After being tested in a game that felt like the playoffs, the Orlando Magic face a contest that should be much less intense.
The Magic look to rebound from one of their worst shooting games of the season when they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, losers of 14 straight, on Friday night.
Orlando (50-22), in second place in the Eastern Conference, has 10 games remaining as it tunes up for the postseason.
The Magic fell short Wednesday night in a game that had a postseason feel to it, shooting 37.5 percent and losing 86-84 to Atlanta. The Hawks clinched a playoff spot on Josh Smith’s(notes) buzzer-beating dunk.
Orlando had won three straight and 10 of 11, mostly against teams that are out of playoff position. A matchup with the Timberwolves (14-58) should provide a good chance for the Magic to get back on track.
Minnesota, which has the league’s second-worst record, is a loss away from matching its worst skid of the season and two shy of tying the longest streak of futility in franchise history, set in 1991-92.
The four-time All-Star grabbed a season-best 24 rebounds - two shy of his career high - versus Atlanta. Howard, a notoriously poor free-throw shooter, made 11 of 16 attempts after converting 39.5 percent (15 for 38) over his previous four games.
Minnesota has the personnel to match up with Howard in talented 6-foot-10 forwards Al Jefferson(notes) and Kevin Love(notes), but it hasn’t had many other bright spots this season. The Wolves committed 17 turnovers and slipped to 5-32 on the road with a 108-95 loss to Charlotte on Wednesday night.
Minnesota has allowed an average of 114.4 points over its last 13 games.
“Our team has difficulty sustaining their defense. They lose focus,” coach Kurt Rambis said. “They get away from their defensive game plan. It’s inexcusable for us as a team to turn the basketball over as much as we do.”
After building a 43-34 lead with 7:22 left in the second quarter, Minnesota appeared to have a chance to earn its first win since Feb. 23. The Wolves, however, then allowed 20 unanswered points.
Jefferson continues to give the Wolves a consistent effort, averaging 21.5 points and shooting 56.3 percent over his last two games. Love, however, has struggled in the past two weeks.
The second-year big man averaged 9.1 points and shot 35.1 percent in his last seven contests. He is averaging 14.4 points and 10.7 rebounds this season.
Love had 17 points in the first matchup with the Magic.
Orlando is 3-0 at home against Northwest Division foes. The Magic shot 44.0 percent from 3-point range in their last five games against the Wolves, winning four.