The suddenly surging Orlando Magic will carry a three-game winning streak into the finale of a five-game homestand Wednesday night when they host the Atlanta Hawks.
Orlando lost nine straight and 11 of 12 prior to a 116-111 overtime defeat of the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 7. That win led to successive home victories over Toronto on Friday and Sunday.
The winning streak is just the second of the Magic’s season, and the team’s longest since February 2021. The most recent time Orlando won four games in a row was the first four games of the 2020-21 season.
“We’re asking our guys to defend at a high level, which they did,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said after Orlando’s 111-99 win over the Raptors on Sunday. “We are asking them to share the basketball and move the basketball, which they did. They’re trusting each other and communicating with each other, staying poised down the stretch, which they’ve done.
“We’re moving in the right direction, and we’ve got to continue to that.”
Rookie standout Paolo Banchero’s return to the lineup last month from a nearly three-week absence has helped buoy Orlando. Banchero’s 20 points Sunday marked his fourth consecutive game with at least 20. He is also averaging 8.8 rebounds in that stretch.
Second-year wing Franz Wagner also has keyed the Magic’s winning streak. He followed a season-high 34-point performance in the first win over Toronto with 23 points and 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range in the second victory.
Wagner has averaged 24.3 points in Orlando’s last four games, raising his season average to 19.8 points a game, second on the team behind Banchero’s 21.8.
The Hawks have beaten the Magic in both of their encounters this season.
Atlanta’s Trae Young hit for 30 points in Orlando on Nov. 30, and for 25 points in the Oct. 21 meeting in Atlanta, but his status for Wednesday’s third meeting is uncertain. Young missed the Hawks’ 128-103 loss Monday at Memphis due to a back injury.
His absence compounded what has been a difficult stretch for Atlanta, which has lost four of five and has slipped down to .500 for the season.
Without their top scorer available against the Grizzlies, the Hawks shot just 35.6 percent from the floor. Memphis shot 60.2 percent as Atlanta allowed at least 120 points for the fourth time in five games.
Atlanta went into Memphis, the first destination of a three-game road swing, also down Clint Capela with an Achilles’ injury, John Collins due to an ankle injury, and Dejounte Murray with an ankle sprain. Bogdan Bogdanovic sat on scheduled rest.
“You’re going to have injuries, and guys are going to have opportunities to step up,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “This league’s unforgiving. (Memphis) did what you need to do when a team comes in limping.”
Orlando knows that full well. In addition to Banchero’s absence last month, the Magic just recently welcomed Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz back into the lineup but remain without Jonathan Isaac (knee), Chuma Okeke (knee), Wendell Carter Jr. (foot), and Jalen Suggs, who missed Sunday’s win as he continues to battle an ankle problem.
–Field Level Media