Orlando Magic’s revival will begin at home

The Orlando Magic had their share of big wins at the Amway Center. To take a step up this year, the team needs to be more consistent at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic had their share of big wins at the Amway Center. To take a step up this year, the team needs to be more consistent at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

In the Orlando Magic’s long journey back to the playoffs during the 2019 season, one moment seemed to stand out as the moment everything clicked for the team and they suddenly realized the opportunity in front of them.

The Orlando Magic trailed by 20 points at home to the Memphis Grizzlies and needed a rally. As they started to make their push, the Amway Center crowd seemingly came alive for the first time during a seven-year drought. Not for a major opponent (Ja Morant would not arrive until the offseason) but because their team needed them for an important win.

Orlando ended up winning the game and then-coach Steve Clifford, experienced in Orlando from his first time with the team during its 2009 Finals era, told his team that is what the Orlando crowd could give them. He credited the fan support after the game for lifting his team up.

The Magic would continue to rally that season and make the playoffs for the first time since Howard left in a trade in 2012. One of the key moments in that playoff push was a perfect 5-0 homestand late in the season that put the team in control of its own destiny entering the season’s final two games.

Amway Center became a boost for a young team trying to carve a path to the playoffs for the first time.

The Magic are chasing success at home like that again. And with an exceedingly young team, any chance for the team to succeed will come from building those kinds of moments at home. Especially as they are trying to re-establish themselves.

The Orlando Magic are looking to step up this season. That will start with winning on the Amway Center floor and re-establishing their home court.

To be sure, as is usual with young teams, their first breakthroughs come at home. It is the key to their success. They find comfort in their home building and build confidence and success there, hoping to make up some of the difference as they learn to win through adversity.

Yes, the support from the home crowd helps. But it is just the general comfort of routine at home that helps them create success.

The Magic’s play at the Amway Center was one of their big struggles in their initial rebuilding year. The Orlando Magic went 12-29 at the Amway Center, the worst home record in the Eastern Conference and ahead of only the Houston Rockets, who finished with 11 wins.

A team at the bottom of the standings is going to struggle. And still, unsurprisingly, the Magic were better at home than on the road.

But there were bright spots, especially late in the season.

The Orlando Magic scored a late-season win over the Golden State Warriors (albeit without Stephen Curry) that was a win that the team hung its hat on as they closed the season. It was their third-to-last win of the season.

That closed a six-game homestand where the Orlando Magic went 3-3 including a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the start.

In all, the Magic beat eight teams that went to the postseason last year at the Amway Center. That included the December win over the Denver Nuggets, a late-season win over the Cleveland Cavaliers and the season-closing win over the Miami Heat (when both teams were sitting most of their starters with playoff and Lottery positions decided).

These kinds of wins were something that even players highlighted as a sign of their progress particularly late in the season. R.J. Hampton commented about that growth on a recent episode of The Sixth Man Show:

It should be noted then that eight of the Magic’s 12 home wins then came against postseason teams. Orlando had only six road wins over postseason teams — including the COVID wins over the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks in December.

The Magic had a league-worst 103.7 offensive rating at home and a 112.0 defensive rating for a league-worst -8.3 net rating at the Amway Center. On the road last year, Orlando had a 104.2 offensive rating and 112.1 defensive rating.

There is something to saying young teams are better at home and there is more potential to win these marquee games. But it is also fair to say the Magic were nowhere near consistent enough, especially at home.

This is going to be the first place where the Magic can make significant improvements. Playing with consistency at home will be something the team can learn and take on the road. Struggling at home will make it harder to play better on the road.

It is also going to be a place where the team can set the tone for its season.

The early part of the Magic’s schedule is not difficult by the opponents they are facing (at least based on 2022 records). But it is difficult because of the way it is composed.

Playing six of the first eight games on the road is going to be difficult — the two home games are the opener against the Boston Celtics and then another against the Charlotte Hornets.

After that stretch, the Magic have a season-long seven-game home stand. Through those first 15 games, the Magic are going to learn a lot and establish the base for their season. If the team is going to take a step up in the standings and surprise the league, it will happen on the Amway Center floor early in the season.

It will be important to establish the team’s play at home to build off for the rest of the season.

Putting a lot on an early season homestand is asking a lot — and it will not be easy with the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks coming to town during that stretch. Nothing should be taken as certain. This is a team that cannot count any wins.

That might be the larger point of defending their home court. Orlando needs to be more consistent and find a way to get to a point where they can bank wins against teams at the bottom and middle of the standings more frequently.

If Orlando wants to make a surprise playoff push, these are the games the Magic have to win more consistently — as powerful and memorable as wins over the top teams can be.

Those games are important for building fan support and getting fans’ attention. The Magic certainly noted plenty of times last year when road fans outnumbered — or outyelled — Magic fans. There were several high-profile moments where the Magic had to fight for their homecourt.

But the real trick in establishing a homecourt and building confidence is winning the mundane games.

Doing that will build the support the Magic know is sleeping and waiting for something to cheer on more consistently. Winning at home is the best way to sell the team. Create a fun atmosphere with a winning culture and fans will respond.

It is still unclear where Orlando will land in the playoff picture — it seems more likely the team will be back near the bottom. But if Orlando wants to do something more, it is going to start at Amway Center.

Next. 2023 NBA Draft will hang over the Orlando Magic's season. dark

That is clearly the place the team can make the most measurable and clear improvement.