The Orlando Magic are streaking at just the right time for playoff push

Aaron Gordon showed how well-rounded his game was in 2019. The Orlando Magic will need more in 2020. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
Aaron Gordon showed how well-rounded his game was in 2019. The Orlando Magic will need more in 2020. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /
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The Orlando Magic win against the New York Knicks put them back in the Playoff picture, now the team must finish these last three games strong to continue their success. 

The streak is real.

The Orlando Magic have won more games in their last 10-game stretch than the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Magic are 8-2 in their last 10 games. Only the Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and LA Clippers have such winning streaks. The Utah Jazz are in a class of their own right now winning nine of their last 10.  But they are the only team that has a better 10-game streak than the Magic.

No matter how you compare the Magic’s run in the last 10 games, this is the time of year to put together a streak like this.

This is highly impressive and could not be predicted — even with a relatively tame five-game homestand to start the streak.  Before this streak, the Magic were 31-38, and 1.5 games out of the Playoff picture. It looked like Orlando would fade and a 4-1 homestand seemed to be necessary to keep pace.

The Orlando Magic did one better, sweeping their five-game homestand and then defeating the Miami Heat on the road to take the tiebreaker and a temporary hold of the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot.

In the last 10 games, Orlando has a +7.9 net rating (seventh in the league). The team’s 105.4 defensive rating is seventh in the league.

The Magic have gotten around with some close victories and some weaker competition. But taking advantage of that part of the schedule deserves merit. At this time of year, winning is all that matters.

A lot of credit needs to go to coach Steve Clifford and his coaching staff for allowing Evan Fournier to feel more and more comfortable by running the offense through him and his All-Star running mate, Nikola Vucevic. The two clearly are better playing off of each other and complement each others game.

If this streak continues then Nikola Vucevic deserves more credit in the league as a player who can lead a team to the Playoffs. This has been the knock on him since he has been with the Magic. Vucevic is averaging 21.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game in the last 10. His 3-point shot has left him — shooting just 25.8 percent — but he has not dwelled on that, going into the post more and more.

Evan Fournier has stepped up the past few games.

He was the leading scorer in the loss against the Raptors but has shown that he can be a decent number two option on a Playoff team at times. He is averaging 16.7 points per game in the last 10 games, including 49.3 percent from the floor. His 34.0 percent 3-point shooting is in line with his below-average season average, but he is taking the ball inside more and scoring more. His assists are up 4.0 per game in the last 10 games.

This is exactly what Vucevic needs from him and the supporting cast. A varied game that can spread the floor and dart into lanes created as the defense focuses on stopping Vucevic in the post.

Terrence Ross’ contribution cannot be minimized — 14.2 points per game, 40.0 percent 3-point shooting.

Although he is inconsistent at times, there are nights when Terrence Ross completely turns a game around. Against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, Ross played fewer minutes than any starter but was the second leading scorer with 23 points. His nine-point outburst in the final minute of the third quarter turned a two-point game into an 11-point game and was the cushion the Magic needed, energizing the Amway Center in the process.

Ross should be in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, along with Lou Williams, Serge Ibaka and Eric Gordon.

But more importantly is the continued development of Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, two players who figure to be part of the team’s long-term plans as they continue to grow and mature.

The two are averaging 26.1 points per game between the two of them with Aaron Gordon posting 16.2 points per game on 45.7 percent 3-point shooting in his last 10 games. Adding in 6.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game have shown how much his game continues to grow. And how he has stepped up at this late stage of the season.

The Magic will need all of this to keep this streak alive.

The Orlando Magic have the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and the Charlotte Hornets left on the schedule. The team is capable of winning all three games, but will probably go 2-1 in their last three. That should be enough to make the playoffs.

But with just a half-game lead over the Miami Heat — and the potential of losing a tiebreaker with the Brooklyn Nets — every game is important. Nothing should be taken for granted.

But even that is impressive in itself, it shows that the Magic know they have to play their best for the remainder of the year no matter who they play.

Although they came out slow against the Knicks, something clicked with the players and they knew their season was on the line.

Vucevic started dominating the paint and Ross started raining threes. That is what the playoffs are all about, playing meaningful basketball while knowing your season is on the line.

The Magic know they are playing for something, something they have dreamed about as kids, a chance to play in the NBA Playoffs. The only players who experienced playoff minutes on the roster are D.J. Augustin and Terrence Ross.

dark. Next. Orlando Magic know they have to get back to defense

Orlando is playing confident basketball, even when the team falters in these last 10. And that has put the Magic in the exact position they want and need to be in to achieve their playoff goals.