Warriors hit Orlando looking for sixth straight win
The Magic are just 10-20 this season, but have won eight of their last nine against the Warriors heading into Tuesday's game in Orlando. (USATSI)
Programming note: Warriors-Magic coverage tips off Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply)
It's a New Year's Eve matinee game against rebuilding Orlando, preceding the flight to Miami for New Year's Eve night and the game on Thursday against the defending champion Heat.
If there is a “trap game'' on this Warriors road trip, it's the one Tuesday.
But history provides Warriors coach Mark Jackson with a sound motivational tactic. The Warriors haven't had much success against the Magic. They were swept by them last season and have lost eight of their last nine games against Orlando.
Furthermore, the last time the Warriors won a game at the Amway Center in regulation was almost six years ago.
So there are plenty of reasons for the Warriors (19-13) to respect the Magic beyond that unimposing 10-20 ledger – particularly in the wake of needing overtime on Sunday to survive struggling Cleveland.
“These are going to be tough games; none of these games are going to be easy,'' Jackson said of the current seven-game swing through the Eastern Conference. “We're playing against teams in their own building.
“We've got to take care of our business. It's important for us to be true to out identity and things will fall into place.''
Maybe they will. But there are two reasons to be concerned. One, the Magic has a young, hungry roster, half of which is auditioning for long-term status in the NBA. Two, the Warriors have proven perfectly capable of losing to teams with unimposing records.
After all, they're only 48 hours removed from a needing a furious second-half comeback – they trailed by 16 in the second quarter – against the 10-19 Cavaliers. Sounds as if at least one Warrior, point guard Stephen Curry, took note.
“To come out and scrap our way to a victory with our defensive performance in the second half sets the tone for this long road trip we're on,'' he said. “We've got to hopefully come out with a better start in Orlando and not have to rely on a huge comeback.''
KEY MATCHUPS: Klay Thompson/Andre Iguodala vs. Arron Afflalo. Afflalo is Orlando's top scorer (21.9 points per game) and demands attention. If Thompson can't contain him, Jackson won't hesitate to turn to Iguodala.
Andrew Bogut/David Lee vs. Nikola Vucevic/Glen Davis. The Warriors' big men will have to bring some serious energy to fight off the feisty Magic duo. The 7-foot Vucevic is having a solid season and is establishing himself as the team's center of the future. “Big Baby'' Davis, at 290 pounds, is a load but he's not much of a defender.
SERIES HISTORY: The Warriors, as noted above, have lost eight of their last nine against the Magic. Most of those were when Dwight Howard was the team's big man. Still, the Magic was one of three Eastern teams to sweep the Dubs last season.
INJURY UPDATE: Center Ognjen Kuzmic (right pinkie surgery) is expected to join the team and be available. Centers Jermaine O'Neal (right wrist surgery) and Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) are out indefinitely.