Road wins have not come easy for the Orlando Magic lately. Getting a victory at the Bradley Center in recent seasons has been even more difficult.
Battling for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, the Magic open a crucial three-game road trip Monday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Orlando (35-41) is trying to earn its first playoff appearance since 2002-03, but hasn’t been playing its best basketball down the stretch. The Magic are 8-15 since the All-Star break and have fallen into eighth place in the East, one game back of seventh-place New Jersey and a game ahead of Indiana.
Orlando’s biggest problems of late have come away from home. The Magic’s 12-25 road record is one of the worst in the East, and they’ve won just five of 26 road contests since starting the season 7-4 away from Amway Arena.
This three-game trip includes matchups with East-leading Detroit and Philadelphia but begins at Milwaukee, where the Magic have had little success recently. Orlando has lost seven straight at the Bradley Center since a 100-90 victory Nov. 2, 2002, and is 1-15 in the last 16 visits.
“These three games we’ve got coming up, we’ve really got to take it to these guys and try and win all three,” All-Star center Dwight Howard said. “Make this last push towards the playoffs.”
The Magic have won two of three against the Bucks this season, but lost 116-111 at Milwaukee on Feb. 6.
Orlando avoided a third straight loss by shooting 58.2 percent in a 116-89 rout of Memphis on Saturday, as Howard broke out of his scoring slump with 31 points and added 11 rebounds.
Howard averaged 11.3 points - 6.4 below his season average - in his previous six games, but made 10 of 13 shots and had nine dunks Saturday.
“Dwight needed a game where he could see the ball go through the basket and dominate a game,” said forward Grant Hill, averaging 19.8 points in his last five contests. “This should help him get his confidence back.”
Howard has missed only one shot from the floor in the three games against Milwaukee this season, going 15-of-16 and averaging 12.3 points.
The Bucks (26-50) are coming off a heartbreaking 118-113 overtime loss to New York on Saturday.
Ruben Patterson, who finished with a team-high 27 points, hit a 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left in regulation to give Milwaukee a three-point lead. After a timeout, though, Knicks center Eddy Curry responded with a 3 to send the game to the extra period, where the Knicks outscored the Bucks 16-11.
“That would’ve been a great time to go home and watch me on SportsCenter,” Patterson said.
The loss was Milwaukee’s second straight and ninth in 10 games.
Bucks star Michael Redd, who missed the last two games with pain in his left knee, scored 25 points against New York although he was just 9-of-24 from the floor.
Redd missed 20 games in January and February with a strained patellar tendon in the same knee. He scored 15 points and shot 3-of-16 in his only game against the Magic this season, a 99-81 loss March 5.