This was the week for the Orlando Magic to prove themselves worthy

The Orlando Magic were supposed to play the Brooklyn Nets twice this week and determine seventh in the East. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic were supposed to play the Brooklyn Nets twice this week and determine seventh in the East. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic were supposed to have the biggest week of their season with two games against the Brooklyn Nets to decide seventh in the East.

Nobody was completely satisfied with where the Orlando Magic sat in the standings as the season went on hiatus. A 30-35 record meant the team had to go on an 11-6 tear just to get back to .500. That did not seem likely, even with a favorable schedule.

In real terms, the Orlando Magic were one-half game back of the Brooklyn Nets for seventh in the Eastern Conference. Making the playoffs and positioning within the postseason are independent of a team’s record.

Last year, seventh in the Eastern Conference required 42 wins. This year, it probably was not going to need that much.

So yes, the Magic are a disappointment in that way. Their record was not likely to meet last year’s mark. That feels like a regression. And the team will have to address that.

But in the heat of the season, meeting that mark is less important than beating and climbing over the teams above you in the standings. The pace was different, but the race remained.

And the Magic were very much in the race. You could argue they controlled the race for seventh, competing for something to the end of the season.

Without the hiatus, this week would have been the week to determine the winner of that race. The Magic were scheduled to play the biggest games of their season Monday and Friday against the Nets.

When a team is at the bottom of the standings fighting for their playoff spot, every game takes on added importance. Every game feels like a playoff game. They virtually are playoff games. There is no time to breathe.

But the games against your direct competition always take on more importance. And the games against the Nets this week very easily could have determined who ultimately won.

Big games last year were what propelled the Magic to their playoff spot.

The biggest one was inarguably the Orlando Magic’s 104-99 win over the Miami Heat on March 26, 2019. The Magic entered that game trailing the eighth-place Heat by a half-game for the final playoff spot. After that rousing win, Orlando had the season series over Miami and the inside track to the playoffs. The team was in playoff position and would never let go of that spot the rest of the way.

The Magic would win five of their final seven games, including their final four games to finish tied for sixth — with the Nets — ultimately finishing seventh on the tiebreaker.

Orlando was probably just happy to be back in the playoffs last year. The fact the Nets, who won two games against the Magic in the dying seconds to win that series 2-1 in the regular season, probably did not mean much to them. Even as the eventual champion Toronto Raptors stormed past them in five games.

Before the season went on hiatus, the Magic were playing some of their best basketball of the season. They had the best offense in the league since the All-Star Break — 117.8 points per 100 possessions in 10 games since the break — and had won eight of their past 12 games.

Even Orlando’s defense was starting to get back into shape. The Magic were playing with urgency as if their playoff lives really mattered.

With three fairly winnable games before Monday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets — the 22-43 Chicago Bulls, 23-42 Charlotte Hornets and the suddenly surging 28-36 Sacramento Kings — the Orlando Magic could have continued that roll into this critical matchup.

The Brooklyn Nets would have been just coming home from a West Coast trip, a trip where they had previously beaten the Los Angeles Lakers. They were very much on a roll too.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

This would have been a big battle. A true test of the Magic’s playoff mettle.

Just one win in these two games would have delivered the Magic the season series victory and that all-important tiebreaker. To get there, the Magic would have had to split these games and stay ahead of the Nets in the race. Orlando’s schedule to end the race was a tough one.

The Orlando Magic needed to pick up wins at the end of the week as they went through a four-game homestand that would have started Wednesday against a tough Indiana Pacers team and included Friday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.

To be sure, including the two games against the Nets, this week was supposed to determine the Magic’s playoff fate. They could have clearly solidified their place as seventh, fallen to eighth or cemented a neck-and-neck race for the rest of the season.

Orlando’s schedule was catching up to it this week. The team’s urgency and attention would have to be heightened at this moment to get to the finish line. But they were proving themselves more than capable.

Perhaps the NBA will resume its schedule and we will get to see these games and get this moment of clarity down the road.

Today was supposed to be the biggest game of the season — followed by Friday also being the biggest game of the season, certainly the biggest home game of the season. This was the week players, fans and everyone else lives for.

The pressure was supposed to be ramped up to its maximum. This was supposed to be the Magic’s playoff moment.

Orlando has proven itself a playoff team in this landscape despite the disappointing play throughout this season. The Magic had a chance to cement that legacy this week.

Next. Orlando Magic replays give comfort in difficult times. dark

I guess we will have to wait and see if they get that chance again.