Streaking Magic eyeing playoffs as Bulls visit
The Orlando Magic are hoping the All-Star break didn't squash their momentum.
Thanks to a five-game winning streak, Orlando is in rare position for this stage of the season -- competing for a playoff berth -- as it resumes play Friday night at home against the Chicago Bulls.
At the break, teams six through 10 in the Eastern Conference were separated by just three games. The Magic (27-32) were at the back of the line among that group but charging fast in an effort to grab one of the eight playoff spots.
"We feel good about ourselves, and we want to do this, and we feel that we have a good chance to do it. But it's on us to do it," All-Star center Nikola Vucevic said on NBA.com. "If we do the right things and play the same way that we did over the last eight games -- obviously we're not going to blow people out by 20 or 30 -- but if we bring that same mindset and attitude, we'll have a chance against these teams.
"But it's got to start on Friday, and from now on, we can't have any bad nights."
In the past six seasons, Orlando has usually been out of contention at the All-Star break, including being 18-39 last season and 21-37 in 2017.
"It's totally different and a totally different mindset now," said guard Evan Fournier, in his fifth season with the Magic. "For me, personally, it's the first time (being in the playoff race) since being with the Magic. ... I missed it, and it's a fun part of the year, so we should all be excited now."
The Bulls have a different mindset. At 14-44, they have the fourth-worst record in the league and are focused on building something for next season while dreaming of perhaps landing the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Guard Kris Dunn, who missed the final game before the break because of a back bruise, practiced Wednesday and should play against Orlando. And the Bulls are still working in forward Otto Porter Jr., who is averaging 22.5 points in four games for the Bulls since being acquired in a trade that sent Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis to Washington.
"My marching orders are to continue to coach and develop and demand good basketball and better play and honor the things we've talked about -- playing for Bulls across their chest, competing at a high level, playing the right way," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said on NBA.com.
"As far as the other stuff, I'm worried about our guys learning, growing and every day getting better. Continue to build our culture of competitiveness and that the team is first and we care for each other and the franchise."
Orlando has won seven of its past eight games, including victories over two of the best teams in the East, Milwaukee and Indiana. The active five-game winning streak is the team's longest since December 2015. Its last six-game streak came early in the 2010 season.
The Magic are averaging 118.8 points per game during their streak.
Vucevic is having the best season of his eight-year career, averaging 20.5 points and 12.1 rebounds. Aaron Gordon is averaging 15.8 points and 7.3 rebounds.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 21, 2019