The Orlando Magic have reversed course following a disastrous stretch to both strengthen their grasp on the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot and inch closer to the No. 7 seed.
The Magic aim to continue their ascent Friday, when they host the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves.
Orlando answered a run of eight losses in nine games with its fourth win in five outings on Wednesday, courtesy of a 130-120 victory over Atlanta.
Mo Bamba flourished in the early stages against the Hawks, Aaron Gordon scored 18 of his 25 points in the third quarter and Evan Fournier added 14 of his 28 in the fourth.
“That’s the way it’s gotta be,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “That’s what the NBA is. If you want to win, you’ve gotta have everybody playing well, and our guys know that. We’ve won four out of five and that’s the way it’s gotta be.”
Bamba matched a career high with 15 points after Nikola Vucevic picked up two quick fouls. Bamba also had 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Gordon has turned it up in February by averaging 19.9 points and 9.0 rebounds. The spirited stretch has boosted the 24-year-old’s season averages to 14.5 and 7.5, respectively.
“No adjustments … just playing the same game, bringing a little bit more energy to it,” Gordon said, per the Orlando Sentinel. “Just kind of being more physical … turning my motor on.”
Fournier, who shares the team lead with 19.0 points per game, has upped the ante over his last three. He’s averaging 25.7 points while shooting 54.7 percent (29 of 53).
The recent drive has enabled Orlando to grab a 4 1/2-game lead for the final playoff spot in the conference standings and pull to a half-game behind seventh-place Brooklyn. The No. 7 seed holds greater weight considering the owner of the eighth slot likely will face reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and league-best Milwaukee in the first round.
The Timberwolves answered a dismal 1-18 run with a sterling comeback in a 129-126 victory at Miami on Wednesday. Minnesota overcame a 12-point deficit with 3:59 remaining in the fourth quarter to complete its second straight season sweep of the Heat.
“You just can’t say enough about the group in the locker room,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “It’s a special group the way these guys are pushing through a lot of unknowns, a lot of change, a lot of adversity right now so I’m just really thrilled for this group.”
D’Angelo Russell highlighted his 27-point performance by sinking seven 3-pointers against Miami. The 24-year-old is averaging 24.4 points, 8.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds in five games since being acquired from Golden State earlier this month.
Malik Beasley, acquired from Denver in a blockbuster four-team trade earlier this month, is averaging 21.7 points and 6.0 rebounds in seven games with the Timberwolves.
–Field Level Media
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