Orlando Magic must win the race to the seventh seed

Aaron Gordon and the Orlando Magic still have a chance to climb the standings. It is something they must do. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
Aaron Gordon and the Orlando Magic still have a chance to climb the standings. It is something they must do. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /

This is the Orlando Magic’s chance to show they have taken a step forward and have a competitive series. It is now or never for the Magic.

The expectations for the Orlando Magic going into this year were higher than simply making the playoffs.

The Magic were supposed to compete and fight for home-court advantage or aim to finish fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference. At the least, the team wanted to compete with a real chance to win their first-round playoff series.

Nearly 60 games into the season, it is clear none of that will happen. The Magic have struggled this season to make shots and they have let that affect their defense. All of that has led them to have a 24-32 record and the eighth spot in the conference, 2.5 games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh spot.

Orlando has virtually stayed in the same spot as last year. Turning their Playoff breakthrough into a seeming plateau.

The Magic might have fallen short of expectations from the beginning of this season. But there is still something to fight for. There are still gains to be had.

The Magic must now succeed in their new goal of finishing seventh.

As the season continues, the teams that can still make the playoffs have split into three groups. The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, and Indiana Pacers are locks for the playoffs as they created enough space as the one through six seeds.

Then, the seventh-seeded Nets and eighth-seeded Magic are in the second group of playoff teams as they have a slight lead on the final group. Then the final team that makes up the third tier would be the Washington Wizards, only three games behind the Orlando Magic.

The final two spots will be a three-team race between the Magic, Nets, and Wizards. The Chicago Bulls are hanging around, but like the Detroit Pistons appear to be fading in the race or looking to develop young players.

At this point, missing the playoffs would be a complete failure for the Magic. Being the ninth seed is out of the question for this team. The Magic have the third-easiest remaining schedule by opponent win percentage. It sets up for Orlando to maintain its lead over Washington.

The Wizards should not be counted out.

That ostensibly leaves the Magic and the Nets to sort themselves in the final two playoff spots. It seems like both teams are preparing for a battle — they face each other three more times this season starting with Monday’s showdown in Brooklyn.

The Nets will be without one of their key players. They announced Kyrie Irving is going to miss the rest of the season. Brooklyn is 18-17 with Irving out of the lineup this year. The Nets have had plenty of experience playing without Irving and could at least tread water.

Brooklyn plays the 18th-toughest remaining schedule with two games against both the Bucks and Celtics remaining. Not to mention one more date with the Los Angeles Lakers remaining.

This gives the Magic a better chance to leap ahead of them.

Orlando has every opportunity to finish ahead of Brooklyn. It is imperative the team do so.

The Magic must not finish eighth because they will play the Bucks and most likely get swept in a quick series. That would mean a disappointing end to a disappointing season.

The Magic would have a better chance of competing against some of the other top Eastern Conference teams in the East. Losing in a competitive series will be a good experience for the young players instead of getting swept.

More than anything, it gives them something to play for to squeeze out some growth out of what has been a tough season.

The Magic find themselves in the middle of a disappointing season, but they have a chance to somewhat save the season by winning the race to the seventh seed. This is their chance to show that they have taken a step forward and have a competitive series.

Next. Nothing is the same as last year's run for the Orlando Magic. dark

It is now or never for the Magic to show what they can do.