Warriors host struggling, short-handed Magic

NBA

One of the San Francisco Bay Area’s favorite guests will miss his annual homecoming when the Orlando Magic visit the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night in San Francisco.

The injury-ravaged Magic will be without several key players, including star forward Aaron Gordon, when they continue a four-game Western swing that began with a 106-97 loss at Portland on Tuesday.

Gordon suffered a severe ankle sprain late last month that is expected to sideline him at least the entire month of February.

A product of Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose who first caught the attention of Warriors fans when he won two California state titles as a prep star, Gordon had 20 points in his initial NBA return to the Bay Area in 2016.

He has since gone on to establish himself as one of the most athletic big men in the NBA, a quality the Warriors lost when Kevin Durant left for Brooklyn last year.

Gordon isn’t the only Magic player out of action these days. Evan Fournier (back), Markelle Fultz (knee), Jonathan Isaac (knee) and Michael Carter-Williams (foot) also missed the trip opener, while Cole Anthony (shoulder) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) had to leave the game.

Only Fournier, who has missed the last two games, and Aminu are even remotely possible to face the Warriors.

“We competed hard,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford boasted after Tuesday’s loss, looking for a silver lining. “We had good intent.”

The good news for the Magic is the Warriors are short-handed as well, especially at a key position when it comes to facing Orlando.

Golden State has played its last four games without a true center, with James Wiseman (wrist), Kevon Looney (ankle) and Marquese Chriss (leg) all out of action.

The Warriors were fortunate not to have seen a classic, low-post center on their just-completed, four-game trip to Dallas and San Antonio, but they will see one of the best Thursday in the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic.

The 6-foot-11, 260-pounder took advantage of the absence of Portland big man Jusuf Nurkic to record a 27-point, 15-rebound double-double in Tuesday’s loss. He exploded for 43 points and 19 rebounds in Orlando’s most recent win, last Friday against Chicago.

Coming off a 2-2 split in Texas behind Stephen Curry’s 37.3 points per game, the Warriors had planned on getting Wiseman re-evaluated upon returning home, but he remains unlikely to play.

Golden State has used Juan Toscano-Anderson, Draymond Green and Eric Paschall — all 6-7 or shorter — at center in its last four games.

Toscano-Anderson, who has a two-way contract, had been expected to join a Warriors contingent in the G League bubble this week. Instead, he’s become the starting center, averaging 8.8 points and 9.3 rebounds on the four-game trip.

“I’m a big fan,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr gushed in San Antonio. “I think Juan should be part of our team for many years to come.”

Golden State has beaten Orlando seven straight times at home dating back to 2012. Paschall outscored Vucevic 20-11 last season when the Warriors prevailed 109-95 in January.

–Field Level Media

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