Following their close loss to the powerhouse Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday night, the Orlando Magic have a record of 7-17, which puts them on a pace for 24 wins. They are 13th in the East, two games ahead of the last-place Milwaukee Bucks, but just three games behind the eighth seed.
The Magic may be favored in two of their three games this week. Here's a look at the upcoming schedule:
Monday, December 16th, Magic at Chicago Bulls, 8 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Florida
The injury-ravaged and struggling 9-13 Bulls, coming off a horrific 22-point home loss to the Toronto Raptors Saturday night, have lost 10 of their last 13 games as they try to adjust once again to the absence of their star and former MVP point guard Derrick Rose. Shooting guard Jimmy Butler is back after missing nearly a month with severe turf toe, forward Luol Deng recently missed four games with a sore achilles, and center Joakim Noah recently sat out a game. All three of them are relatively healthy now, and the Bulls could really use them as the team has scored 78 or fewer points in four of their last five games and have one of the worst offenses in the NBA. Deng averages 19.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game on 53 percent True Shooting. Power forward Carlos Boozer averages 15.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, while Noah averages 10.1 points and 9.5 rebounds. Despite all their struggles, the Bulls are the only team in the NBA to have beaten both the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, and are tied for the eighth seed with two other teams in the East.
Wednesday, December 18th, Utah Jazz at Magic, 7 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Florida
The Magic start a season-long six-game homestand facing the 6-20 Jazz, who have the worst record in the West. Utah has been playing much better though after their 1-14 start, winning five of their last eleven games, including two in a row on the road. Their 2013 first-round draft pick, point guard Trey Burke, has returned after missing the first month of the season, which has coincided with the Jazz' improved play of late. Even though Burke is shooting just 38.5 percent from the field, he averages 13.1 points and five assists per game. Small forward Gordon Hayward leads the Jazz with 17.2 points per game on 50.3 percent True Shooting. Power forward Derrick Favors averages 13.5 points and 9.2 boards per game.
Saturday, December 21st, Sacramento Kings at Magic, 7 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Florida
The Kings come into Orlando with a 7-15 record, three games ahead of the Jazz in the West. Newly acquired forward Rudy Gay has scored 50 points in his first two games with the Kings, including a 106-91 victory over the Houston Rockets Sunday. The normally inefficient Gay has shot 56.3 percent in those two games. Center DeMarcus Cousins averages 22.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Point guard Isaiah Thomas averages 18.8 points and 5.2 assists per game.