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Mar 30, 2024 9:05 am

Magic look to turn around fortunes vs. reeling Grizzlies

Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic are entering uncharted territory as they look to secure their first playoff berth since the 2019-20 season.

The past few weeks have been a learning experience for the Magic (42-31), who will host the Memphis Grizzlies (24-49) on Saturday night.

The injury-plagued Grizzlies lost for the sixth time in their last seven games with a 136-124 setback at home to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Memphis will begin a three-game trip with a tough matchup against Orlando, which has lost three straight following a five-game winning streak. The Magic hold the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race with nine games to play.

Paolo Banchero scored 23 points and Jalen Suggs added 15 in Orlando’s 100-97 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. Banchero helped spark the Magic’s second-half charge but was frustrated after committing seven turnovers.

“I was able to get going, play some defense, get some dunks and stuff, but I’ve just got to be better overall — in all aspects,” Banchero said. “I’ve got to find a way to start games better. I don’t like how I’m playing right now, so I’ve just got to work on it.”

Magic forward Moritz Wagner had 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench against the Clippers.

With just four players on the team’s roster with playoff experience, Orlando’s inconsistent play down the stretch isn’t entirely unexpected. Wagner said he’d like to see his team take the floor against Memphis with an improved mindset.

“We’ve got to have that swag that we’re a playoff team,” Wagner said. “You’ve got to wear that on your chest a little bit; it’s not by accident we’re here. Even though we’ve lost a couple of games, we’ll be back. If we do that as a group, we’ll be fine.”

Orlando guard Markelle Fultz is expected to be available for the matchup against Memphis after sitting out Friday’s contest due to knee-injury maintenance.

Magic guard Gary Harris returned after missing two games with a plantar fascia strain and had eight points in 24 minutes.

Orlando has lost its last five contests vs. the Grizzlies, including 107-106 in Memphis on Jan. 26.

Memphis is expected to have Luke Kennard available Saturday after the shooting guard missed the past five games due to personal reasons.

The Grizzlies received a spark on Wednesday when forward Brandon Clarke returned from a left Achilles injury and scored six points in 21 minutes in his first game since March 3, 2023.

“I’m glad to get that first game over with,” Clarke said. “I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time. I wish we could have won, but it was fun to play.”

Desmond Bane led Memphis against the Lakers with 26 points and a career-high 16 assists. Rookie GG Jackson finished with 10 points and made a positive impression on superstar LeBron James.

“He’s gotten better and better every time he’s stepped out on the floor for this ballclub,” James said of Jackson, 19. “And it’s good for him to get this experience early on in his career.”

–Field Level Media

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