5 questions the Orlando Magic must answer in final quarter of the season

The Orlando Magic are struggling to get their swagger back as the playoff race tightens. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic are struggling to get their swagger back as the playoff race tightens. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets
The Orlando Magic got a rousing come-from-behind performance from Terrence Ross for a game that re-established their swagger. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Will the Orlando Magic rally to finish seventh?

Undoubtedly everything with the Orlando Magic through the end of the season is all about the playoffs. Making the playoffs — the magic number stands at 16 Orlando Magic wins or 16 Washington Wizards losses — is the only thing that matters to this team.

Making the postseason this season was always the main goal. It was the thing necessary to avoid calling the season a failure.

But certainly, it is not sufficient to call the season a success. Climbing to seventh would provide some mild solace. The results this year will prompt some seriously big questions for the front office this season.

But for the final 20 games, the Magic will be aiming to play their way into the playoffs and enter the fray on a high note. Coach Steve Clifford’s goal has always been to have the team peaking at the end of the season and improving as the year has gone on. That has not been the case this year with a 7-14 record in the last 21 games.

The Magic have not been able to get much traction and .500 is still a long way off. But the team still has something to fight for to improve its playoff position. They can still finish seventh. In fact, they remain the favorites to finish seventh despite trailing the Brooklyn Nets by a half.

The two teams still meet each other twice more this season (March 23 and March 27). And by the end of March, the magic will know just how good those chances will be.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

After Orlando returns from this four-game road trip, the team plays eight of its next 10 games at home and nine of its next 10 games against teams with losing records (the Indiana Pacers being the only team with a winning record that comes to the Amway Center).

When everyone said the Magic had one of the easiest schedules remaining in the league, this is the stretch that created it. This should be a chance for Orlando to bank up some wins and gain some distance.

Take the Nets’ upcoming schedule: They go on a West Coast road trip starting March 10 that features games against the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers. The Clippers actually make their trip to Brooklyn a week later.

The Nets too will have a home-heavy March after they get back from that trip, but finish the year four of their final five on the road, closing the season at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

To say the least, the next three weeks will determine the race for seventh — and probably how much distance both can put on the ninth-place team. Orlando’s schedule will work in its favor even with Brooklyn at home. And those head-to-head matchups are huge.

In other words, Orlando still controls a lot of its fate. And March is going to determine just where the team stands.