Can the Orlando Magic avoid an emotional letdown tonight?
That might be the toughest challenge they’ll face against the injury-plagued, youthful Washington Wizards.
“You’ve just got to come in focused,” Magic center Nik Vucevic said moments ago, after the Magic completed their gameday shootaround at Amway Center.
“I think they’re a better team than their record shows. They have a lot of talent and a lot of young guys. They’ve had some injuries, too, but they’re a good team, and we know that. We’re aware of that.”
Vucevic’s comments might be the nicest thing anyone has said about the Wizards in a while.
Washington owns a 3-19 record, the worst record in the NBA.
The Wizards also will be playing the second game of a back-to-back after a 100-95 overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks last night in D.C.
"I don't ever look at a team's record, because in the NBA, the talent level fluctuates a little bit, but they're all good players," shooting guard Arron Afflalo said. "And if you don't come to play, you'll lose. It's a team that beat Miami, a team that's been in a lot of close games. So give or take a play here or a play there, things could be a lot different.
"It's a must-win for us, another confidence-building steppingstone opportunity for us."
The Magic are 11-13.
A victory tonight would extend Orlando’s winning streak to four games.
“We’ve already talked about preparing yourself mentally for the approach you need for tonight,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Workmanlike. Businesslike. This is our home floor. We’re trying to take care of business, and that’s the message.
“There’s no hiding the human-nature element,” Vaughn added later. “But, at the same time, you challenge your guys to be bigger than that and to do what they get paid to do, and that’s approach the game as professionals and play that way.”
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.