|Magic host Grizzlies, look to halt losing skid|
The Orlando Magic return home to Amway Center on Friday looking to end a four-game losing streak, squaring off with a Memphis Grizzlies bunch that just ended a skid of their own.
Orlando dropped its fourth straight on Wednesday in Dallas. The final minute of the 107-106 loss serves as a microcosm of the Magic's season, as missed shots and turnovers prevented them from taking a lead.
"He was sliding his feet," forward Aaron Gordon said to reporters about one of the two offensive fouls called against him in the final minute at Dallas. "I bumped him, stepped over, laid the ball in the basket. To me, that's an and-one 10 times out of 10."
Issues with officiating aside, the lock-down defense Orlando played in the final minutes, juxtaposed with its inability to score, has been a season-long issue thus far. The Magic's 99.8 points per game allowed on defense ranks second in the NBA, but at 95.1 points scored per outing, Orlando is the league's lowest-scoring team.
Orlando also shot a dismal 25 percent from behind the 3-point arc on Wednesday -- another facet vexing the Magic in a disappointing start to the season after they made the playoffs last spring. They are shooting just 26.6 percent from long range.
Terrence Ross, whose average of six 3-point attempts per game leads the Magic, is making just 19 percent of them. He missed Wednesday's contest with a knee injury and is considered day-to-day.
In contrast, Memphis found its outside touch on Wednesday in a 137-121 defeat of the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves. Guard Dillon Brooks knocked down five 3-pointers on his way to 31 points, pacing the Grizzlies to their highest single-game point total since 2007.
Brooks and rookie guard Ja Morant were electric in the final quarter, combining for 30 points in the final 12 minutes. Morant ranks among the NBA's top 10 in fourth-quarter scoring, and after Wednesday's 26-point effort, he paces Memphis with 20.4 points per game.
The young Grizzlies welcomed back second-year forward Jaren Jackson Jr. on Wednesday after he missed a game with a minor leg injury. He had little impact in the win, going scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting in 15 minutes.
"He got two early fouls. Sometimes that happens where it throws a guy out of rhythm," Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said of Jackson in his postgame press conference. "As he came back in, there were other guys at that point that carried the momentum for us. I rode with some guys that were playing better in the first half, and that carried through for us. Sometimes guys are going to have some struggles."
Rookie Brandon Clarke played well in place of Jackson, scoring 18 points off the bench. Jenkins' rotation between Jackson and Clarke against Orlando could be a pivotal point in that matchup.
Likewise, the Magic could benefit from increased contributions from Gordon, who started the season slowly, averaging just seven points through his first three games.
He has since come to life, producing 19.7 points per game in the Magic's past three, but he also has been foul-prone in that stretch. He incurred five fouls on Tuesday in Oklahoma City, and he fouled out of the Dallas loss.
--Field Level Media