If the Orlando Magic are going to make a deep postseason run, they’ll have to do so without Dwight Howard.
Simply qualifying for the playoffs is the first step for the Utah Jazz.
Orlando will play its first game since receiving the news that Howard won’t play again until next season when it visits Utah on Saturday night.
Howard’s bad back requires surgery that will keep him out of the lineup through the postseason and this summer’s Olympics, meaning Orlando (36-26) must continue pushing forward without its superstar.
The Magic fell to 3-5 without Howard after a 102-98 loss to Boston on Wednesday. Glen Davis scored 27 points and Jameer Nelson added 21 for Orlando, which also has played the last seven without Hedo Turkoglu after he had surgery to repair three facial fractures.
The Magic, sixth in the Eastern Conference with a playoff berth clinched, play three of their final four regular-season games on the road.
Coach Stan Van Gundy said the team is rallying around each other down the stretch.
“What we’re saying right now is that this is our team in the regular season and in the playoffs,” Van Gundy told the team’s official website. “This is the team that we have and we have to do the things that allow this team to play well. It’s made us have to make some changes and made us strong but our group has been focused on making the adjustments we have to make to be good together.”
Davis, averaging 18.2 points and 9.9 rebounds in nine games since becoming a starter, said the effort was there Wednesday despite falling behind by as many as 13 points.
“There’s been multiple games where we’ve been down and we just went away,” Davis said. “I like how we fought today but, at the end of the day, we need to win the game.”
Victories are much more important for Utah during the stretch run.
The Jazz (33-30) are tied with Phoenix for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, and they’ll host the Suns on Tuesday.
Utah is coming off back-to-back victories, beating Dallas in triple-overtime on Monday before a 112-91 victory at Portland on Wednesday. The starting backcourt of Devin Harris and Gordon Hayward combined for 97 points and 18 3-pointers in those wins.
“We feel great. We’re in the mix,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We’re just going to continue to take care of our business. We can’t afford to watch and see what anybody else is doing. We’ve got to make sure we win our games and whatever happens from there on happens.”
Utah will play its remaining three games at home, where it is 10-2 since the All-Star break with the only losses coming by a combined three points. Only one of its eight home defeats this season was by more than five points.
“We’ve got three games at home where we play well,” said Harris, averaging 25.3 points in his last three home games. “We’ve put ourselves in a nice position but we’ve still got to go out and play the games.”
The Jazz have won 11 of the last 15 home meetings with the Magic. These teams haven’t met since Orlando’s 117-105 loss in Utah on Dec. 10, 2010.
Hayward had 23 points and shot 8 for 11 from the field Wednesday, and he’s averaging 20.2 points while shooting 63.6 percent from 3-point range over his last five games.