Every young team goes through growing pains, something the Orlando Magic are currently fighting.
The Magic, who have lost seven of eight, will try to turn things around Tuesday night when they visit an Atlanta Hawks team that has dominated the series in recent years.
An issue for the Magic (4-9) has been defense, with opponents seemingly scoring at will. During the past eight games, foes are averaging 104.9 points and shooting 48.1 percent from the field.
The Magic also haven't been healthy during much of that stretch, but that has started to change. Orlando should be helped by the return of Tobias Harris, who averaged a team-high 17.3 points last season after being acquired from Milwaukee on Feb. 21.
Harris missed the first 12 games of this season because of a high ankle sprain before returning Sunday in a 104-96 loss to visiting Phoenix.
"It felt great checking in and getting back in the flow of things," said Harris, who scored six points in 16 minutes. "It felt great to get out there and play. Momentum will come when we play game after game. I just have to continue to progress from today."
Harris isn't the only player the Magic have added to the rotation recently. They also got forward Glen Davis back Saturday after he missed the first 11 games because of offseason surgery on a fractured bone outside of his left foot.
"We just have to get some type of rhythm and consistency back as a team," said guard Arron Afflalo, who had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists against the Suns. "Guys coming back to the lineup will take some time for adjustment."
The Magic were done in Sunday by a poor start. The Suns led 31-21 after the first quarter, and even strong performances from Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic (20 points, 10 rebounds) were not enough for a comeback.
The Hawks (8-6) are coming off just their second home loss of the season, 94-87 to Boston on Saturday. They shot a season-low 12 free throws, an issue coach Mike Budenholzer wants to correct against Orlando.
"We didn't force the issue enough," Budenholzer said. "We didn't get to the paint enough. We didn't get to the basket enough, and when we did, we didn't finish. We need more of all of that. We need to get there more, we need to finish better."
Point guard Jeff Teague, who ranks third in the NBA among starting guards with 95 free throws attempted, is the catalyst of the Atlanta attack. He is averaging career highs of 18.0 points and 8.8 assists, and he had one of his best games earlier this month against the Magic.
Teague scored 19 points, handed out a season-high 13 assists and committed just two turnovers in a 104-94 home victory Nov. 9.
The Hawks have dominated their Southeast Division rivals lately, winning 11 straight regular-season meetings - seven in a row at home. The teams met in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, and Atlanta took the series in six games.
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