Orlando closed out an impressive end to 2015 with two strong defensive showings, though the Washington Wizards might not be the right team for the Magic to try to carry the habit into the new year against.
The Southeast Division foes meet Friday night in Washington with Orlando seeking an eighth win in 10 games, but that'll require putting an end to the Wizards' 10-game winning streak in the series.
The Magic (19-13) continued their season turnaround with Wednesday's 100-93 win over Brooklyn to conclude a 3-1 homestand on which they shot 41 percent from 3-point range. The Nets shot 42.2 percent overall, and Orlando has limited its last two opponents to 8 of 40 from beyond the arc.
"Our defense was very good on the last several possessions of the game. That was the game right there," coach Scott Skiles said. "We needed multiple stops in a row. ... We didn't play very well but still came out with a win."
Nikola Vucevic had 20 points and nine rebounds, and the center has averaged 23.1 points and shot 57.7 percent over seven straight games of reaching at least 20 as his scoring gets closer to what the Magic came to expect with his career-best 19.3 points a season ago.
Elfrid Payton, who has been hampered by a sprained right ankle, started at point guard, but he played just five minutes in the first half. Shabazz Napier started the second half and Payton sat out the remainder of the game, which might have impacted their offensive flow.
"There were a lot of situations tonight when we lacked some ball movement, but luckily we were able to get it back at the end, and get baskets and stops," said Tobias Harris, who's averaged 15.6 points and shot 55.8 percent in the last five games. "We were there for each other, we were scrappy defensively."
This is the third meeting of the season, and in the first two it's been the Washington perimeter defense making the difference by holding the Magic to 9 of 44. The last, however, came back on Nov. 14 when Orlando was 5-6 and on its way to a 6-8 start before the 13-5 span that has it within a game of Atlanta for the division lead. Nevertheless, the 108-99 defeat was the Magic's eighth straight loss in Washington.
The Wizards (14-16), in last place but just five games back of the Hawks, have responded to a four-game winning streak that got them back to .500 by dropping their last two with weak offensive efforts. They averaged 108.3 points and shot 49.1 percent on the winning streak but have fallen to 91.0 and 39.7 in the last two, including Wednesday's 94-91 defeat in Toronto.
Granted, they had just nine players available and top scorer Bradley Beal has missed the last 10 games with a leg injury, but John Wall has seen the team excel in that time.
"We don't care whether we have a full team or not," said Wall, who has seven straight double-doubles but has shot 37.0 percent in his last eight. "We still feel like we should have won this game. We had an opportunity to win this game, still, without playing well for three quarters."
Otto Porter had 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting and has averaged 20.5 while shooting 61.5 percent in the consecutive losses. He's totaled 16 points on 7-of-23 shooting in the two wins over Orlando.