Magic players were calculating their chances of advancing out of the East’s Group C after beating the Celtics on Friday to improve to 3-1 in the in-season tournament, writes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. Paolo Banchero admitted the team wasn’t fully focused on the tourney when it lost its opening game against Brooklyn, but the attitude has been different in three straight victories against Chicago, Toronto and Boston.
Orlando has a strong shot at winning its group and reaching the knockout round, but things could still change on Tuesday, Beede adds. The Magic will advance if the Nets lose to the Raptors or if the Celtics beat the Bulls by fewer than 23 points while Brooklyn wins by fewer than 14.
“You want to go to Vegas (for the semifinals and finals), right? You want to compete,” Moritz Wagner said. “You can tell people care. It’s really cool and it kind of tests us early, how poised are we in those last three minutes (and) how focused are you in the beginning of the year. I’ve really enjoyed it, honestly.”
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Magic guard Markelle Fultz will miss his ninth straight game on Sunday against Charlotte, Beede tweets. Fultz hasn’t played since November 9 because of tendinitis in his left knee, although he recently resumed individual workouts. Fultz began the season as Orlando’s starting point guard, but he has only been healthy for five games.
- Ryan Rollins will be evaluated weekly for a right knee strain, the Wizards announced via Twitter. The second-year guard has missed the past two games, and the team explained that it is opting to handle the injury conservatively. Rollins has appeared in eight games, averaging 4.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 6.1 minutes per night.
- Hornets center Mark Williams has been one of the early surprises of the 2023/24 season, per Frank Urbina of HoopsHype. Heading into Wednesday night, Charlotte was 22.6 points per 100 possessions better when Williams was on the court. He’s averaging 13.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and has formed a connection with LaMelo Ball that is helping him shoot better than 70% within five feet of the basket. Coach Steve Clifford believes Williams can expand his offense to eventually become a three-point threat. “Then the big key for him offensively is running the floor, screening, rolling, and eventually, he’ll be a three-point shooter,” Clifford said. “I don’t have any questions about that. I don’t know if it’ll be here early in the year. This is where the thumb injury set him back a little bit. But he’s a lot more instinctive offensively than I realized when we first got him.”