Magic feeling urgency as Mavericks visit
If the Orlando Magic are going to reach the Eastern Conference playoffs, they likely have to make hay over the next seven games.
That quest starts Friday night at home against Dallas, the first of seven consecutive opponents that are below .500 -- including several who are far below that mark -- with five of the seven at home. The Magic will play Memphis (twice), Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta and New Orleans; the Wizards are the only team among that group that is sniffing a playoff spot right now.
Orlando (30-36) is a game behind Miami (two in the loss column) for the final postseason spot in the East.
"We obviously know," All-Star center Nikola Vucevic said of the importance of the upcoming stretch. "(Coach Steve Clifford) has told us and we're aware of it, and now we just have to do what it takes to win these games."
That is actually easier said than done for the Magic.
Orlando has been baffling while going 3-4 since the All-Star break. The Magic have appeared on the verge of a surge, beating powers Toronto, Golden State and Indiana. But losses to Chicago, New York and Cleveland -- the three worst teams in the East -- erased progress and momentum.
Orlando is coming off a 114-106 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday. The Magic rallied from 12 points down early in the fourth quarter to get within 103-102 with 1:50 to go before falling apart.
"You've either got to be able to handle these (disappointments) and be able to come back, or we don't deserve to be a playoff team," Clifford said. "This is what it's all about, and this is where we find out who can step up and do what they have to do. We can't do the, 'We played better in the second half,' which I just told them. These are the games we need to win."
Dallas (27-37) enters on a three-game skid, but Luka Doncic continues to add to his Rookie of the Year credentials, as he's in a two-man race with Atlanta's Trae Young.
Doncic posted 31 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in Wednesday's loss at Washington. The only other rookies to ever reach 31-11-7-4 are Michael Jordan and Alvan Adams. The game marked the eighth 30-point effort for Doncic, who is averaging 21.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
"It was almost impossible to get him off the floor tonight, he was playing so well," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said on NBA.com. "He struck a terrific balance between drives, the outside shot and involving his teammates."
Fifth-year post player Dwight Powell has been hot since the All-Star break, averaging 18.1 points and 7.3 rebounds and shooting 67.1 percent in seven games. He has twice set a career-high scoring total in that stretch, most recently with 26 points on 11-of-12 shooting against the Wizards.
"Listen, this is Powell's time of year," Carlisle said. "He's had great runs this time of the season for the last two or three years, and this is no different.
"Any time you go 11-for-12 from the field in an NBA game, you're playing pretty freaking good."
Orlando's super sub Terrence Ross (14.6 points per game) did not play Tuesday night because of a sore left Achilles. He practiced fully on Thursday and was not on the injury report for Friday's game.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 7, 2019