Before the season’s suspension, the Magic were looking to replicate last season’s run

Before the season was suspended, the Orlando Magic were picking up some serious steam for another late-season push. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
Before the season was suspended, the Orlando Magic were picking up some serious steam for another late-season push. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic were chasing last year’s finish and appeared on track to reach that level again. Now they have to wait through the league’s suspension.

The NBA announced Wednesday it would be suspending its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and the coronavirus.

On Thursday morning, it was also announced another Jazz star, Donovan Mitchell, also contracted the virus. The NBA took a serious stance by suspending the season indefinitely for the safety of all its players.

The Orlando Magic used the same plane the Utah Jazz took to Oklahoma City to return to Orlando from Memphis on Tuesday. But Magic officials say DELTA used an FAA-approved decontaminant to clean the plane before the Magic boarded, as is standard for their planes. Health officials told the Magic there was no risk for contamination.

That provided some sigh of relief. But the league is officially on hiatus for the time being — at a minimum for two weeks, it appears.

Basketball is a secondary concern at this point. The league and the Magic are more concerned with public health and safety.

Eventually, we will get back to the games. But that is far into the future.

When the team can get back on the court, they may certainly view this delay as unwelcome news. Something was clicking for the Magic up until this news.

Something clicking

Sure, there were hiccups along the way and some rough spots to navigate. But the team had started to find its footing and pick up steam with the playoffs on the horizon.

This was not a repeat of the 2019 season. Not quite yet. But the team was gathering momentum for a playoff push.

As the season hits this suspension, the Orlando Magic sit one-half game behind the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference after winning three out of four games on their recent road trip.

Since the All-Star Break, the Magic have the best offensive rating in the league, scoring 117.8 points per 100 possessions. In the last four games, they scored 122.4 points per 100 possessions with a +9.3 net rating.

The spark since the break is thanks to contributions from Terrence Ross ( a team-leading 24 points against the Memphis Grizzles) and D.J. Augustin (a team-leading 24 points against the Houston Rockets) in recent games.

It was quite a turnaround not only for the Magic’s offense but for these two players in particular.

These players were contributors in both of the previous two late-season pushes as Terrence Ross shot an impressive 38.3 percent from three last season in a push for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. In his last 10 games, he has shot 50.6 percent from the 3-point line and averaged 22.2 points per game.

Ross has been a big catalyst for the offense’s resurgence since the All-Star Break and he was a difference-maker last year as well. If he can keep it up, the team could find themselves in the same situation they were in last year in the seventh seed, if not better.

Magic fans will forever know D.J. Augustin for his game-winning shot during Game 1 of the 2019 Playoffs against the Toronto Raptors. But if it was not for his performance during the regular season, the Magic would have never gotten there.

He struggled this year. But the Magic have kept the faith in him. Since his return to the lineup after injury this season, the Magic have made a great return to offensive form.

Augustin showed a great shooting stroke in 2019 making 42.1-percent of his three-point attempts while dishing out 5.3 assists per game. He was also a double-digit scorer at 11.7 points per game and hasn’t stopped this season as he is averaging 10.4 points per game.

Augustin was just returning to form since his getting back from bone irritation in his left knee.

Picking up the pace

Other players have certainly started pulling their weight and returning to their levels from last season too.

Another huge pickup late last season was Michael Carter-Williams. He ended up playing 12 games at the end of the season for the team, averaging 10.3 points per game with 4.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while contributing excellent defense. Michael Carter-Williams was a difference-maker for the team down the stretch and helped the team finish 10-2 in their 12 games last season.

He has proven a vital player for the Magic this season as a defensive pest and as someone who changes the game with his energy. Carter-Williams finished the game against the Grizzlies on Tuesday simply because of that energy. With Evan Fournier out for the time being (and Fournier might be cleared to play by the time the NBA resumes its season), Michael Carter-Williams could well help the Magic finish games.

He has averaged 9.6 points per game on 49.2-percent shooting since the All-Star Break, including averaging 15.8 points per game in his last four games.

Aaron Gordon too was starting to turn things around.

He was having a very hot stretch averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game recently. But in his last 10 games, he has hit a bit of a slide, seeing his 3-point percentage over his last 10 decline to a disappointing 31.4 percent.

Despite the poor shooting, Aaron Gordon was still making major contributions. He was averaging 16.4 points per game in his last 10 outings with 9.1 rebounds and an astounding 7.0 assists per game. Even if his outside shot was not falling, Gordon found a way to make a positive impact on the game.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Once play resumes, in whatever form it does, the Magic will need Gordon to keep up this stellar play.

They will also need Nikola Vucevic to return closer to his 2019 levels.

Last year, he had a transcendent season, averaging 20.8 and 12.0 rebounds per game, establishing himself as a rightful star across the league. This year he is not scoring quite as much at 19.5 points per game, but his rebounding is still there at 11.0 boards per game.

In his 10 games (since the All-Star Break), he is averaging 21.8 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 52.0 percent from the floor. This is more in line with his All-Star numbers from last year.

He is going to have to be a threat down the stretch if this team is going to want to be where they want to be.

Rest and recover?

If there is a bright spot to the break, it is that it might give some injured Magic players the chance to get healthy again.

Evan Fournier said he was making progress recovering from a sprained ligament in his elbow. The break should give him the time to rest and get healthy for the rest of the games the Magic will play.

It might also give time for players like Al-Farouq Aminu and Jonathan Isaac the chance to return too. It is not clear how far either is in their progression and recovery from injury. Both were traveling with the team on the latest road trip. And the Magic are likely to remain extremely cautious with both players’ recovery.

Last year, Jonathan Isaac proved to be a huge defensive presence for the team and a reliable 3-point shooter. He had not come into his own the way the team had seen him at the beginning of this year when he was averaging 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per game with 12 points per game to go along with it.

The Magic sorely miss his presence on the floor.

Uncertain momentum

Despite that absence, the Magic certainly had to feel they were picking up steam with the schedule in front of them and the way they were playing. That goes on hold now.

It is not clear what the NBA will look like when it resumes. The league could shift its schedule and complete the remaining games, finish whatever games are remaining as currently scheduled when the league resumes or simply cancel the rest of the regular season and go straight to the playoffs (which would qualify the Magic as the 8-seed).

Those decisions will come in the next few weeks as the league navigates the coronavirus outbreak.

Next. Orlando Magic have made progress amid playoff battle. dark

The Magic though certainly had to feel like they were gearing up to make another run like they did last year. And they have to hope they can maintain some rhythm and some momentum when they get back to work.