The Orlando Magic appeared to be headed in the right direction when they recently won five of six games, but they have lost three in a row since.
The New Orleans Pelicans looked to be headed in the right direction when they won four of five last month, but they haven’t won since — losing 11 straight games.
Someone will end their losing streak when the Magic visit the Pelicans on Sunday afternoon.
Orlando’s streak coincides with a trio of games against the NBA elite, losing to the teams with the best records in the NBA (Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers), then falling to the Houston Rockets 130-107 at home Friday as James Harden had his second straight 50-point game and fourth in his last seven, finishing with 54. He made 10 of 15 3-pointers.
“We had Plan A, B and C,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said, “and when he’s shooting over the top (over the defense) like that, I don’t know what you can do.”
Evan Fournier was matched against Harden much of the night, but still scored 27 points to lead his team.
“I feel like we lost against just him,” Fournier said of Harden. “When he has 54 on you, it’s almost like it’s embarrassing because you want to give your all and stuff, but he’s that great. And the fact that he does it every night is really impressive.”
Markelle Fultz returned to the lineup against Houston after missing the loss to the Lakers on Wednesday because of a stomach virus. He had five points and five assists in 21 minutes.
Magic starting center Nikola Vucevic has missed the last 11 games because of a sprained ankle. He could return against the Pelicans.
The Pelicans also ran into one of the more challenging opponents in the league Friday as they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers, who remained unbeaten at home with their 14th consecutive victory (116-109).
“I love the fact that we competed at a real high level,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said, but he lamented the fact that his team made just 24 of 35 free throws as it tied the longest losing streak in franchise history.
“I thought we played smart basketball, but free throws and open shots, we have to make,” Gentry added. “We’ve got to go to the line and hit those.
“There were just a couple of plays here and there and our margin for error is not good enough that we can let those plays go by. We had a game that was winnable for us and we didn’t quite get it done.”
Center Derrick Favors returned to the lineup after for the first time in four weeks and had eight points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes. He was sidelined by knee and back issues, then his mother, Deandra, passed away shortly before Thanksgiving.
“A couple of weeks ago basketball was probably the last thing on my mind,” Favors said. “Obviously, going through that, I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do right now.’ Just being able to be around my family and friends and that support system, they just kept encouraging me and gave me strength and I was able to get my mind right, get focused, and get ready to play.”
–Field Level Media