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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Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee bucks, Gary Clark, Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic slowed down Giannis Antetokounmpo, but could not slow down the Milwaukee Bucks. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

Can the Orlando Magic win a playoff game and beat a quality opponent?

Last year’s Orlando Magic run to the playoffs was exhilarating because of the limitless possibilities it seemed to portend.

The Orlando Magic defeated the Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics all on the road to the finish. The team had supreme confidence in itself. It felt like it could beat anybody. And they did beat anybody.

Then in Game 1 of the Playoffs, facing the pressure of the postseason for the first time, they played with no fear again and stunned the eventual champion Raptors again. Orlando got its dose of reality the rest of that series, but it felt like the team could count on a future that would stand up to anyone.

The frustration of this season has been that the team does not have the same spark of possibility.

The Orlando Magic are just 5-26 against teams with winning records this season — two wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and wins over the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies, who are 31-31.

That is not a good track record.

Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks /

Milwaukee Bucks

Coach Steve Clifford has said it straight out that Orlando has played a style that might be good enough to pick the bones — or survive — against struggling teams, but in no way is good enough to defeat teams that give the Magic little margin for error.

In fact, he scoffed at the notion of a moral victory after the Magic put in a solid effort in Wednesday’s loss to the Heat. Results matter. And right now Orlando has the third-fewest wins in the Eastern Conference over teams with winning records.

The Magic simply have not beaten teams that are playoff-bound teams.

No doubt, beating the “bad” teams is a hallmark of good teams. They have to take care of business and Orlando’s 22-9 record is solid at the seventh-most in the Eastern Conference. A better record against “winning” teams would put the Magic in a much different situation.

But these games against playoff teams are where the Magic’s flaws are most exposed. And, ultimately, these are the games that matter.

If there are games that show just how strong the Magic’s foundation is, it is the games against the worst of the league where they take care of business. If there are games that show just how far the Magic have to go, it is these important games against winning teams.

And really, those are the teams Orlando has to beat to advance in the playoffs.