The suddenly surging Washington Wizards will carry a three-game winning streak into the first date of a four-game road swing when they visit the Orlando Magic on Friday.
Washington, which lost 10 straight from Nov. 30-Dec. 18, has since rebounded to win four of its last five games.
Highlighted by a 127-102 blowout victory over Phoenix on Wednesday, completing the season sweep the Suns after a 113-110 win Dec. 20 in Phoenix, the Wizards’ recent successful stretch has come exclusively against opponents with records above .500.
In addition to the two victories over the Suns, Washington earned a 125-111 victory at Sacramento on Dec. 23 and clipped Philadelphia’s eight-game winning streak in a 116-111 decision on Tuesday.
Bradley Beal’s return to the Wizards’ lineup proved instrumental in the turnaround. They were without the three-time All-Star for six of the 10 games in their losing skid, and he played just less than four minutes of a seventh contest over that stretch.
Since rejoining the rotation on Dec. 18, Beal has averaged 25.8 points per game — but Washington was without him on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury.
Starters Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma helped fill the void with 22 points apiece, as Kuzma has scored at least 21 points in five of his last six games. Rui Hachimura came off the bench to score 30 points, matching his career high and marking his third consecutive double-digit-point game since returning from a 16-game injury absence.
“Right away, his level of aggression, you could tell,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said of Hachimura. “He was taking the right type of spots. He played with a sense of urgency, but he looked motivated. It was a good sign.”
Hachimura’s return to the lineup boosts Washington’s depth, which Unseld has credited for the team’s recently resurgent play.
The Magic have dealt with their own bouts of roster challenges. Markelle Fultz has played 15 of the Magic’s 36 games, Wendell Carter Jr. has appeared in 18 and Cole Anthony in 19. Rookie sensation Paolo Banchero missed a stretch of seven games in November.
Orlando still is without Jalen Suggs, who has missed the past month with an ankle injury, and Jonathan Isaac has yet to appear this season due to a knee injury sustained last season. But with a roster near full-strength, the Magic caught fire with wins in eight of nine games from Dec. 7-23.
The Magic dropped their last two heading into Friday’s matchup, however, with a 129-110 setback Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers and 121-101 loss Wednesday at the Detroit Pistons.
The loss at Detroit was further marred when the Magic’s Moritz Wagner was struck in the head by the Pistons’ Killian Hayes after Wagner crashed into Hayes during a chase for a loose ball.
Despite the ugly incident and the second straight loss, Orlando got a promising performance from Carter. His 16 points and eight rebounds made for his best showing in his three games since returning to the lineup.
“He’s performed great in the role he’s in right now, just trying to get himself back into shape,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “We’ll ramp up the minutes as each game goes on. He’s finding his way and finding his groove after being out.”
–Field Level Media