Coming off a 1-2 week, the Orlando Magic enter this week with a 8-19 record, which is good for 13th in the East, two games ahead of the last-place Milwaukee Bucks but just three games behind the eighth-place Boston Celtics.
Losers of 10 of their last 12 games, the Magic may be underdogs in all three of their games this week despite playing at home. Here's a look at this week's schedule:
Monday, December 23rd: New York Knicks at Magic, 7 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Florida
The Knicks continue to be one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA with a 8-18 record, just ahead of the Magic, despite the return of defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler from injury, as he played in two games last week. Forward Carmelo Anthony leads the team in scoring, averaging 26.5 points per game on 54.5 percent true shooting. Second and third-leading scorers, big man Andrea Bargnani and shooting guard J.R. Smith, are struggling with their shooting efficiency, with True Shooting Percentages of 50.7 percent and 45.1 percent respectively. Starting point guard Raymond Felton is out for a few more weeks with a strained hamstring.
Friday, December 27th: Detroit Pistons at Magic, 7 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Florida
The Magic get their first look at the improved Pistons, who are 13-16 and in 7th in the East. Detroit, coached by Maurice Cheeks, is one of only two NBA teams to beat both the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, doing so on the road in impressive fashion. New acquisitions, point guard Brandon Jennings and forward Josh Smith, lead the Pistons in scoring, averaging 17.4 and 15.4 points per game respectively. Jennings also averages 8.0 assists per game, but is struggling with his efficiency with a 49.7 True Shooting Percentage. Promising second-year center Andre Drummond averages 13.2 points and 12.6 rebounds per game on 61.9 percent field goal shooting, and power forward Greg Monroe averages 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
Sunday, December 29th: Atlanta Hawks at Magic, 6 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Florida
After losing 104-94 to the Hawks in early November, the Magic broke a long eleven-game losing streak to the Hawks later in the month with one of their best performances of the season, as they routed Atlanta on the road 109-92. The Hawks are playing better since then, as they have won 6 of their last 10 games and are 15-12 overall which is good for third in the East, and are the only team in the conference above .500 in addition to the Heat and Pacers. Center Al Horford leads the team in scoring, averaging 18.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and off-season acquisition power forward Paul Millsap averages 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Point guard Jeff Teague averages 15.8 points and 8 assists per game, while sharpshooter Kyle Korver is shooting 51.5 percent from 3-point range while averaging 12.7 points on tremendous 69.7 percent True Shooting.