WASHINGTON -- Three days after they last played, the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic will hit the replay button and the Wizards now have good reason to believe that a different outcome could be ahead.
Sure, Monday's game is at Washington, providing a boost to the Wizards automatically after Friday's 117-108 Magic victory took place in Orlando. But the Wizards immediately moved further south in Florida after the defeat to the Magic and warmed up with a 116-110 victory over the Miami Heat on Saturday that better resembled expectations.
The Wizards are just 3-9 in the early going, and only two teams -- the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns -- are worse. More needs to be done, but Saturday's victory over the Heat, when the Wizards turned in a 33-point fourth quarter, was a step in the right direction.
"It doesn't matter. The last five minutes of the game, you just got to fight through it. There's no fatigue," Wizards guard John Wall said, according to the Washington Post. "You work hard all summer ... to prepare yourself for those type of moments. I just think we did a great job defending."
Between the Wizards and Magic, only Orlando was expected to be learning lessons like this nearly one month into the season. The Magic is the rebuilding team, but they have been better than the Wizards with a 6-7 record after Sunday night's 115-89 victory over the New York Knicks.
The major lesson learned for Orlando on Friday was how to remain resolute when your opponent has all the momentum. The Magic's 25-point third-quarter lead against the Wizards was all but gone Friday, dropping to a single point with 2:30 remaining.
The Magic held tight in the end as D.J. Augustin, Terrence Ross, Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier all made key contributions. The Magic carried that flow into New York where a well-balanced attack yielded seven players with at least 17 points.
"We lost a game the other night because we didn't finish the game," Augustin told reporters afterward, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "Moving forward we know we have to [not] let up and keep fighting 'til the end. ... It's the NBA. Teams can come back. There are great players on the floor, so we just got to finish games off."
Monday's game will also give Wizards center Dwight Howard a second opportunity to defeat his former team and tag a loss on the franchise where he made his name. Howard, who had 12 points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes on Friday, played his first eight seasons in Orlando.
Instead of inside, though, the long-range game appears worth watching Monday. Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal was 4-of-9 from 3-point range Friday as the Wizards were 11-of-27 (40.7 percent) in the game.
The Magic was a much-improved 13-of-31 from deep (41.9 percent). Aaron Gordon made 3-of-4 of his 3-pointers while scoring 20 points.
"The guy whose all-around game ... Aaron Gordon ... efficient 20 points on 14 shots, defending. It's hard to take him out of the game," Magic head coach Steve Clifford said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "This is three or four games in a row we're playing like a professional well-rounded, intelligent, winning game and he did it again."