Orlando Magic established a home court, of sorts

Apr 11, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Thde Orlando Magic Dancers perform during the second half of a basketball game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. The Magic won 107-98. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Thde Orlando Magic Dancers perform during the second half of a basketball game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. The Magic won 107-98. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic finished off their play at the Amway Center with a rousing victory and with the beginning of a home-court advantage established.

89. Final. 107. 38. 98

Victor Oladipo came to center court before the game and thanked the Orlando Magic fans for their support all year. Oladipo was out with a concussion, but he did not look too much worse for the wear, besides a swollen eye from the elbow delivered to him in their last home game against Miami on Friday.

It was something of a boiler plate statement of appreciation, but it did come from the heart. The fans were #PureMagic all year:

Of course the best way to thank the fans is by putting a winning product on the floor. By giving them a reason to show up each game and each time they come through the turnstiles. This is a business after all and families and fans are making economic decisions with each ticket purchase.

That might be why there is something of a feeling of panic or desperation entering this critical offseason. The Magic have to find their way back into the postseason soon.

This year was not to be that year. Despite a 10-win improvement over last year, there is still that tinge of disappointment. Not every goal this team set was met.

One perhaps was though.

In addition to Orlando’s overall 10-win improvement, there was a 10-win improvement at home. The Magic finished their home schedule with a 23-18 record. That may have accomplished one of their goals to establish a better home-court advantage. The Magic were able to pick up a ton of wins and reliably do so on their home floor.

“It’s very important because to end this home season on a good note,” Elfrid Payton said. “The fans do a very good job supporting us. It is a sign of things to come.”

A 23-win home season is nothing to go crazy over. The Magic though finished with the most home wins since Dwight Howard left and finished with a home victory for the first time since 2012 — that lockout-shortened year with Howard already on the shelf with that back injury.

There continue to be signs the Magic are climbing out of that deep chasm and coming up for life.

The modest home record improvement, like much of the Magic’s season, was a small sign of progress but not all the way there yet.

“It was one of our goals to be a better home team and make this a difficult environment to play in,” coach Scott Skiles said. “We did for a little while. But that’s not enough if you want to be a postseason-type team or a homecourt-advantage-type team. You need to get up around 30. We weren’t able to do it.”

Orlando did not get all the way there. But the Magic’s 2016 season at Amway Center featured its highlights along with its tragedies.

There was Evan Fournier hitting a late-overtime shot over the Minnesota Timberwolves to kickstart that hot December. There was Nikola Vucevic draining a jumper to beat the buzzer over Roy Hibbert in Kobe Bryant‘s last visit to Orlando (he, of course, did not play) against the Los Angeles Lakers. Vucevic did it again with a rainbow from the corner against the Atlanta Hawks on Super Bowl Sunday. There was Victor Oladipo dropping 45 points on the Cleveland Cavaliers or dropping the moribund Chicago Bulls in a clinic. An overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks fresh off the trade.

Then, of course, there was the blown last-minute lead in the opener against the Washington Wizards. The half-court heave from Russell Westbrook that forced overtime in the collapse agains the Oklahoma City Thunder. A fourth-quarter collapse against the Miami Heat. The darkness of another home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in the middle of that January malaise.

In all, it was a fair home season with its share of exciting and memorable games. More importantly, it was a home season filled with mostly Magic wins. That counts for something in this progress, right?

Orlando did not achieve all of its goals, even while playing at the Amway Center. They had inconsistencies there just like they did elsewhere throughout the season.

In the end, the Magic won five of their final six home games. They protected home court and when they were rolling, it was because they were banking up wins at home.

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That is what good teams do. And the most important things good teams can do is protect their home floor.

The Magic closed out the Amway Center the way they wanted to, playing with the passion and energy of a team fighting for something. That thing proved to be the fans.

“We really wanted to win that one,” Evan Fournier said. “Even if we were on a back to back. They were here all season long. The crowd was really good again tonight. It’s just a good feeling. We feel good about ourselves tonight.”