While the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic are entrenched in the seventh and eighth spots in the Eastern Conference, they are trending in opposite directions of late.
The Nets look to continue their surge while the Magic hope to start getting on a hot streak Monday night when the teams convene inBrooklyn, N.Y.
Brooklyn enters the contest with a 2 1/2-game lead over Orlando. In essence, the Nets hold the edge over the Magic in the race to avoid facing top-seeded Milwaukee in the postseason.
Brooklyn sports an 8-4 mark since losing five in a row to elite teams from Jan. 14-23.
The Nets have six wins over sub-.500 teams in this stretch and seven victories by double digits. During the last 12 games, the Nets are allowing 105.4 points.
The latest win was a 115-86 rout at Charlotte on Saturday as the Nets rebounded nicely from squandering a 20-point lead and scoring one point in overtime at Philadelphia on Thursday. Brooklyn posted its second-largest margin of victory this season by holding the Hornets to 35.2 percent shooting and outscoring Charlotte 60-41 in the second half.
Saturday was Brooklyn's second game since announcing Kyrie Irving would miss the rest of the season.
The Nets saw eight players score in double figures while shooting 48.3 percent. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scored 21 points, Caris LeVert added 17 while Garrett Temple (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Jarrett Allen (12 points, 11 rebounds) posted double-doubles.
"We played with a chip on our shoulder," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, whose team endured a stretch of 12 losses in 14 games from Dec. 26-Jan. 23.
"I think we wanted to prove something. I felt it before the game in the locker room. We feel like we can still do something special."
Orlando is ahead of ninth-place Washington and 4-11 since getting within one game of .500 on Jan. 15 when Markelle Fultz had a triple-double in a road win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Magic own one of the league's worst offenses and are averaging 103.5 points in their last 15 games.
Orlando is allowing 105.7 points, which is amongst the best scoring defenses in the league. The Magic, however, are allowing 110.8 points in the last 15 contests.
The Magic are starting a stretch where they play seven of nine on the road. They are coming off a 2-2 homestand in which they defeated Atlanta and Detroit but absorbed 16-point losses to Milwaukee and Dallas.
"It's a big game, but for us every game going forward are big ones," Orlando center Nikola Vucevic said. "But with that one (in Brooklyn), it's a head-to-head matchup, so it could be very important down the line for that (seventh) seed if we're tied."
On Friday, the Magic endured a rough night from behind the 3-point line by making only 9 of 43 attempts (20.9 percent) and shooting 39.4 percent overall in a 122-106 loss to Dallas.
The Nets are 10-2 in the past 12 home meetings with Orlando.
In the first encounter this season on Jan. 6, however, Fultz scored 25 points and Vucevic grabbed 24 rebounds in the Magic's 101-89 home win.
--Field Level Media