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Magic pass test vs. physical Pelicans, get set to host Kings

After dropping two games in a row to playoff-caliber squads in the Knicks and the Pacers almost two weeks ago, the Magic turned things around, won their fifth straight contest and made a statement in front of an NBA TV audience on Thursday night at Kia Center.

Orlando showcased its ability to overcome a double-digit deficit and punch back against the physical Pelicans in the 121-106 victory, something Jamahl Mosley’s squad failed to do at New York on March 8.

“Walking into the New York game, we knew it was a big game but I don’t think we quite understood the gravity of it,” Magic forward Jonathan Isaac told the Sentinel after Thursday’s win. “Now we’re moving with the mindset of, ‘These are playoff games.’ I walked in thinking it was a playoff game.

“The vibe was there; the crowd was there. We weathered the storm early and we treated it like a playoff game. Teams are going to go on runs and then we went on our run, and we were able to sustain it.”

Although it was just one game, the win over New Orleans — combined with New York’s Thursday loss to No. 2 Denver — allowed Orlando (42-28) to jump the Knicks (41-28) in the East to fourth place.

Finishing the regular season in fourth would give the Magic homecourt advantage in a first-round playoff series. Entering Friday’s games, Orlando held a half-game advantage on No. 5 New York and sat just 1.5 games behind No. 3 Cleveland (43-26).

Beede’s Breakdown: How Magic weathered storm vs. Pelicans to flip script at home

The Magic might have to face more adversity when they host the Kings (40-29), who are also pushing for a playoff spot in the West, on Saturday at Kia Center (Bally Sports Florida, 7).

Veteran guard Gary Harris, who exited Thursday’s win at halftime and did not return due to a sore right foot, is listed as questionable with a right plantar fascia strain. His availability will depend on how he responds to treatment, the Sentinel learned.

The Magic are 11-0 with Harris in the starting lineup alongside Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr. The sharpshooter has helped spread the floor (37.6% from 3) and offers strong defense on the perimeter.

Harris already has missed 24 games this season, including 16 (Dec. 27-29, Jan. 5-31) due to a right calf strain. Second-year pro Caleb Houstan filled in for Harris against the Pelicans during the second half.

No. 8 Sacramento, which sat half a game back of No. 6 Dallas in the West as of Friday, won’t have guard Kevin Huerter (left shoulder dislocation) and forward Trey Lyles (left knee strain) against Orlando. Forward Sasha Vezenkov (right ankle sprain), who hasn’t played since Feb. 9, is questionable.

The Magic have lost five straight against the Kings, dating to the 2021-22 season. That streak includes a double-overtime loss on the West Coast in early January when the Magic were without Franz Wagner most of the night.

The Magic forward suffered a right ankle sprain five minutes into the game that Orlando entered already missing Wendell Carter Jr., Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony due to injuries.

Almost three months later, the Magic are mostly healthy and ready for another test at home against the Kings.

“Teams will plan for what we’ve been doing all year and we just have to make sure that we keep moving the ball, keep playing together and that we kind of have answers for that physicality,” Wagner said Thursday. “You can see a learning curve for the whole team in terms of that.”

Jason Beede can be reached at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com