The Orlando Magic’s offense has contributed to their recent inconsistency, but they’ve ground out their last two wins with good defense.
The Magic will try to win their third straight and sweep the season series against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Orlando (44-26) has won three of four, but with 12 games remaining is still four games behind Miami for third place in the Eastern Conference.
While the Magic have gone 19-14 since their season-high nine-game winning streak Dec. 23-Jan. 8, they are hoping to begin another run following back-to-back hard-fought victories.
After an overtime win over Milwaukee on Wednesday, the Magic defeated Denver 85-82 on Friday despite shooting 37.3 percent - their lowest percentage in a win this season. Jameer Nelson(notes) hit a 3-pointer as time expired to help the team escape.
“It was a great effort,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “You have to take away everything from the game. We made some mistakes, but I thought our guys made a hell of an effort today. All nine guys that played … did everything we could.”
Defense has been key for Orlando, which has given up fewer than 90 points in each of its last three wins. It held the Nuggets to 35.9 percent shooting and their lowest point total of the season.
While the Magic are pleased with their defensive effort, on offense they are struggling. They’ve averaged 18.3 turnovers the last three games - 3.5 above their season mark - and they’ve scored 85 or fewer points four times while going 4-4 in their last eight.
Despite their offensive issues, the Magic feel their defense is good enough to help them pull out games when the offense is out of sync.
“When you have things happen you’re just able to persevere and grind it out or pull it out, no matter how you get it it’s always good to show some resiliency in your team,” swingman Jason Richardson(notes) said.
The Magic have a good chance to extend their winning streak Monday. They’ve won five in a row against the Cavaliers, including three meetings this season. Dwight Howard(notes) struggled with foul trouble in his last visit to Cleveland, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds Dec. 28, but he had 20 points and 20 boards in a 103-87 home win Jan. 30.
Cleveland (13-55) has lost six of seven and its last two. After a 111-70 defeat at Portland on Thursday, the Cavaliers fell short in a 100-92 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
Cleveland pulled within two points early in the fourth quarter, but the Cavs had five turnovers in the final period and two in the last three minutes of the game. J.J. Hickson(notes) had 28 points and nine rebounds, but also four of the team’s 15 turnovers.
“These are the type of games where you learn from your mistakes,” Hickson said. “We’re going to go back to the drawing board and try to get better and see where we are as a team.”
Baron Davis(notes) missed the game with back spasms. He scored three points in 15 minutes Thursday after missing the previous three games following the death of his grandmother. His status for Monday is unknown.
Orlando’s defense could put on another impressive display as the Cavaliers have averaged 84.3 points and shot 41.2 percent the last seven games.