Our Record: 17-8/12-13 ATS
The Orlando Magic are going to get tested as the team they want to be during the next month. The murderer's row of teams they are about to face -- featuring all of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. The Magic are going to get a real test of how well they can stay above water.
That starts with bouncing back from this weekend's losses to the Boston Celtics for a home game against the Miami Heat. And that goes double considering the team starts a mini three-game road trip with a tough back-to-back in Milwaukee on Thursday.
This is not a must-win game. But it is a must-win game.
The Magic cannot let two losses become three and potentially four. They have to stop the bleeding or slow it as they manage this part of the schedule.
The good news is the Magic have been downright dominant at home -- the Amway Center will get its new name Wednesday morning -- and have used their games at home as a chance to reset. This Magic team has always responded to losses. And this one is a must-get.
The injury picture will muddy things up. The Magic are expected to get Wendell Carter back from his fractured left hand (more on that below). Jimmy Butler is going to be out with a calf strain but Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro will play their second straight game after both missed time.
3 Keys to Watch
Wendell Carter's return
The Orlando Magic remained coy during practice but they could not keep things under wraps for long. Wendell Carter was officially removed from the team's injury report and all but confirmed he will make his return to the court for the Orlando Magic at his charity event on Tuesday.
This is certainly welcome news. While Goga Bitadze has done well to hold the ship steady and give the Magic a great defensive interior presence, Wendell Carter is simply a more dynamic player offensively and provides a lot of the same defensive power.
That was what he was doing at least before his injury five games into the season. Opponents were shooting just 13 for 33 at the rim against Carter. And while that would almost certainly not continue, Carter is an excellent defender able to step out on the perimeter and help the Magic switch and stonewall drives more.
Assumedly, his shooting will come around too after he struggled early in the season. Nobody should expect a perfect performance from Carter in his first outing. But he will provide a big boost to the team.
Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo Return
While the Miami Heat will be without Jimmy Butler for Wednesday's game, they did get a boost with the return of both Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo in Monday's home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves (the best team in the Western Conference right now).
Herro scored 25 points on 10-for-18 shooting Monday against Minnesota in his first game since Nov. 8. Adebayo had 22 points, six rebounds and six assists in his first game since Nov. 30.
The Orlando Magic are certainly hoping for a return game from Wendell Carter like these two players had.
For the Heat though, both players had considerable rust despite their strong score lines. They were a bit off defensively and the Timberwolves erased a 17-point deficit to steal the win on the road. But they are both dynamic offensive players who give the Heat an added dimension on top of their usual hard-nosed effort.
The Orlando Magic have done well this year to prevent losing streaks from growing. This team has shown a lot of maturity and focus to limit their missteps to stay in games and not lose ground.
Where in the past this young team might allow a losing streak to grow from two to five, the Magic have stopped these streaks cold.
The Magic have not lost more than two games in a row at any point this season. They have responded to losses and defeats generally pretty well -- even Sunday's game, coach Jamahl Mosley said he liked the team's poise and composure and credited the Boston Celtics for hitting tough shots against them.
When facing a two-game losing streak, the Orlando Magic have responded.
After their pair of losses in Los Angeles they got a big win against the Utah Jazz -- that was thanks to some late-game heroics from Paolo Banchero and a big rebound from Wendell Carter.
The next time it happened, the Orlando Magic returned home from Mexico City to blow out the Milwaukee Bucks on their home floor. After losing to the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers on the road, they took their frustrations out on the Detroit Pistons.
There has never really been any panic when the team loses. Just a focus and determination to win again. That is a ton of maturity and professionalism from this young team.
And coming back home to face a Miami Heat team that usually packs the building should only heighten the focus from this team. The Magic definitely want this game.