The 8 games we are looking forward to most on Orlando Magic’s schedule

The Orlando Magic will have to hit the ground running and find momentum quickly when the season resumes.(Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic will have to hit the ground running and find momentum quickly when the season resumes.(Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /
2 of 10
Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets
Evan Fournier has turned into two stellar games as the Orlando Magic hope they have starting to build positive momentum. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

July 31 — vs. Brooklyn Nets (2:30 p.m.)

There are a few truths that we are going to have to realize about the “bubble.”

The long layoff is going to make everything feel like the lockouts from 1999 and 2012. And while players have done their best to keep themselves in shape, it is going to take some time to get players back up to speed and back in rhythm.

Expect the basketball to be a little rough, especially in the beginning. Expect some low scores as teams figure things out.

That should theoretically give a team like the Orlando Magic a small advantage. They are 10th in the league in defensive rating, giving up 108.7 points per 100 possessions. That is something the Magic certainly could stand to improve upon.

But that is also where the re-training camp is going to be a big boost. Most coaches spend their training camp fine-tuning their defense. They can establish their team’s rules and practice rotations.

Coach Steve Clifford said coaches tend to expect defensive slippage as the year goes on. They usually need a few days to get things right.

A re-beginning to training camp could give the team the refocus it needs to find its defense.

In the first eight games this season, the Magic posted a 101.3 defensive rating (sixth in the league). That was after the team really figured out how to defend following last year’s Playoff run. The team definitely came out with that kind of focus.

Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets /

Brooklyn Nets

It is no guarantee though. The Magic struggled as they tried to grasp Clifford’s defensive concepts in the first eight games of the 2019 season — 111.0 defensive rating.

As always, eight games is an extremely small sample size. And the first couple of weeks of the season are usually random. That explains the uncertainty over these entire eight games. Predicting them is going to be nearly impossible.

Defense is going to be the only thing anyone can bet on. And so the Magic have to make sure they are sharp defensively coming out of training camp.

Their first test happens to be the most important game in the bubble.

The Orlando Magic trail the Brooklyn Nets by a half-game. And while there is a second matchup on the horizon, the winner of this opening game gets control over the 7-seed for the rest of the bubble. That advantage will be critical.

The Nets actually rank ahead of the Magic in defensive rating by a small bit. These are two teams who do not have incredible individual defenders, but they can band together and get stops. And both games to this point were very close.

The question might come down to what decided that first game. The Nets’ 3-point shooting. Brooklyn made only 10 of 47 3-pointers in that loss. Markelle Fultz scored a career-best 25 points to give the magic distance in the fourth quarter.

The Nets are a high-volume 3-point shooting team but like the Magic can struggle to score — 51.5-percent effective field goal percentage.

This game is about as close to a toss-up as it can get. And there is no stat I can come up with to predict how this one would go.

Yet, it is the most vital game of the bubble and will determine where the Nets and Magic go from there. And further complicating things is the Magic playing a rare afternoon game — and those rarely look great for teams inexperienced playing them.

The edge, for now, goes to the team with the better playmakers and scorers. That is probably still Spencer Dinwiddie, but you can coin flip this game — and probably the second one too.

Prediction. 91. 38. 93. 147