Successful Weekend Would Help Magic Quickly Forget About Disappointing Road Trip

Magic host Celtics and Rockets in home/home back-to-back
by John Denton

ORLANDO – Twice before, the Orlando Magic have lost four straight games this season and twice before they have responded with impressive victories against elite teams.

Now, saddled with another four-game skid, the Magic are looking for a similar response when they face the surging Boston Celtics at the Amway Center.

The latest struggles for the Magic (17-24) came along after they lost the final four games of a grueling six-game, 11-day road trip. Making matters even more frustrating, the Magic held leads of at least 15 points against Minnesota, the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah only to drop all three games (along with a fourth in Sacramento).

Unfortunately for the Magic, they have experience in this area. When they dropped four games early in the season to drop to 2-6, they went to San Antonio and played one of their best all-around games in beating the Spurs. That victory ignited a 7-2 burst for the Magic – their best stretch of basketball all season.

Orlando hit the skids again from Dec. 19-26, losing four straight games against the Spurs, Bulls, Heat and Suns. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Magic played well on both ends of the floor and completely throttled the leaders in the Eastern Conference at the time, the Toronto Raptors.

``We’ve shown when we’re right, we’re very good,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford said. ``To me, this is a good opportunity to turn it around.’’

The Magic will be trying to turn it around against a Boston team that has won seven of its last 10 games. The Celtics (25-16) impressively routed the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday and then got throttled in the second night of a back-to-back in Miami on Thursday.

Orlando beat the Celtics 93-90 on Oct. 22 and did a solid job of bottling up superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, who has averaged 22.6 points, 6.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds a game on the season. Also, second-year forward Jonathan Isaac (18 points and 10 rebounds) outplayed small forward counterpart Jayson Tatum (seven points and 10 rebounds).

Saturday’s game is the first of a home/home back-to-back set of games for the Magic. A night after hosting Irving and the Celtics, the Magic will play reigning MVP James Harden and the Houston Rockets at the Amway Center on Sunday. Houston smashed Cleveland 141-113 on Friday thanks to a Harden’s 43 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Not only was it his 15th straight 30-point game, but it was the 12th 40-point triple-double of his career. Last season, Harden set the NBA record for most points (60) in a triple-double against the Magic.

Who better, Magic center Nikola Vucevic said, to try and end a four-game losing streak against than the powerful Celtics and Rockets?

``Obviously, these will be two very hard games for us, but also games like that are very fun for us,’’ Vucevic said. ``Playing against the best teams and the best players in this league is fun. You want to play these kinds of games because they can bring out the best in you. And these kinds of games are fun. Hopefully these games bring out our best and we play great.’’

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