The Magic are back from their last big road trip and do not leave Florida for the rest of the season. Only four games remain and Orlando is not leaving the state of Florida for the rest of the season. The Magic will play three more games at home, a welcome respite from the nine-day, five-game road trip the team just completed.
For a team that has won just 19 games this year, any advantage they can get is a good one. For young teams, typically being at home is a bonus. The comforts of home usually mean better play. In fact, that is the case for the Magic with more home wins than road wins.
The Magic though have only 11 home wins. That would be their lowest mark since the 2003-04 season when the Magic also won 11 home games in a 21-61 disaster of a season. Even in those early expansion years, the Magic were a tough team to beat at home. Orlando simply has not been that way and a failure to defeat Milwaukee, Boston or Chicago in the next three games will leave the team tied for its worst home record in franchise history.
That is a tough pill to swallow. Especially considering how much fans have supported the team this year — 15th in attendance according to Basketball-Reference which is pretty good for the second worst team in the league.
In two recent home wins — against Philadelphia on March 10 and against Washignton on Washington 29 — the team has pointed out how important it is to win at home and give something back to the fans in the form of a win.
"It was very important [ to play well at home]," Jacque Vaughn said after the win over the 76ers. "I have made that point to the guys and said it again at our shootaround today. The fans have been unbelievable, staying to the end of games and cheering. It was good to give them a win. They deserve it. We appreciate that they are hear. I have been stressing that to the guys."
Saying it and actually doing it is obviously a different task.
Even in those down years, Orlando had some memorable moments at home — Tracy McGrady's 62-point game, Otis Smith's game-winner against the Bulls and so on. This year, the Magic's 11 home wins have been relatively nondescript. Winning the first two games over Denver and Phoenix might have been the high point. It was a strong statement to start the season.
However, after that, what big wins did the Magic have at Amway Center? Defeating Golden State in December to complete a season sweep of the Playoff-bound Warriors? A blowout win over the Pacers? There are not too many "memorable moments" at home.
There were plenty of close calls. The Magic nearly defeated the Heat, taking them to overtime on New Years' Eve. Dwight Howard's return was an emotionally charged night but ultimately a loss and a record-setting performance for Howard from the foul line, in an ugly game devoid of rhythm.
But all the Magic's big wins came in one of those eight road games — the wins at Los Angeles, for instance. A lot of the action for the Magic has happened away from home.
"It means a lot [to win at home]," Nikola Vucevic said in early March. "They’ve been great to us supporting us. It hasn’t been an easy year for us or for them. We played hard and we try to give them that every night. It was nice to get a win. We had a couple of tough losses the last couple games at home and they deserve this win as well."
There is a desire to treat the Amway Center crowd, it just has not happened.
Orlando has gone through some nast home losing streaks this year. Orlando won seven of those 11 home games by Dec. 19 — that fateful day that Glen Davis got hurt and the season turned south. Since then, the Magic are 4-21 at home with losing streaks of six, five and seven-game home losing streaks this year.
There are only three more home games left to leave a memory of this team for the home crowd. One last chance to be the sixth man and help the Magic earn another win.
"These fans, I think, are the best fans in the NBA," Tobias Harris said following the win over Washington. "They really energized us out there and it was like the sixth man to our game tonight."