Wednesday, December 7, 2022
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Preview: Washington Wizards (8-3) at Orlando Magic (3-9)

The Orlando Magic conclude a five-game homestand on Saturday with a matchup against one of the Eastern Conference’s top clubs.

Orlando hosts the Washington Wizards for the season’s first meeting between the Southeast Division counterparts. Washington has won three in a row overall and eight of its first 11 games for the first time since 2014-15.

The Wizards secured their eighth win on Wednesday in Cleveland, defeating the Cavaliers 97-94 as offseason acquisition Kyle Kuzma hit six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points. Kuzma made two triples during the final 26 seconds to help Washington erase a 93-89 deficit.

Montrezl Harrell had 24 points and 11 rebounds off the bench and Bradley Beal contributed 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Wizards, who improved to 7-3 against Eastern Conference opponents. Beal, who is averaging 23.3 points per game, admittedly struggled against Cleveland after his grandmother’s passing.

“We’ve seen this at times, early in these 11 games,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “The resilience this group has shown whether we’re down a few guys or we haven’t played well. We find a way somehow – whether it’s on the offensive end or defensive end – to gut them out.”

Washington continues to shine defensively, holding its past three opponents under 95 points. Entering Friday, the Wizards ranked fourth in defensive rating (102.9).

Orlando lost three of the first four games on its current home stretch, including Wednesday’s 123-90 defeat to the Brooklyn Nets.

The Magic are shooting 33 percent from 3-point range, but they made only four of their 33 attempts against Brooklyn. It also marked the first time this season that second-year guard Cole Anthony did not make a 3-pointer. Anthony, however, scored 10 points for his 12th consecutive game in double figures.

Franz Wagner had 10 points and seven rebounds against Brooklyn. The former Michigan Wolverine also totaled six steals, one short of Jameer Nelson’s single-game Orlando rookie record.

Orlando entered the season with nine players who are 23 years of age or younger, and the team’s overall playing experience against veteran lineups is limited. Terrence Ross, who reached 7,000 career points by scoring a team-high 17 against Brooklyn, addressed that postgame Wednesday after the Nets outscored the Magic in every quarter.

“A lot of these young guys have never really played that level of an experienced team, especially with all the older guys they (the Nets) have,” Ross said. “It was a good teaching point understanding how to play certain guys, especially the older guys like the KDs (Kevin Durant) and James (Harden) and the guys who are kind of more solidified scorers.

“It’s understanding how that game feels and trying to give as much teaching points as we could, but it was a tough one. But we’ll learn from it.”

The Magic are 1-5 at the Amway Center and the lone victory – 107-100 over the Utah Jazz on Nov. 7 – required a double-digit, fourth-quarter comeback.

Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (eye) was listed as day-to-day after leaving in the third quarter against Brooklyn, while Davis Bertans has missed Washington’s past four games due to a sprained left ankle.

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