The Orlando Magic need to come out like a team with something to prove when the games resume and go on a winning streak as they continue to practice inside of the NBA bubble.
We are heading into uncharted territory. That is what coach Steve Clifford keeps repeating as everyone tries to get some idea of where the team is at, how they look and how close they are to resembling something like regular-season basketball shape.
The Orlando Magic are officially gearing up for a return inside the NBA’s Disney campus, shielded from the coronavirus and pandemic to finish the season.
The Magic have a clear focus as they look forward to playing games again.
They sit at 30-35, one-half game behind the Brooklyn Nets for seventh and precariously 1.5 games ahead of the Washington Wizards to avoid a play-in series. The Magic are keenly aware they are in playoff position, but that can quickly disappear.
The Magic want to return to the Playoffs for a second straight year. And they want to get a second chance to build upon last year’s debut appearance for most of their players.
To do so the Magic will need to go on a winning streak of sorts. They will need to start off hot to get the most out of this NBA bubble experience. After all, the Orlando Magic have sort-of a homecourt advantage against the teams like Brooklyn Nets or the Indiana Pacers.
That homecourt advantage may not mean a whole lot. But the opportunity is undoubtedly there if the Magic can pick up where they left off.
The Magic were 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are probably regretting a few of those losses too. They should have won in that same span against teams like the San Antonio Spurs — blowing a late lead and losing on a missed Evan Fournier layup at the buzzer — and the Miami Heat — where they used a spirited rally but fell short on a missed Aaron Gordon three at the buzzer.
The Magic lost three straight games before winning three straight games on the road against Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Orlando will have to be able to consistently beat the teams that they are supposed to beat to find success inside the bubble.
The Magic were a solid 25-9 against teams with records worse than .500 this season. There are some bad losses in there — one to the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons and two to the Atlanta Hawks — but the Magic have largely handled the teams they are even with in the standings.
Off the bat, the Magic will face these very teams.
The Orlando Magic take on the 30-34 Brooklyn Nets and the 28-36 Sacramento Kings in their first two games. The Magic will need to be prepared to play right off the bat then and take advantage of these games.
Clifford said these eight games are the most important games on the schedule for the team as they battle for playoff positioning. No game might be important than that opener with the Brooklyn Nets, a game that will give the winner control over that 7-seed and avoiding the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.
The Orlando Magic face a difficult middle of their schedule before closing the seeding round with the Brooklyn Nets (again) and the 28-36 New Orleans Pelicans.
These games are not easy by any means. But this is the exact opportunity the team wants to have. And it will require they start off hot to build some momentum.
The Magic’s record against teams with winning records? A struggling 5-26, the fewest wins against teams with records better than .500 of any team in the Disney campus.
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Trying to predict what the Magic will do is extremely difficult. And it is not just because nobody is certain what basketball will look like.
The team does not have a safety valve without a superstar on the roster. The team is going to have to be sharp as an entire unit to find success the rest of this season and set themselves up for the playoffs.
The Magic still have a rare opportunity in front of them. Not only is the NBA bubble located in Orlando (which allows the players to sleep in their own bed as the say), nobody is expecting the Magic to come out of the gate hot.
This is the time for the Magic to make a statement. This is the time the Magic must make a statement and build momentum.
It has been a disappointing season for the Magic in many ways. Several players have not lived up to expectations this season. Orlando has floundered some, unable to take the leap into the upper levels of the Eastern Conference Playoff race.
Now is an opportunity to prove their doubters wrong and show the organization that they are who they thought they were. This is a second chance.
The Magic can embrace an underdog role as they prepare to face some of the better teams in the league inside of the NBA bubble. If they can start off fast and put together a winning streak and beat the better teams in the NBA they will gain confidence.
That confidence may take them to places unheard of and create the success they need for this season.