Positive Vibes Spreading Across Team
By John Denton
Jan. 23, 2018
ORLANDO – With the Orlando Magic having defeated two playoff teams in the past week and playing their best basketball since mid-November, there was a noticeable happy vibe around the team in Monday’s prep for tonight’s home game against the Sacramento Kings.
However, Magic head coach Frank Vogel went opposite of the bubbly happiness, ratcheting up the intensity on his team in an effort to make sure complacency doesn’t set in.
``My vibe was to be intense with these guys,’’ Vogel said. ``Everybody is feeling better about things –despite what our record is – that we’re playing better basketball, but you’ve got to keep your foot on the gas. I made sure that I stayed on these guys, made sure they brought the necessary intensity and continued to get better and not take a step back after a big win.’’
Orlando (14-32) comes into tonight’s game against slumping Sacramento (13-33) riding the momentum of arguably its biggest win of the season.
The Magic whipped the East-leading Celtics 103-95 in Boston on Sunday, snapping a 14-game skid in Beantown that had covered seven seasons. Combine that victory of Orlando’s beating of Minnesota and a last-season loss against Cleveland and the Magic are certainly trending in the right direction following an extended stretch of poor play.
``It’s more fun when you are able to compete against the very best teams and win on the road, that’s a good feeling,’’ said Magic guard Evan Fournier, who had 19 points and three 3-pointers in Sunday’s win in Boston. ``No doubt, now we have to make sure we keep this going. The number one thing is how hard we’re playing and how we compete. That’s really what it comes down to and when you play harder than your opponent, good things happen usually. It’s been pretty good so far.’’
If Orlando can defeat the Kings tonight, it will be the first time it has won consecutive games since Nov. 8 and 10 when it whipped New York at home and won at Phoenix two days later. That fact was downright shocking to Magic center Bismack Biyombo, who has played well since moving into the starting lineup in place of Nikola Vucevic (fractured left hand).
``Did you say mid-November?’’ Biyombo asked playfully when informed that the Magic hadn’t won consecutive games since beating the Knicks and Suns. ``That means we’ve got to win tonight. We’ve got to win tonight then. There’s no what it would mean (for the team’s momentum), we’ve just got to win tonight.’’
The Magic have played better of late primarily by relentlessly attacking the rim. They scored 62 points in the paint against the Celtics and have averaged 55.7 paint points over the last seven games – the top figure in the NBA during that stretch.
Orlando will be facing a Sacramento team – owners of the NBA’s worst record – that has lost eight in a row following Monday’s defeat in Charlotte. Since winning in Brooklyn on Dec. 20, the Kings are just 2-13 and they are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak for the third time in the past four seasons.
While it might be easy for some teams to overlook a struggling foe such as the Kings, the Magic don’t think that will be the case because of the struggles that they’ve had this season. After all, when the team is still 18 games below .500 – even after the stellar stretch of basketball of late – there can’t be a letdown against any foe.
``I don’t think anybody is happy about the situation (with the team’s record), so I don’t think it’s like, `Hey, we got a good win in Boston and let’s play bad,’’’ Fournier joked. ``Obviously, it was a good performance, but it doesn’t change the situation at all and we still want to play better and we’re still going to compete.’’
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