Maybe the Orlando Magic have been looking ahead to the postseason. Even so, their prospects of doing well once they get there are looking much less favorable.
Expected to be missing both starting forwards due to injury, the Magic hope to avoid a third straight loss to an inferior opponent when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night.
"I don't know what to call this," Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard said of the team's play. "I just know we have to get out of it soon or we are going to be in trouble come playoff time. We have to do something about this."
The Magic have followed a 12-2 March with a 3-4 April, ending their hopes of catching Boston for second in the Eastern Conference and locking themselves into the No. 3 seed. Orlando (58-22) certainly hasn't been building any momentum as the postseason approaches, and now health has become an issue.
Hedo Turkoglu put a scare into Magic fans Saturday night when he crumpled to the floor in a 103-93 loss at New Jersey and had to be helped off the court. The injury was diagnosed as a sprained left ankle, but the team hopes he won't miss any playoff games though he's unlikely to play Monday.
Also expected to sit out this matchup is Rashard Lewis, who was rested Saturday by coach Stan Van Gundy due to knee tendinitis. Lewis is the team's second-leading scorer with 17.7 points per game and Turkoglu is next with 16.8 per contest.
Both were healthy Thursday when Orlando lost 105-95 to a visiting New York Knicks team which had dropped 12 of 14. The Magic had another poor game defensively Saturday, allowing a Nets club missing All-Star Devin Harris to shoot 54.3 percent from the field.
Orlando had given up an average of 88.8 points in its previous eight games before losing the last two.
"The biggest thing is the defense," Howard said. "We're not helping and when we do, the next man isn't there. We got to get it going before the playoffs start."
If the Magic do that, Howard will only play a limited role. He was used for 26 minutes Saturday -- about 10 below his season average -- and had his second-lowest point total of the season with seven. Van Gundy plans to keep cutting his playing time in the final two games.
After losing its last two against East teams which will miss the postseason, Orlando faces two more this week with a home game versus Charlotte on Wednesday after playing Milwaukee (33-47).
The Bucks were very much in the playoff race last month, but they've gone 4-14 since the start of March to drop into a tie with New Jersey for 11th in the East.
Milwaukee snapped a four-game losing streak with a 115-98 win over Oklahoma City on Saturday night as Richard Jefferson tied a season high with 35 points.
"We're trying to finish the season out strong on a positive note," Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva said. "We're playing to win every game. We're not playing for the lottery, lottery balls, or anything like that."
The Magic have won the last four meetings and seven of eight, and they now look to sweep this season series for the first time since 1994-95. The Bucks lost by a combined 42 points in the last two matchups while Jefferson was held to 13 points in each, shooting 9-of-34 from the field.