Preview: Magic try to get back on track, host struggling Jazz

TV: FOX Sports Florida

TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.

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For two days, the Orlando Magic geared up and prepared to get over their disappointment from a difficult road trip.

For the Utah Jazz, the turnaround time from their latest disappointing showing is about 24 hours.

Two teams coming off frustrating performances get together Saturday night when Orlando hosts Utah.

Orlando Magic on FOX Sports Florida

Orlando returns home for the first time since beating the New York Knicks on Nov. 8 and is back after losing three of four on a Western swing. The Magic began the trip in promising fashion by hitting 13 3-pointers and shooting 52.4 percent in a 128-112 win over the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 10.

Then came the disappointment.

After beating Phoenix, the Magic trailed by as many as 30 in a 125-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets. That was followed by a 10-point loss to the Golden State Warriors Monday. The trip ended with Orlando blowing a 14-point first half lead in a 99-94 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Magic won’t be home for long.

After facing Utah, they host the Indiana Pacers Monday before another four-game trip with stops in Minnesota, Boston, Philadelphia, and Indiana. Then if a second four-game trip isn’t tough enough, Orlando follows it up by hosting Golden State and Oklahoma City, making the next 72 hours even more significant.

“It’s critical that we get these next two games at home,” center Nikola Vucevic said. “Right now, we’re 8-7 and we need to stay above .500 before we go on this next trip. It’s very important that we get these next two.

“It’s two big games coming up and then we have another tough road trip, but that’s part of this league. If you want to win in this league, you’ve got to get through like this. We have to find a way.”

Orlando remains over .500 because it found a way early on by winning six of its first eight games. Starting with a double-digit home loss to the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 4, they are 2-5 in their last seven.

In those games, Orlando is averaging 101.7 points on 45.4 percent shooting and hitting 34.9 percent of its 3-pointers. In their first eight games, the Magic averaged 114.2 points, shot 48.9 percent and made 44.2 percent of their 3-point attempts.

“You learn every game about your group and I like the team we have. We have a good team,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. “We knew this was going to be a tough trip — we were hoping to get more than one win — but we have to lick our wounds and get back on the winning track when we get home.”

Meanwhile, Utah is more than two weeks into its struggles. Since Ricky Rubio scored 30 points in an overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 1, Utah 1-7 in their last eight games and the injuries are continuing.

During the last eight games, the Jazz are averaging 100.1 points and shooting 41.8 percent. Defensively they are allowing 109.1 points on 48.7 percent shooting.

Already without Rudy Gobert (right knee), Joe Johnson (left wrist), Rubio (sore right Achilles) and Thabo Sefolosha (sore right knee), the Jazz fell to 0-6 on the road with a 119-107 loss to the Brooklyn Nets Friday when they trailed for the final 41-plus minutes.

“We were missing assignments defensively and once we got that down pat, we couldn’t stay in front of nobody so that was uncharacteristic of us, but we’ve got one tomorrow to get this bad taste out of our mouth,” said Jazz guard Rodney Hood, who scored 17 points. “We need a win bad.”

Rookie Donovan Mitchell was the starting point guard for Rubio and he totaled 15 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. Raul Neto also saw time at point guard and scored a career-high 22 points in 19 players.

“Obviously, right now we’re battling with whatever healthy guys we have and just trying to do whatever to get a win,” Utah forward Joe Ingles said. “I’m just sick of losing.”

Rubio wasn’t hurt on a specific play, but the Jazz are playing it cautious and he might be out again Saturday. Since the 30-point game, he is shooting 27.3 percent.

“He’s had soreness in his Achilles and you want to be smart, especially with what we’re dealing with,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said before Friday’s loss. “The last thing we need is Ricky to go out and try to show his toughness and play, which is what he wants to do.”

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