The Southeast Division-leading Magic look for their first ever season-series sweep over the Bobcats as they meet Wednesday in Charlotte.
Orlando (24-16) defeated Chicago 102-88 on Tuesday to win for just the second time in seven games in 2008. The Magic led by five points at the half before outscoring the Bulls 32-10 in the decisive third quarter.
“Coach (Stan Van Gundy) came into the locker room and got onto us about our energy at home,” Magic forward Dwight Howard said. “We need to really pick up the intensity.”
Howard had 15 points and 11 rebounds on Tuesday, and has been a big reason for Orlando’s success over Charlotte this season.
The Magic, who are 6-1 in the Southeast, have won their first three games over the Bobcats by an average of 12.7 points, and their 103-87 victory in Charlotte on Dec. 14 snapped a three-game losing streak there.
Howard had 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting and 18 boards in Charlotte last month, and is averaging 27.3 points on 67.5 percent shooting and 18.7 rebounds against the Bobcats this season.
Rashard Lewis had 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting—including 4-of-5 from beyond the 3-point arc—against the Bulls. Lewis is averaging 23.2 points in his last five games after averaging 16.1 points in his previous 11.
“It’s time for me to get a little more aggressive,” Lewis said. “I can’t just sit out on the wing and be a three-point shooter. That’s really not my game. I can do a lot more things for this team.”
Lewis has not had much success against Charlotte, however, averaging 14.3 points on 38.5 percent shooting in the three games.
The Bobcats (14-23) defeated Denver 119-116 on Monday to win their first game since stunning NBA-best Boston last Wednesday.
Charlotte, which has won three of five, followed up its win over the Celtics with a double-overtime loss to Cleveland and a disputed overtime defeat to Detroit on Monday, in which a basket interference call with 1.5 seconds left in overtime wiped out the Bobcats’ go-ahead basket.
“The Bobcats are a whole lot better team than their record shows,” Nuggets center Marcus Camby said. “They beat Boston. I saw the game against Detroit and I thought they should have had that one. They’re coming together as a team.”
Charlotte, which scored a season high on Monday, is averaging 107.0 points in its last five games after scoring 94.0 per game in its previous three—all losses.
Gerald Wallace had another sensational performance on Monday, scoring a season-high 40 points on 13-of-24 shooting, grabbing eight rebounds and hitting a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left that put the Bobcats ahead 117-112. Wallace, who was two points shy of matching his career high Monday, is averaging 26.4 points on 40.5 percent shooting from 3-point range (17-of-42), 9.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists in his last nine games.
“We’re having a chance to see a superstar form right in front of our eyes,” Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said of Wallace. “The way he’s shooting the ball on the outside, the way he’s attacking the rim, the way he’s rebounding and blocking shots and getting steals, he’s just really becoming a very dynamic player.”
Wallace has had minimal success against the Magic this season, however, averaging just 14.3 points—his lowest-scoring average against any team he has played more than once—and 5.0 rebounds.