Orlando Magic looking for their place in the Eastern Conference 10 games in

Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross (31) tries to shoot past Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross (31) tries to shoot past Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic did not measure up to the Boston Celtics in their first big conference matchup this season. But 10 games in, the Magic have made a stand.

88. 38. 104. 18. Final

There was a bit of buzz about Sunday’s game against the Boston Celtics. Half-jokingly, it was a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview between two teams that had gotten off to a hot start this season. And unexpectedly so, although for different reasons.

Regardless of what the preseason predictions may have said, this was a measuring stick game for the Orlando Magic. It might have been even if the Magic had not gotten off to that sterling 6-2 start. And certainly, Orlando wanted to prove itself all over again after the loss Friday to the Chicago Bulls.

It is too early to make any definitive conclusions about this Magic team. It is just 10 games into the season.

There is no such thing as a must-win game. And the Magic agreed, holding out Elfrid Payton one more game to get him a few extra days of rest and practice before throwing him back into the fire. There was no urgency to win this game or make a statement.

The Magic are still trying to find their way each and every game to establish their identity.

Besides, without a point guard, the Magic were hardly their full selves. Like against the Bulls on Friday, the Magic lacked a necessary rhythm against the Celtics. That is to say, Orlando will play a lot better just by adding back some of their key absences.

Still, the Celtics have zoomed ahead to first place in the Eastern Conference. It seems like that is where they will stay for the majority of this season. Their defense looks legitimately one of the best in the league. They play with an authority and confidence. Not to mention a fair bit of determination and healthy urgency and desperation.

Boston knows it is a good team. The Celtics play like it even when Kyrie Irving shoots 4 for 13 from the floor. They rely on their defense to give them a chance. And they deliver.

The Magic are not there yet. They have an offensive identity but are still piecing everything together.

In the game against Boston, Orlando did not quite measure up with that team. Not completely.

And now that the season turns ever forward, the question to ask is: Where do the Orlando Magic fit in the Eastern Conference? And then, how much of this fast start should we believe.

Sunday, the Magic had a hard time cracking the Celtics defense consistently. They fell behind early in the second quarter and never seemed to come back. Every time they cut the lead down to four or six points, the Celtics burned off a run, using the Magic’s frustration to fuel quick spurts and grow their lead out.

Eventually, the Magic cracked. They forced 3-pointers and tried to get themselves back in the game but could not get into it.

The Celtics showed the Magic are not quite in their weight class. No, Orlando is not going to win the Eastern Conference this year. Not likely, at least.

And it seems even more unlikely they will remain among the top teams in the Eastern Conference either. The 6-4 start is still very good. But the Magic are not in that tier of teams fighting for the top spots int he Eastern Conference. They are a team still trying to discover their identity and learn how to win. It was not all going to happen at once.

Does that mean the Magic are about to fall apart (again) and fall out of the Playoff race completely? Not likely.

Through 10 games, fairly significant amount of games although not enough to normalize anything, the Magic have had more good than bad. There are flaws and anomalies — particularly with the team’s outside shooting — but the team has scored some nice wins.

It is safe to say Orlando has established itself well to start this season and have raised expectations. It is hard to say after this start that this team should not expect to make the Playoffs. They have done enough and played well enough to create a new normal and a new baseline.

The Magic should not consider anything less than the Playoffs as a success this season after 10 games.

But where they fall in that Playoff stratosphere is still a huge question.

Is this team the 6-4 team that is sitting third in the Eastern Conference right now? Is this a team that will fall closer to .500 and scratch to make the Playoffs?

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Maybe it is too early to worry about these kinds of identity crises. The standings will work themselves out. Orlando has to worry about itself and regaining its rhythm. The team is not good enough to show up and beat anybody. Orlando has to play together and execute on both ends.

When they do, they have shown they can do so to devastating effect. When they do not, they have shown they can still give themselves a chance to win. They just need that last piece to clip into place.

That is the piece that has not fully formed yet. The Magic still have a lot of season to figure that out. They still have the ability to put themselves in that top tier of the Eastern Conference. The chance to test themselves will come again.

But the Magic in this early season have put themselves squarely in the Eastern Conference conversation. Even the loss to the Celtics showed they can compete with these teams. Their ability to finish the job against an elite team playing well may not quite be there.

Where does this leave the Magic?

At the 10-game mark, it leaves the Magic squarely in the Playoff conversation. That is at least a start.

Next: Grades: Boston Celtics 104, Orlando Magic 88

Beyond that? The Orlando Magic still have a lot to prove.