Magic Playing with Great Energy, Enthusiasm and Efficiency

By John Denton
Feb. 8, 2018

ORLANDO – The NBA’s trade deadline hits today at 3 p.m., meaning the Orlando Magic’s roster could potentially look different by tipoff at 7 p.m., but the suddenly surging squad isn’t about to let anything slow the momentum that they have built of late.

Orlando (17-36) comes into tonight’s game against Atlanta (17-37) riding a two-game-winning streak – something of a rarity this season when the Magic have often been unable to follow up their big wins with more success. This time around, Orlando won in Miami on Monday and pulled off an epic comeback on Tuesday in a defeat of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Tonight, the Magic will be shooting for their first three-game winning streak since beating Cleveland, Brooklyn and San Antonio from Oct. 21-27. Their defeats of the Heat and Cavs allowed them to win consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 8-10, snapping a streak of eight straight losses following victories over a period of nearly three months.

``I do feel something building and we can only get better if we let ourselves,’’ said guard Jonathon Simmons, the hero of Tuesday’s win with a career-best 34 points. ``I love what we’re doing as long as we continue to get better and believe in each other.’’

Several Magic players said that they had given little thought to Thursday being the NBA’s trade deadline, hoping instead that the team’s core will remain intact. Considering that the deadline falls on a game day, many players said they planned to stick to their normal routines and ignore the deadline completely.

``We have a game tonight, so it’s a regular day,’’ Magic guard/forward Evan Fournier said. ``The (3 p.m.) deadline is during the nap, so I’m going to take my regular nap. When I wake up, I’ll wake up and see what happens.’’

Orlando will be without forward Aaron Gordon for a sixth straight game because of lingering pain from the strained left hip flexor that he originally suffered on Jan. 27 against the Indiana Pacers. Orlando is 4-10 this season with Gordon, its leading scorer at 18.4 points per game. Three of those victories have come in the past two weeks.

Simmons, who starred on Tuesday despite a sprained ankle, was ``limited’’ in Thursday morning’s practice, but he is expected to play, head coach Frank Vogel said. Nikola Vucevic, who has been out since fracturing his hand on Dec. 23, won’t play tonight, but is getting closer to a return after recently ramping up his work in practice.

The Magic have actually played well for a month, going 5-5 in their past 10 games. Four of those victories – against Boston, Cleveland, Minnesota and Miami – have come against teams with winning records. Meanwhile, four of the five losses – against Cleveland, Indiana, Houston and Sacramento – have been by single digits.

Vogel knows that just because the Magic have won two straight that his Magic are in no position to overlook the Hawks, winners of two straight after beating New York on Sunday and Memphis on Tuesday. Like Orlando, Atlanta has 17 wins and many of them have come of late. The rebuilding Hawks are 7-7 over their last 14 games.

The Hawks have allowed fewer than 100 points 12 times this season – two of the instances coming in the last two wins. Orlando is 0-17 this season when scoring fewer than 100 points.

``You’ve got to keep playing with positive energy, enthusiasm and efficiency,’’ Vogel said. ``We’re improving as a basketball team, but we’ve got to keep going. We’ve had some situations where we beat a good team and came back and lost to a team with a bad record. We have that situation potentially in front of us tonight, but Atlanta is playing good basketball. They always play extremely hard and we’ve got to make sure that we play at a high level.’’

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