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Season Series: Hawks 120, Magic 119 in Mexico City on Nov. 9; Magic 117, Hawks 110 in Orlando on Jan. 7; Tonight in Atlanta; Feb. 25 in Atlanta
Our Record: 26-14/21-19
The Orlando Magic are finally getting closer to being healthy.
Among their regular players, only Franz Wagner and Gary Harris are OUT for Wednesday's game. And both of them seem fairly close to a return -- Harris is still day by day and Wagner is on the court working out and seems to be set to return any game now.
That is a relief and the presence of the Orlando Magic's returning players -- Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac and Joe Ingles -- was a big factor in the Magic's win over the New York Knicks on Monday.
It at least feels like a grand relief for this team to be whole again. The Magic certainly looked it and the panic that was created when the team was piling up losses during the injuries seems to have subsided.
Of course, there is still work to do. The Atlanta Hawks are a team fighting for their lives as trade rumors swirl around them and they struggle to win games consistently. They got themselves right with a 109-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday after the Washington Wizards worked them for a blowout 127-99 win on Saturday in Atlanta.
The Hawks are 2-2 on this current homestand that concludes Wednesday. They have lost four of their last six games.
Atlanta feels like a team hitting rock bottom. But there might still be some fight in that team. And the Magic may not be fully healthy enough to take advantage of them quite yet.
3 Keys To Watch
The Orlando Magic are starting to get healthy again. Wendell Carter and Markelle Fultz are back from the team's seemingly ideal starting lineup. Joe Ingles and Jonathan Isaac have returned to bolster the bench. The team has started to look more like itself.
Monday, though, the Magic opted to bring them all off the bench.
That depth came in handy and was the difference for the Orlando Magic to defeat the New York Knicks. But the Magic's starters struggled mightily. And there is no doubt that the group that includes Chuma Okeke and Caleb Houstan with Paolo Banchero, Jalen Suggs and Goga Bitadze has not been overly effective, even if they went to that group out of necessity.
That starting group has a net rating of -4.7 points per 100 possessions (107.0 offensive rating and 111.7 defensive rating) in 74 minutes across six games. It is just not working out, especially offensively even if the defense is generally fine.
Going up against a team with the Atlanta Hawks' firepower, getting off to a good defensive start is important but so too is being able to keep up offensively when they inevitably score. Jamahl Mosley abandoned his starting group quickly in the fourth quarter to put his best five on the floor Monday. It might be time to make a more permanent lineup change.
Trade Winds Circling
With the Atlanta Hawks sitting at 16-23 and tied for the final Play-In spot, there are a lot of trade rumors encircling the team. Whether it is the big one in breaking up their Dejounte Murray/Trae Young pairing by dealing Murray in his second year with the team or looking to move veteran Clint Capela or sharpshooting bench guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, there is no shortage of options.
And, yes, the Orlando Magic seem to be in the middle of a bunch of them.
Bogdanovic is certainly a potential target if the Magic are looking to add some shooting. He is averaging a career-high 16.9 points per game while shooting 36.6 percent from deep (the second-lowest of his career).
Murray has tried to keep things professional as everyone asks about his future -- even the Miami Heat had to shut down a question directly asking Erik Spoelstra about Dejounte Murray rumors before Friday's game in Miami. He is averaging 20.8 points per game and 4.8 assists per game.
The Magic are definitely a team that should be considered a dark horse for him but they could certainly use a point guard of his skills and caliber. It is just unknown if they want to pay the price. But Murray is largely considered to be in the crosshairs of the big fish at every deadline -- the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, etc.
The Hawks appear to have a steep price for all of their players even as they fade in the standings.
Jalen Suggs is always hurting. Let's put that to rest.
He plays with a football player's spirit and is constantly getting into scrapes and getting bumped. He always looks like he is barely being held together. And then he will turn on the jets and get to the basket or attack players on defense with ferocity.
Suggs plays through a lot. And really what we have is to judge him on his production. So right now, it looks like the physicality is getting to him some.
Suggs was critical in the immediate aftermath of Franz Wagner's injury scoring 21.8 points per game and shooting 58.3 percent from three in the first four games without Wagner (including the loss to the Sacramento Kings when Wagner got hurt).
In his last three games though, Suggs has scored a total of 15 points, shooting 6 of 21 overall (28.6 percent) and 2 for 13 (15.4 percent). That drain has been a big part of the team's struggles and has narrowed an already thin margin for error.
Is this part of defenses putting more focus on him with so many players out? Is this part his inconsistency as a young player on this team? Is his left wrist, injured in December when the team was in Boston, flaring up and bothering him but he is pushing through?
It is probably some combination of everything. But the Magic need a stronger showing from Suggs to get where they want to go.