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Both teams struggling as Magic set to host Wizards

Sportsnaut
Jan 7, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) defends Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 7, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) defends Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps a visit to Orlando will help the Washington Wizards recapture some of their early magic.

Orlando hosts Washington on Sunday evening for the first of two meetings between the Southeast Division rivals in a four-day span.

The Wizards are coming off Friday’s 130-122 loss at Chicago as head coach Wes Unseld Jr. watched his club’s overall record dip below the .500 mark for the first time this season.

The Magic will then play at Washington on Wednesday, marking the second leg of an eight-game homestand for the Wizards.

The Wizards successfully cast their spell over the Eastern Conference during the opening three-plus weeks of the regular season. However, Washington is 10-17 in the 27 games since the teams last met, a 104-92 victory at Orlando on Nov. 13.

Washington, which has won two straight games against Orlando going back to last season, opened the new calendar year with three losses in four games.

Bradley Beal paced five starters in double figures with 26 points against Chicago, but the Bulls shot 52.7 percent from the field (48-for-91) and 45.5 percent beyond the arc (15-for-33) en route to their ninth straight win.

Spencer Dinwiddie had 18 points, converting 9-of-9 free throws, and four assists in 31 minutes on Friday. Dinwiddie returned to the Washington lineup after missing four games due to the league’s health and safety protocol.

Washington ranked 23rd in defensive rating (110.9) entering play Saturday — Orlando followed two spots back at 112.7 — while the Wizards have held only three opponents under 100 points following their Nov. 13 win.

“I just didn’t think our effort and focus was there tonight on the defensive side of the ball,” Unseld said after the Chicago loss. “And I addressed that after the game. Our care factor has to be better. It just has to. We’ve seen early in the year where we could be and how we can play when we guard, and we haven’t seen it since. So, that’s probably the most frustrating thing for me.”

The Wizards’ injury report included three players listed as questionable for Sunday: Montrezl Harrell (COVID-19 protocol), Davis Bertans (left foot) and Rui Hachimura (reconditioning after protocol).

The Magic’s losing streak reached a season-high eight games with a 97-92 loss at Detroit on Saturday night.

Guard Gary Harris, a Michigan State product, had a season-high 28 points, making six of Orlando’s 14 2-pointers, and Cole Anthony added 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

However, the Pistons outscored Orlando 56-30 inside the 3-point line.

Franz Wagner had his string of consecutive games scoring in double figures end at 21. Wagner, who suffered a sprained left ankle in Wednesday’s 116-106 home loss to Philadelphia, totaled nine points on 4-for-10 shooting in 28 minutes against the Pistons.

The Magic’s four January losses came by a combined 24 points as they continue to get healthy, although Wendell Carter Jr. was out Saturday because of a sore left hamstring.

“They (the losses) sting right now, but these guys continue to compete down the stretch,” Orlando head coach Jamahl Mosley said Saturday. “These are valuable lessons to learn as we understand what to do in late-game situations with execution, getting our shots, and how we need to play down the stretch.”

— Field Level Media