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Season Series: Hawks 120, Magic 119 in Mexico City on Nov. 9; Tonight in Orlando; Jan. 17 in Atlanta; Feb. 25 in Atlanta
Our Record: 23-12/19-16 ATS
The Orlando Magic turned in one of the absolute gutsiest victories in the franchise's 35-year history Friday against the Denver Nuggets.
Down to eight men after Anthony Black left the game just five minutes into the game with an illness, the Magic had to find a way to compete on the road at the end of a road trip against the defending champions. They even trailed by 18 points.
But everything came together for the magic to win. Paolo Banchero turned in his first career triple-double. Jalen Suggs scored a career-high 27 points including seven 3-pointers. Cole Anthony scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half. Everyone stepped up.
The Magic are hoping for an encore in the result but not an encore in the situation. They are hoping to get some healthy bodies back.
At least this time, they are facing a somewhat weaker opponent. The Atlanta Hawks are under .500 and have lost five of their last seven games. Although they had a two-game win streak snapped thanks to a dominating 150-116 win by the Indiana Pacers.
So what will the Magic see against the Hawks?
The Hawks are a team that scores a lot of points and they have a big weapon in Trae Young. Jalen Johnson's return has given the team a bit of a boost and some needed help. But Atlanta still struggles on defense. And if this Magic offense comes home, the Magic are in business once again.
3 Keys to Watch
The Orlando Magic are still one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league. They still rank 26th in the league at 34.8 percent from beyond the arc. But that is a lot better than they were a few days ago. The Magic were sitting as the worst shooting team in the league.
Then the Magic hit 42 of 80 3-pointers in the last two games. Yes, the team shot an average of 40.0 3-pointers per game in their last two games (they averaged a hair more than 30 entering these two games). And then they hit 52.5 percent of their 3-pointers.
That changes a lot of things and covers a lot of mistakes. And the Magic with so many players out had to cover for a lot of mistakes.
Orlando certainly hopes that this is a turning point in the team's shooting.
The Magic probably cannot sustain leaning on shooting this many threes long-term. They need to get back to scoring in the paint. But if the team is hitting threes suddenly, then the good times could be back for the Magic.
Jalen Johnson's return
The Atlanta Hawks have needed a boost defensively. They have plenty of offensive weapons with Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, but they struggled defensively.
Some of that is because of the prolonged absence of Jalen Johnson.
Johnson is having a career season, averaging 15.1 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game. He returned from a wrist fracture just after Christmas. He is averaging 18.0 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game in his five games since his return.
Johnson gives the Hawks something pretty unique. He is a versatile wing who gives the Hawks some needed size on the perimeter. The Magic have plenty of size too. But being down Franz Wagner (he has already been ruled OUT for the game), is going to put Jalen Johnson on Paolo Banchero.
Is this the night?
Injuries were the big story for the Orlando Magic. Their various injuries and then a raft of illnesses dropped the Magic's active roster to nine players and Anthony Black's departure dropped the team to eight active players.
It is going to be unclear who plays for the Magic on Sunday night. Goga Bitadze (illness), Anthony Black (illness), Wendell Carter (right knee tendinitis) and now Markelle Fultz (left knee tendinitis) are all QUESTIONABLE for Sunday's game.
This could be the night for Fultz to return or it won't be. Who knows? We have seen Fultz be listed as questionable before only for him to be a scratch at game time and then miss time further. The Magic have to hope that he -- along with Jonathan Isaac, perhaps -- could get back on the court with the practice time the Magic should get this week.
The last game Fultz played was against the Hawks too. He scored 13 points in 29 minutes in the game in Mexico City. That is his lone game since Oct. 31.