Southeast Notes: Magic, Houstan, Young, Kuzma

The Magic are in the midst of their best nine-game stretch in more than a decade, but there’s no single reason why it’s happening, writes Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando has moved into the race for the play-in tournament by winning eight of its last nine games, and head coach Jamahl Mosley believes everything he’s been trying to teach his young players over the past two seasons is taking hold.

“We’ve been saying it from the beginning: understanding we’re close (and) getting over the hump,” Mosley said. “You just have to stick with that process. The growth, understanding those close games and what those mean later on in the season. It’s just the belief system these young men are starting to grow into.”

The Magic own the NBA’s second-best rating in clutch situations and have started winning tight games that they couldn’t close out earlier in the season. Orlando is also among the league’s top seven teams in both offensive and defensive rating during the last two and a half weeks.

“As a young team, sometimes we can get caught up in ‘Oh, we won a certain amount of games. Let’s get comfortable,’” said Wendell Carter Jr., who returned to the lineup Friday after missing more than a month. “I feel like the biggest thing for us is to continue to do what got us here. Not to change the formula or too many things. Just do what got us to this point.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic have considered sending Caleb Houstan to the G League to get more playing time, tweets Aaron Goldstone of Orlando Pinstriped Post. The rookie small forward has appeared in 22 of the team’s 34 games.
  • Trae Young‘s father responded to a recent article by Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report speculating about Young’s future in Atlanta and a tweet by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer suggesting the Hawks guard isn’t willing to play off the ball alongside Dejounte Murray. “Although I like Kevin’s stuff, now there’ll be articles on Trae like this just because ‘rival execs’ believe something!” Ray Young tweeted. “Trae doesn’t talk to other teams. He’s busy trying to win in Atlanta. Will this ever end?”
  • With their roster almost fully healthy, the Wizards understand they have to start producing to prevent a shakeup at the trade deadline, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “It’s tough for you to make decisions without a healthy team, and we’ve got to make up some ground,” Kyle Kuzma said. “We’ve been injured a lot, but we’ve got a chance to rewrite some things. The trade deadline is in six weeks, and everyone in this locker room knows about that.”
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