The wheels on the Magic’s season are wobbling. If they lose to the 8-26 Suns on their home court, they may very well come off for good.
It’s not just that the Magic have lost three straight (and six of their last eight), it’s how they have lost, and how much they have lost by. In that stretch, where two low-scoring wins in Mexico City were sandwiched between a pair of three-game losing streaks, the Magic have:
Lost by unsightly margins of 22, 25, 39, and 24
Lost by 10 to the Bulls, who entered the game with the worst record in the league
Failed to reach 100 points in each of their last six games
Had their offensive rating drop to fourth worst in the league at 103.8 points per 100 possessions
Brought back bad memories for a fan base that saw promising starts by the Magic in 2015 and 2017 come to crashing and disappointing ends
Dropped to 10th in the Eastern Conference standings at 14-18
Orlando desperately needs a win to stop the bleeding. The Suns, who are just 3-15 on the road and entering the final stop on a five-game road trip, offer the Magic a golden opportunity to claim that victory.
The two teams met less than a month ago, with the Magic defeating the shorthanded Suns, 99-85. Phoenix will have much more firepower in the lineup on Wednesday than in their first meeting with Orlando when they played without their two leading scorers, Devin Booker (24.8 points per game) and T.J. Warren (18.3).
The Suns, who have dropped two straight after their four-game winning streak, rank just below the Magic in offensive rating at 103.1 points per. They’re also towards the bottom of the league in defensive rating at 111.6 points per (27th in league). Fatigue seemed to catch up with the Suns on Sunday when they lost to Brooklyn less than 24 hours after suffering a 149-146 loss in triple-overtime at Washington.
Opponents have shot 47.7 percent from the field against the Suns this season, which is fourth highest in the league. That’s an advantage the Magic, who have shot a league-worst 40.9 percent in the month of December, will have to capitalize on.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of free throws, don’t watch this game. The two teams rank last and second-to-last in free throw attempts per game (the Magic average 18 a game and the Suns 19.5). Expect few dribble-drives and plenty of mid and outside jumpers.
Also expect to see plenty of top overall draft pick, Deandre Ayton, who enters having posted five straight double-doubles.
Mo Bamba and DeAndre Ayton got me DEAD (via @NBA) pic.twitter.com/NBoGbOxVkW— Overtime (@overtime) August 15, 2018
For months this past summer @OrlandoMagic C Mo Bamba used a picture of @Suns C DeAndre Ayton shaking hands w/ NBA Commish Adam Silver as the No. 1 pick of the June draft as the wallpaper on his phone. Bamba said seeing that pic daily gave him fuel to work even harder on his game.— John Denton (@JohnDenton555) November 30, 2018
The key for the Magic will be to move the ball, find a rhythm, knock down their open looks, and finally break out of this prolonged and difficult-to-watch offensive slump. They are well-rested, they face a team that struggles defensively, and they are long overdue.
So, if the Magic don’t find their offense tonight against the Suns, bring an end to this losing streak, and steady those wobbling wheels, when will they ever?
Looking ahead, the Magic welcome the league-best Raptors to Orlando on Friday and then have a Sunday matinee with the 8th-seeded Pistons. Following that is a six-game road trip.
Check back later today for our GameThread.