Surging Magic take on Hawks, look to complete 3-game road sweep

By Thomson Reuters Feb 25, 2024 | 9:52 AM

The Orlando Magic will try to complete a three-game road sweep on Sunday night when they visit the Atlanta Hawks.

Orlando has beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons on the road since the All-Star break. They will return home Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets to start a three-game homestand.

The Magic can expect resistance from the Hawks, who have won two of the first three meetings against Orlando this season, but all have been close.

The first two games were played in Orlando, with the Hawks winning 120-119 on Nov. 9 and the Magic winning 117-110 in overtime on Jan. 7.

The Hawks won 106-104 on Jan. 17 on their home court. Atlanta won three of four against Orlando last season.

Orlando headed to Atlanta after a hard-fought, 112-109 win at Detroit on Saturday. Paolo Banchero converted a three-point play with less than one second remaining to secure the win and move the Magic into the No. 6 playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Orlando has won eight of its past 10 games but is only 3-8 in the second half of back-to-back sets.

The Magic had their hands full against the last-place Pistons. The game was tied at 109 when Banchero made an 18-footer and the ensuing free throw.

“It’s been tough. I’ve been shooting terrible,” Banchero said. “I give credit to my teammates. They lifted me up the whole game.”

Banchero, who averages 22.8 points a game, was only 5-for-17 from the field but scored a team-high 15 points. It was the 31st game in which he’s led the team in scoring this season.

His poor shooting night was offset by the team’s scoring depth — eight Orlando players scored in double figures.

“These are the types of games you have to win down the stretch,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said.

Atlanta is coming off a 123-121 loss to Toronto on Friday. The setback leaves the Hawks in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, two games behind Chicago and three games ahead of Brooklyn.

The Hawks got center Clint Capela back on Friday, and he produced five points, seven rebounds and one block in 19 minutes. His backup, Onyeka Okongwu, did not play because of a sprained left big toe and is not expected to play on Sunday.

Capela, who averages 11.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, had been out since Feb. 4 and missed six games with a left adductor strain.

“It’s good to have him back,” Atlanta coach Quin Snyder said. “He played hard. There’s always conditioning when you haven’t played in that long. Even if you’re working to stay in shape, when you get into a game setting, it just goes up to another level, particularly against a team that tries to push the ball. But it’s good to have him back, and you see how much he cares and how much he competes.”

With Okongwu out, Bruno Fernando received extended playing time and had 12 points and four rebounds. It was a good sign for Snyder.

“He’s done a good job,” Snyder said. “Just needs to keep performing at that level and keep competing and playing hard, and that’s what he’s doing. It’s good to see, and we need that from him.”

Orlando’s Markelle Fultz missed his third straight game on Saturday for injury maintenance on his left knee. His status will be re-assessed on Sunday.

–Field Level Media