Two teams struggling to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference look to improve their status at the other's expense Friday night when the Washington Wizards visit the Orlando Magic.
Neither team enters the game in ideal condition, with the Wizards playing the second night of a back-to-back with a trip in between while the Magic have lost four of their last five games, including their last two at home.
Washington got into a running game with Golden State on Thursday night, which could result in a double-whammy.
Not only did the short-handed Wizards come up short against the Warriors in a competitive, 126-118 setback, but they exhausted three starters at least 39 minutes in doing so.
Those three starters -- Trevor Ariza (27 points in 39 minutes), Bradley Beal (22 points in 40 minutes) and Tomas Satoransky (20 points in 39 minutes) -- combined for 69 points in the loss.
Despite the absence of John Wall, Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard for large chunks of the season, the Wizards have fared surprisingly well in back-to-backs. They have gone 5-2 on the second night and had a good excuse in both of the setbacks, including a loss at Indiana last month the night after a triple-overtime affair against Phoenix.
The Wizards faced the Magic as part of a back-to-back in one of their two earlier meetings this season, but that was on the front end, losing 117-108 at Orlando. They rebounded to win at Miami the next night.
The other earlier Wizards-Magic duel was a mirror image of the one that followed three days later. Only that time, the Wizards prevailed 117-109 at home.
Beal and Jeff Green have come up big for the Wizards in both previous games against the Magic, with Beal averaging 24.0 points and Green 16.0.
Beal had a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double in Thursday's loss to the Warriors shortly after learning he hadn't been selected as a starter for the Eastern Conference in next month's All-Star Game.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks noted to reporters that he's never surprised when Beal keeps his wits about him in adversity.
"He knows he's an All-Star; he knows he's one of the best players in the league," Brooks gushed. "Brad plays the right way. He competes and he gives us a chance every night."
The Magic took Brooklyn to the wire on the road in their most recent game, losing 114-110 on Wednesday night, and have had a day off to rest after the defeat.
Nikola Vucevic had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the loss, his second straight double-double, fourth in his last five games and 32nd in his 47 outings this season.
He had a double-double in each of the earlier matchups with the Wizards, going for 21 points and 14 rebounds in the home win and 17 points and 11 rebounds in the road loss.
This has come amid trade rumors as the Magic, 14-15 just over a month ago, have slid down the Eastern standings.
"It's still not over," Vucevic demanded to reporters. "We're three or four games out and things can turn around quickly. We have to do it right now. Every game, we have to bring it and play at our best for 48 minutes and try to win as many games as we can until the (All-Star) break."--Field Level Media
Updated January 25, 2019