan Fournier is surprised at how well Jimmy Butler (21.5 ppg.), Karl-Anthony Towns (20.2 ppg.), Andrew Wiggins (17.7 ppg.) and Jeff Teague (13.4) have meshed so quickly this season. Minnesota traded for Butler and signed Teague in free agency, adding them to an already solid young core. The Wolves are a NBA-best 12-3 over their last 15 games.

``There doesn’t have to be unselfishness, but there has to be a clear hierarchy on who is the guy, what roles players have, how players are used and understanding that together they can be better,’’ Fournier said. ``Towns and Wiggins, for the last two years, they have really, really good numbers, but the team didn’t go anywhere. Now, all of a sudden, they’re numbers are a little bit lower since Butler is there, but the team is doing a lot better. Now, they are still good players, the team is really good and they are in the playoffs and that’s what you want.’’

Fournier said the Magic can learn a lesson from Minnesota’s willingness to share the ball and share the limelight. Orlando showed signs of getting back to the ball-sharing style that helped it be successful early in the season last Friday in Washington, handing out 32 assists, drilling 12 3-pointers, shooting 51.2 percent from the floor and scoring 119 points. That, Fournier said, is how the Magic must play offensively going forward to be successful.

Fournier also took a big-picture look at the Magic, saying that it’s important for the squad to play its best in the coming weeks to show that it still has a bright future despite the struggles of the season.

``The effort and the fight were there and we shared the ball really, really well,’’ said Fournier, Orlando’s second-leading scorer at 17.6 points per game. ``The goal for the rest of the season is to play better basketball so that we can feel better about ourselves and about the future. You can lose games and you’ll still be disappointed, but if you feel like you gave it your all and you played the right way, it was just the opponent was better than you. Most of the time (the Magic) don’t feel like this. We (know we) could have done a ton of things better and we don’t want that. You can live with it when they’re just better than you – it’s upsetting and disappointing and it makes you work – and sometimes it’s just reality. But most of the time we kind of kill ourselves.’’

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