Magic Know It Will Take Maximum Effort Against Celtics

By John Denton
Nov. 24, 2017

BOSTON – In the NBA, a somewhat twisted, but common running joke is that if your team is in the throes of a bad losing streak or is suffering through a rash of debilitating injuries that, quite frankly, ``no one on the other team cares.’’

The Orlando Magic, stuck in a skid that has suddenly soured their season, are well aware that they aren’t about to get any sympathy – not from tonight’s opponent or apparently the NBA schedule-makers, either.

Riding a frustrating six-game losing streak, the Magic (8-10) face the unenviable task of having to play the East-leading Celtics (16-3) tonight in Boston and the rested and rolling 76ers (10-7) in Philadelphia on Saturday. Boston saw its 16-game winning streak come to an end on Wednesday in Miami, while Philadelphia has won two straight and hasn’t played since Wednesday.

``We’re in the craziest part of our schedule right now – eight out of 10 on the road, four on the West Coast, come back for two (home games) and then four out (on the road again) over the holidays,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``There are not a lot of off days in between, especially with us playing five (games) in eight (nights) now. We’re not crying about it, we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s just part of the NBA season and we’ve got to find a way to get some wins.’’

Magic center Nikola Vucevic knows it’s going to take a strong team effort for the Magic to end their losing skid and take down the Celtics tonight.

``It has to come from each player individually and each player has to do his part,’’ said Vucevic of a Magic team that will likely go deep into the bench with a back-to-back set of games coming the next two nights. ``Each player has to bring it and a lot of times plays like a good block, a steal, a charge or a hustle play can spark (a turnaround), but it has to come from every player. It’ not going to come from the coaches or anybody else. It has to come from us and we have to find it within ourselves.’’

Orlando was once 6-2, but has seen its strong start to the season fall apart since. The Magic last won on Nov. 10 in Phoenix, but has since dropped games to Denver, Golden State, Portland, Utah, Indiana and Minnesota.

It’s no coincidence that Orlando’s struggles have come at a time when it is in the midst of its toughest stretch of the season. With a four-game, eight-day West Coast trip and this four-game, seven-night East Coast swing being so closely bunched, the Magic are in a gauntlet now where they are playing eight of 10 games and spending 15 of 20 nights away from home. That included Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday when the team flew from Minneapolis to Boston and then had a turkey-and-trimmings meal together at the hotel.

Vogel actually likes that his team is playing an opponent the quality of the Celtics because it tends to bring out the best in his squad. Boston started the season 0-2 and then ripped off 16 straight victories – five of which that came after trailing by double digits. The Celtics rallied on Wednesday in Miami, but they were unable to complete the comeback this time around.

Vogel was unaware of that result on Wednesday after his Magic fell in Minnesota, but he was still resolute and resilient about the Magic’s chances in Boston.

``We’ve got heck of opportunity in Boston,’’ Vogel said before being informed that the Celtics’ winning streak had ended. ``Well, we’ve got an opportunity to give them two (losses) in a row.’’

Orlando faced the Celtics 19 days ago at the Amway Center, but it was a game where the Magic were without point guards Elfrid Payton and D.J. Armstrong because of hamstring strains. Shooting guard Jonathon Simmons started at the point that night and Orlando predictably had trouble with Boston’s ball pressure. It turned the ball over 13 times that night and lost 104-88 to the Celtics, who got 18 points and three 3-pointers from Jaylen Brown that night.

Kyrie Irving, who is in his first season with Boston following an offseason trade from Cleveland, made just four of 13 shots and scored only 11 points that night against the Magic. However, he has performed like the league’s next MVP much of the season while averaging 22.5 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds.

``This is what you signed up for and what you want because I like challenges,’’ Payton said of facing Irving. ``But, really, it’s about facing Boston as a whole and we’ve got to get this win.’’

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