Both the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder have been eliminated from playoff contention.
But there’s still plenty at stake when the pair meet on Wednesday in Oklahoma City.
The teams are separated by just a half-game for one of the bottom three spots in the NBA standings.
The bottom three teams in the league will each have a 14% chance of winning the NBA draft lottery.
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said any talk of tanking for a better draft pick hadn’t affected the players on the court.
“I give our team a lot of credit, because I think our players, our staff have done a great job over the years — not just this circumstance — of just keeping our locker room our space, where we have our mindset, where we work on our fundamentals, our habits and we hone our mentality, and not get distracted by anything outside of that,” said Daigneault.
The Magic (20-53) have won back-to-back games, starting with Sunday’s 90-85 home win over the Thunder in the teams’ first meeting of the season.
“I think it’s important to keep playing for each other. We’re a family here, so no matter if we’re in playoff contention or out of it, we’re still going to play hard every night,” Orlando’s R.J. Hampton said.
“We want to get better as a group. We have a lot of young talent on this team. I think these last 10 games or so is definitely going to help us build into this summer and build into next season.”
Oklahoma City (20-52) has lost 10 consecutive games and 18 of its last 21.
In Sunday’s game, Orlando’s Wendell Carter Jr. scored a season-high 30 as the Magic shot just 38.6 percent.
But the Thunder shot just 32.6 percent, their worst shooting game and the lowest for an Orlando opponent this season.
The Thunder played that game without leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right ankle soreness).
Gilgeous-Alexander is one of just two players in the NBA averaging at least 30 points, seven assists and six rebounds since the All-Star break.
Gilgeous-Alexander had 31 points in Monday’s home loss to Boston but is again listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game due to the ankle.
Just before the break, Gilgeous-Alexander missed 10 games with a right-ankle injury.
“After most games, it’s sore,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I try to do whatever I can to recover as fast as possible. … I just take it day by day.”
Oklahoma City’s Tre Mann has scored 20 or more points in a quarter in two of the Thunder’s last three games.
The Magic will play three out of their next four games on the road after ending a six-game homestand 3-3.
Orlando will be without Markelle Fultz on Wednesday. Fultz has yet to play in back-to-back games after returning last month from an ACL tear that limited him to just eight games last season.
Oklahoma City’s Olivier Sarr is listed as questionable with non-COVID illness.
-Field Level Media