Orlando (17-36) are looking for their first three-game winning streak since October 21 to 27 as part of a 4-1 start before things went all sideways. The Magic stormed past the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers 116-98 on Tuesday night, holding them to nine fourth-quarter points and 31 in the second half as they rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit.
Jonathon Simmons shook off a sprained ankle to score a career-high 34 points, including 22 in the third quarter when Orlando outscored Cleveland 41-22. Twelve of them came in a 19-2 tear that gave the Magic a 78-77 lead, and Orlando used a 19-1 burst in the fourth to take control of the game.
Atlanta (17-37) have yet to win three consecutive games this season but put themselves in position to do so after overwhelming Memphis 108-82 on Tuesday night. Dennis Schroder scored 22 points and rookie John Collins added 15 and ten rebounds off the bench for the Hawks, who received 56 points from their reserves while posting their second-largest margin of victory this season.
Backup guard Marco Belinelli did not play as the Hawks have been actively trying to move him before the trade deadline. There have been reports both the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers are interested in Belinelli, who has averaged 11.4 points while shooting 37.2 percent from 3-point range on the season.
Three keys to the game
No Gordon, no problem - The Magic will likely be without starting forward Aaron Gordon for a sixth straight game as he continues to deal with a strained left hip flexor. Coach Phil Vogel has gone to a smaller and perimeter-oriented lineup, with Mario Hezonja at the four.
The Magic have averaged 111.8 points in the five games without Gordon, shooting 42.2 percent from 3-point range and 50.1 percent overall.
Dorsey's doings - With the impending departure of Belinelli, rookie Tyler Dorsey has moved up into the rotation for the Hawks. The second-round draft pick cracked double figures for the third time in his career Tuesday night as he totaled ten points and seven assists in a season-high 29 minutes.
The Magic injury front - While starting center Nikola Vucevic and rookie Jonathan Isaac are not expected back until after the All-Star break at the earliest, both are making progress in recovering from their respective injuries. Vucevic is dealing with a fractured hand, and the Magic have gone 4-13 without him. Isaac, a key contributor to Orlando's 8-4 start before severely spraining his ankle, has resumed drills that include making cuts.
Matchup to watch
PG Dennis Schroder vs PG Elfrid Payton - It is becoming increasingly clear that even if Payton is not dealt by Thursday, it is highly unlikely he will be in Orlando next season since he is a restricted free agent. He has been quietly effective the last four games, averaging 12.3 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 51.2 percent and recording as many steals as turnovers committed with nine.
Schroder is also a long shot to be dealt before Thursday's deadline, though that is more in part to his shortcomings as a perimeter shooter. That said, he toyed with Grizzlies point guard Andrew Harrison for most of Tuesday night's win, getting to the rim repeatedly and scoring his 22 points in just under 25 minutes.
Atlanta Hawks projected starting lineup
PG - Dennis Schroder | SG - Kent Bazemore | C - Miles Plumlee | SF - Taurean Prince | PF - Ersan Ilyasova
Orlando Magic projected starting lineup
PG - Elfrid Payton | SG - Evan Fournier | C - Bismack Biyombo | SF - Jonathan Simmons | PF - Mario Hezonja
Schroder has scored 44 points in the two games against Orlando this season but has needed 45 shots to do so. He has also averaged 7.0 assists to raise his career numbers to 9.9 points and 5.1 assists per game spanning 17 matchups with the Magic.
Hawks shooting guard Kent Bazemore has run hot and cold versus the Magic this season, going one for nine and finishing with four points in a 110-106 overtime loss December 6 before hitting seven of 12 and totaling 19 points in a 117-110 victory three days later.
He has reached double figures just six times in 18 career games against Orlando, averaging 8.2 points while shooting 44.7 percent from 3-point range.
Simmons has picked up the scoring slack with Gordon absent, averaging 18.8 points on a torrid 60.7 percent shooting over the last five games and has made nine of 16 from 3-point range in that span.
His previous season high of 29 came against Atlanta in the December 9 defeat, and Simmons has scored 44 points in the two games this season after being held to 14 combined in his first four matchups with the Hawks.
Magic shooting guard Evan Fournier had 27 points in the December 6 victory before sitting out the return match with a sore ankle. He has averaged 17.2 points in five home games versus Atlanta while with the Magic, shooting 37.5 percent from beyond the arc and 47.1 percent overall.
There have been no betting lines established for this game because of Gordon's injury and the possibility of the Hawks moving players before the trade deadline. But both teams, befitting their subpar records, have multiple negative trends against them.
The Hawks have covered just once in their last nine games versus conference rivals and are 0-3-1 against the spread in their last four road games when playing teams who have a losing home record.
In turn, the Magic are 2-8 against the number in their last ten divisional clashes in the Southeast and 1-9 against the spread in their last ten versus opponents with straight up sub-.500 records. Orlando, though, have covered in ten of their last 12 games and eight of their last nine when facing Eastern Conference foes.
One problem facing both the Magic and the Hawks at the trade deadline is that while both teams are sellers, there are few buyers willing to take on big-money contracts to help them tear down and rebuild.
With that caveat, it is still possible these teams could look drastically different from their previous contests by tip-off for this game. While there are fewer rumors about what the Magic may do, one interesting potential deal had Fournier being shipped to Utah with Rodney Hood part of the return package.
This will probably be an up-and-down game given both teams are out of the playoff chase and play up-tempo basketball. The over should be strongly considered whenever betting lines are released, and look for the Magic to match a season high with their third straight win following a 124-117 victory.
The game will be televised locally on Fox Sports Southeast - Atlanta and Fox Sports Florida. Tip-off time is 7 pm EST.
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