April 12, 2014

Because the new year hasn't been kind, the Orlando Magic are desperate to avoid falling into the losing ways that plagued them the past three seasons.

First-year coach Scott Skiles hasn't been afraid to tinker with the lineup, and Victor Oladipo could be a long-term fix at point guard regardless of Elfrid Payton's health.

The Magic look to end their longest slide of the season Friday night with their third victory in four weeks over the Brooklyn Nets, who can't buy a win at Barclays Center.

After winning 20, 23 and 25 games in the last three seasons, respectively, Orlando (19-17) seemed to have turned a corner under Skiles by going an Eastern Conference-best 13-5 from Nov. 25-Dec. 30.

The Magic, though, opened 2016 with three straight road defeats by an average of 21.0 points before falling 95-86 to Indiana in their return home Wednesday. They averaged 104.0 points on 51.0 percent shooting in a 7-2 stretch before scoring 86.3 per game during the skid.

"There's no way that we're going to go back to losing like last year. We've worked too hard for that," guard Evan Fournier, who hopes to play through an in-grown toenail, told the team's official website. "We've just got to trust each other and believe that it is going to be all right."

Skiles has responded by moving Oladipo, a reserve the last six weeks after opening the season as a starter, into the point guard role the past two games. Oladipo has played well, totaling 38 points and hitting 5 of 8 from 3-point range. He could be there to stay since Payton, who started the first 34 games, averaged 2.3 points on 25.0 percent shooting over a four-game stretch before missing the past two with an ankle injury.

Nikola Vucevic finished with 17 points Wednesday when the Magic shot 40.5 percent - including 6 for 31 from beyond the arc - and committed 17 turnovers. Tobias Harris is among those struggling to find his stroke, missing 9 of 10 from 3-point range in the last three games, and Fournier is 3 for 19 from deep during the losing streak.

Orlando hopes to get right against the team it defeated to cap its best December (10-5) since going 12-3 in 2008. Vucevic led the way with 20 points and Fournier added 17 in a 100-93 home win over the Nets on Dec. 30.

The Magic also dealt Brooklyn (10-25) a loss during its current eight-game home slide with a 105-82 victory at Barclays on Dec. 14. Vucevic had 18 points and Payton contributed 17 as Orlando shot 53.9 percent while limiting the Nets to 38.8.

Brooklyn, which has made 10 for 39 (25.6 percent) from 3-point range in the two meetings, has averaged 91 points during its worst home skid since a 14-game dive during the 2009-10 season. The club scored a season-low total in a 91-74 home loss to Toronto on Wednesday.

''We need to work through some things,'' said center Brook Lopez, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds. ''It hasn't all gone as planned.''

Lopez has been a bright spot, averaging 24.6 points and 11.6 boards in his last five games. That includes a 24-point, 15-rebound effort last week in Orlando.

Joe Johnson had five points Wednesday after totaling 41 in his previous two.

The Nets haven't lost a season series to the Magic since moving to Brooklyn in 2012-13. The teams will play one more time in Orlando on March 29.

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