January will be Orlando Magic’s most challenging month

Evan Fournier and the Orlando Magic want to start fast. But January stands in their way. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Fournier and the Orlando Magic want to start fast. But January stands in their way. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

As teams prep for the upcoming regular season, the Orlando Magic are looking at a tough start. According to their schedule, January will be the Magic’s hardest month.

After a solid win against the Atlanta Hawks in their preseason opener, the Orlando Magic are beginning to prep for the regular season.

They do not have much time to prepare. With now just two more preseason games and a little more than a week to go, the Magic are rushing headlong into the season.

The Orlando Magic’s first game will be against the Miami Heat on Dec. 23. It will then be off to the races. And if the Magic want to get off to a fast start, they will need to be ready to play quickly.

The month of December only has five games for the Magic but January is where it gets difficult.

Of the 14 teams the Magic will be playing in January, 10 of those teams made the playoffs last year. At the top of this list of teams are the LA Clippers (Jan. 29), Toronto Raptors (Jan. 31 and Feb. 2) and the Milwaukee Bucks (Jan. 11), all of which the Orlando Magic had a hard time beating last year. The team went a combined 0-9 against them last year in the regular season.

The Magic played the 14 teams a total of 42 times last season (including the postseason) and ended with a 15-27 record.

Of the 15 wins, 10 of those wins came against non-playoff teams including the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Sacramento Kings. Three of the remaining five wins came against a depleted Brooklyn Nets team and two came against the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets respectively.

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The Bucks and the Raptors were the Magic’s hardest matchup as the Magic only won one game out of nine against the Bucks and lost all four against the Raptors. That comes as no surprise as both teams are considered Eastern Conference title contenders.

That way these games are composed is also daunting.

The Magic will face their most difficult stretch of the season fairly early beginning on Jan. 8. The Magic play a two-game Texas road trip against the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets before coming home to face the Milwaukee Bucks.

Then Orlando goes on its longest road trip of the first half of the schedule — a 10-day, six-game trip that features games against the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers among others.

While the month of January looks bleak as it is littered with several championship contenders and fringe playoff teams, there are several things to note.

The first being the Magic will only be playing the Clippers, Raptors and Bucks once in the 17-game stretch. Furthermore, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Boston Celtics, to whom the Magic lost two games and three games to respectively, lost key players to trades or free agency.

Understanding this, there is potential for the Magic to steal a few games from the likely playoff teams.

Take the Raptors, for example. In the four-game series last year, Pascal Siakam averaged only 16.7 points while the Raptors got a 33-point explosion from Norman Powell and newly re-signed guard Fred VanVleet averaged 20.2 points.

VanVleet will pose a problem for the Orlando Magic just as he did to the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. But restricting Siakam with aggressive defense or locking down Powell is doable, especially with the Magic’s personnel.

It will be important for the Magic to win easy matchups. While teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers (Jan. 4 and 6), Charlotte Hornets (Jan. 24 and 25), Sacramento Kings (Jan. 27) or Oklahoma City Thunder (Jan. 2) could be classified as “easy wins”, winning games against these four teams could amount to a total of six wins. Six wins in a 17-game month will only help the Magic gain footing in the top half of the stronger Eastern Conference.

And these were the games the Magic were expert at winning last year. Orlando was 28-10 against teams with losing records last season.

Based on the first preseason game, key players for the Magic look healthy and ready to contribute. Especially Markelle Fultz, who could take on a bigger role for the team, looked comfortable running plays and controlling the pace of the game. Aaron Gordon also looks like he is back to his old self with an efficient 16 minutes.

While rookies Chuma Okeke and Cole Anthony struggled in their debut, they will only learn and grow as the year progresses. Anthony certainly stepped up in his second outing, helping the team push the pace and hang around despite an overall poor effort.

January will be a difficult month for the Magic and will act as a test to see if the Magic can hang with the top teams in the league. The Magic could come out of it with five wins or 12, hopefully, it’s the latter.

They will need it too, considering they have by some measure the easiest schedule for the first half of the season, previewing a much more manageable February. But that also means the team will have difficult games coming up beyond it.

Next. Who will lead the Magic in each stat category. dark

January will be a difficult path to navigate. If the team comes out of it on the right end, the team should set up for a playoff run.