Skidding Pelicans aim to salvage playoff chances vs. Magic

NBA

The Orlando Magic’s hopes of reaching an Eastern Conference play-in game have vanished.

The New Orleans Pelicans’ play-in hopes in the Western Conference are fading ahead of their visit to Orlando on Thursday.

The Pelicans (25-33) have lost four games in a row and face an uphill climb in the last 14 games to try to reach a play-in game. Two of those losses came in overtime, and the most recent setback was a 134-129 loss to visiting Brooklyn on Tuesday night.

“It’s frustrating, because it’s not like we’re losing games by 20 and we’re not good enough,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We’re right there. If we would play with a little more sense of urgency … you’d come out with wins. We’re not getting over the hump doing that.”

The Pelicans had leads late in the fourth quarter of both of their recent overtime losses to Washington and New York. They took a 13-point lead against the Nets midway through the first quarter, but Brooklyn methodically turned the game in its favor despite being short-handed.

New Orleans hopes to end its losing streak in Orlando before it returns home Saturday to host San Antonio. The Spurs and Golden State are holding on to the final play-in spots in the West.

“It’s frustrating that we’re supposed to really be on a winning streak right now more than a losing streak,” guard Naji Marshall said. “We know we can win these games, and we just want to bring it together and win as many as we can and to try and get in this playoff.”

Orlando (18-40) put its emphasis on the future rather than the playoffs when it shipped away Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon at the trading deadline.

The Magic have gone 3-11 since and one of those victories was a 115-110 overtime triumph at New Orleans on April 1.

Orlando has lost nine of its last 10 games after a 112-96 loss at Atlanta on Tuesday. The Hawks dominated on the glass, finishing with a 64-39 rebounding advantage.

“The rebounding was obviously the difference in the game,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “You’re not going to win when you get pounded like that on the glass. You have no chance to win.”

The Magic fell behind by 17 points at halftime, crept within six in the third quarter and saw the Hawks pull away.

Rookie Cole Anthony made his third consecutive start in place of injured Michael Carter-Williams (ankle) and matched Wendell Carter Jr.’s 17 points as the pair led Orlando in scoring.

Anthony has scored in double figures 20 times this season, including seven times in the eight games in which he has played since returning from a rib injury.

“We’ve had these past games since I’ve been back, some really good stretches in games,” Anthony said. “Even I think we’ve had up to three really good quarters in a game and we play our tails off.

“And then we just have one quarter, maybe not even a full quarter where we just kind of relax, catch our breath, and that’s when the other team (outplays) us. I’d really like to see us put a full complete game together and just hopefully get a win.”

–Field Level Media

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