With Nothing At Stake, Stars Sit For Thursday's Pels/Magic Tip

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(Field Level Media) The Orlando Magic and the New Orleans Pelicans meet in their final seeding game of the NBA restart Thursday night near Orlando with depleted lineups and nothing on the line.

Both teams will have an eye toward the future.

No matter what happens, the Magic will be the No. 8 seed and face Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and the Pelicans will be going home for the offseason.

Orlando (32-40) was short-handed for a 108-96 loss to the Nets, who will be the East's seventh seed, on Tuesday.

"They put a lot more into it than we did," Magic coach Steve Clifford said. "I don't think stats are indicative at all of anything else. In the second half, we tried harder, (and) we played harder. In the first half, we just didn't put much of anything into it."

Orlando played without three of its top four scorers as Aaron Gordon (hamstring strain), Evan Fournier (non-COVID illness) and Terrence Ross (quarantine) were sidelined, as was Michael Carter-Williams (foot tendon strain). All four will again sit out on Thursday.

Even without those players available against New Orleans, the Magic will try to use the game to regain their edge before beginning their first-round playoff series against the top-seeded Bucks. Orlando has lost its last five games after a 2-0 start in the bubble.

"You have to be at the right intensity level, and we had some key guys who have to get ready who didn't do that," Clifford said. "You can't waste days. We didn't get much out of this game other than some conditioning."

Markelle Fultz and Wes Iwundu scored 18 points each to lead Orlando against the Nets, Nikola Vucevic had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and James Ennis and Khem Birch scored 12 points each.

The Pelicans (30-41) also were short-handed in their last game and will be again.

They were eliminated from contention for the play-in when they lost to San Antonio on Sunday and Portland beat Philadelphia a few hours later.

With Tuesday's game against the Kings holding no playoff implications, New Orleans sat starters Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors as well as top reserve JJ Redick.

In their absence, Jahlil Okafor scored 21 points, Frank Jackson scored 18, Lonzo Ball had 16 and E'Twaun Moore had 14, but they came up short.

"I was really excited about getting the opportunity to play," Okafor said. "We knew that we were going to have a lot of guys out. The guys that were available to play, we just all wanted to come out and play hard. I was very excited to get on the court."

New Orleans is 2-5 in the restart and presumably will give its younger players more opportunities against the Magic, with Williamson, Ingram and Holiday all ruled out and Josh Hart questionable.

"I thought that they played with great effort," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said of the younger players. "I thought everybody that went in there had their moments and did a good job."

The Pelicans overhauled their roster before the season, and four of their five leading scorers are in their first season with the organization.

"It was adventurous for sure," Holiday said of the COVID-19-interrupted season. "All in all, I feel like we ended up being in a position to make the playoffs, which was one of our goals.

"We have some young guys, some old guys, but it's really the first year that we all played together. The future looks bright. If we can keep this team together, that would be a benefit for us."

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