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Magic vs. Grizzlies preview: Magic (and refs) must be better against Memphis this time around

It’s time for the Magic to avenge one of their most disheartening losses of the season (and inch closer to a playoff spot)

NBA: Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Magic’s loss to the Grizzlies about two weeks ago still stings.

It has since been lumped into the collection of Magic losses to inferior opponents (Bulls, Knicks, Cavs, etc.), but IMO this one hurt a little more because it wasn’t entirely their fault. Of course, the Magic certainly needed to play better, and the game never should have been close enough where the referees could make an impact. But, come on...

That was one of numerous bad calls by the refs during the Grizzlies’ 105-97 win, in the closing seconds of which Steve Clifford was ejected and had to be restrained.

I’ve harped on the past long enough. The Magic, now on a three-game winning streak, get a chance to avenge that loss when they host the Grizzlies on Friday. It’s another crucial game against a weaker opponent for the Magic, who are coming off wins over Cleveland, Atlanta, and New Orleans in the first three games of their important five-game homestand.

While the Magic have managed to beat the teams they are supposed to beat, the team they are chasing in the playoff race has maintained their lead with some impressive road victories. The Miami Heat, after wins at Oklahoma City and San Antonio, currently sit 1.5 games ahead of the Magic. The Heat’s challenging schedule continues on Friday when they play at Milwaukee (Please play, Giannis!).

So, the Magic have a golden opportunity to trim their deficit to a half-game. Orlando, which trails the seventh-seeded Nets by 2.5 games, could catch a big break with Mike Conley Jr. listed as doubtful for the already shorthanded Grizzlies.

Conley had 35 points and eight assists to lead Memphis to a 126-125 overtime win over the Rockets on Wednesday. For the Grizzlies, it was their fourth win in six games as they improved to 6-5 since the All-Star break. They enter with the league’s fourth worst offensive rating at 104.9, but are top-10 defensively with a rating of 107.1 (9th), which just barely trails the Magic at 107.0 (7th).

Orlando struggled offensively in their recent loss to the Grizzlies, shooting just 35.6 percent from the field, and going without a field goal over the final 6:18 of the game. The Magic also struggled to contain the Memphis backcourt of Conley (26 points, 8 assists) and Avery Bradley (21 points), as well as C.J. Miles (13 points), all of whom won’t be on the court (assuming Conley doesn’t play). That will put the ball in the hands of Delon Wright more often than usual. Outside shooting will be a big issue for Memphis, though Chandler Parsons has stepped up the last two games.

No need for members of the Grizz to play through injury. At 29-42, good for seventh in the Tankathon standings, Memphis is still battling position for teams like the Mavs and Wizards.

As for the Magic, the schedule gets more challenging following their match-up with the Grizzlies. After concluding the homestand on Monday against the Sixers, the Magic start a four-game road trip. It begins with the Magic’s game of the year: Orlando at Miami.