Orlando Magic have to ask themselves: How far are they from the Playoffs?

Apr 10, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Chicago defeats Orlando 122- 75. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Chicago defeats Orlando 122- 75. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Coach Frank Vogel wanted the Orlando Magic to treat the past two games as their Playoffs. His team failed to measure up in two embarrassing defeats.

75. 38. Final. 122. 24

Frank Vogel met the media before the Orlando Magic took on the Indiana Pacers. There was still a glint of optimism in his eye.

The Magic had played tough against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics in the last week and were coming off a decent win over the Brooklyn Nets. Vogel praised his team’s ability to stay engaged with the process even with nothing to play for this year — and acknowledgement that the team will look different next season.

With two teams in the Pacers and Chicago Bulls fighting for the Playoffs next up on the schedule, Vogel was expecting high-intensity games and the chance for his roster to see where they were. This would be their Playoff series, he said. This would be their measuring stick for the offseason.

"“When you have a young team that misses the Playoffs, you want them to feel Playoff intensity,” Vogel told Orlando Magic Daily before Saturday’s game. “That’s what these games should feel like for our guys. That is how we should treat these games for 2017 and the spring. This is our Playoffs. We’re going to go out there and compete as it if it is Game One of a first round matchup. We’re going to play against a team with that kind of intensity. it’s a good measuring stick to see where we are at and all the habits we have kind of built to this point. I’m looking hard at these two games to measure where we are at going into the offseason.”"

It was a novel idea. Vogel had talked about maintaining the integrity of the Playoff races and playing his regular rotation for these games. He was trying to find some motivation for his team. Let this be their measuring stick and confidence booster for the offseason.

Instead. . . the Magic laid an egg on defense in both games. And suffered the worst loss in franchise history, a 47-point drubbing to the Bulls on Monday night.

In this fantasy land, the Magic got swept. And swept bad. There was not anything to take away from these two games.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Pacers beat the Magic 127-112, dominating offensively against a non-existent defense. Orlando gave up 39 points in the first quarter and merely kept pace.

There was no such luck in the 122-75 loss in Chicago on Monday. It had Vogel extremely frustrated, placing blame on himself for failing to coach his team’s defense up and expressing his disappointment in his team’s effort. The Bulls beat up and beat down the Magic in every way, abused on defense and hapless on offense.

And this is where this season has come to. The Magic are trying to find some reason to believe their future will be brighter. And those reasons are few and far between, easily slipping away every time you grab at them.

Aaron Gordon, the Magic’s best young player, has seen his scoring averages jump since moving back to power forward full time. He seems to be gaining more confidence with the ball and needs another healthy summer to grow his skills.

Elfrid Payton became a triple double machine with the extra space Terrence Ross provided as an extra shooter on the floor. It provided some belief Elfrid Payton can still be the team’s point guard for the future as an attacking, aggressive drive able to distribute and kick out with constant attacks to the paint.

But all this seems short lived too. It is hard to say what is real and what is simply noise. What can you believe in with this team?

Orlando is playing aesthetically better and both Vogel and the players will say they have played better since the All-Star Break. But the reality is Orlando is 7-16 since the All-Star Break, a .304 win percentage that is 25th in the league. That win percentage would equate to 25 wins over a full 82-game season.

The Magic can claim they are playing better and they can claim they have found a style and an identity. But the results still suggest this is a bad team earning every ping pong ball combination they get in May.

Even since the All-Star Break, the Magic have been susceptible to that embarrassing 30-point loss. The 47-point loss to the Bulls was the second time it happened since the break. And these losses, so frequent throughout the season, are the epitome of a team at its lowest. This Playoff series became rock bottom for the Magic.

It begs the ultimate and painful question the Orlando Magic will likely ask themselves this offseason: How far are the Magic from the Playoffs?

The team entered the year promising the Playoffs. Instead, the Magic are one of the worst teams in the league. The Playoff dreams were gone — or at least a long shot — fairly early in the season. The Magic fell behind and never could right the ship.

It was similar to how Monday’s game went. The Bulls blitzed the Magic early and the Magic stopped fighting to get back into it. They sort of accepted their fate.

That is all to suggest the Magic are indeed far away from the Playoffs. Much farther away than they likely want to admit. The collection of players they have does not seem to have the ability to take that next step. They could not all year long. The long-time holdovers have played their way it seems to the end of this rebuild. A rebuild that has clearly failed.

The Magic have some hope in Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, but also plenty of questions. There is no clear pecking order. And without a strong defensive identity and offensive togetherness, there is not a lot of hope of real success.

Orlando’s best hope is still resting on the right four numbers coming out of a drum in a back room at the Lottery. Chance it seems is the only way for the Magic to make any real improvement. Certainly, the Draft will play a big role in the team’s future regardless of those Lottery results.

What became clear in the Magic’s two-game “Playoff” series is they did not measure up. Not in any meaningful way.

Either there is nothing to take from these two games and it was simply a team going through the motions before the end of the season. And that says a lot in itself of a team counting the days to its summer vacation. Or the Magic and Vogel can take everything from these games and see the team is much further away than they initially believed, unable to rise to the challenge or take the punch of a team fighting for its Playoff life.

Orlando did not measure up, that is for sure. And every time the Magic needed to step up and stop the bleeding or get a win this season, they never lived up to the moment.

Next: Grades: Chicago Bulls 122, Orlando Magic 75

That is the story of the season as the Magic limp toward their uncertain future.