5 questions for the third quarter of the Orlando Magic’s 2023 season
Can the Orlando Magic make a postseason push?
The Orlando Magic organizationally have never put pressure on this team to win and make serious gains in the standings. Even at this point of the season, coach Jamahl Mosley is not willing to say the ‘p’ word or any of its variations when talking about the team’s expectations or goals.
Those goals remain focused on development and improvement. And that is certainly central to his coaching philosophy — do not yell at him for sticking with lineups that are seemingly not working as he gives young players some space to figure things out or apply instruction before sitting down and watching.
The players? They have a different idea already of what this season would be.
What started out as confident whispers from training camp — Markelle Fultz’s social media proclamation of “4th seed” has been something of a rallying cry for fans and Gary Harris was more explicit that September morning saying he believed the team should be a playoff team — has slowly become a realistic possibility.
That is what winning eight of nine games can do in a tightly packed conference. A 10-10 second quarter of the season allowed the Magic to tread some water and let the conference fall to them. That is not to say Orlando still does not have work to do.
And if the Magic want to shock the NBA world and sneak into the Play-In Tournament, they are going to have to put some wins together very quickly and in long stretches. They have a big hole to climb out of.
Exiting games on Jan. 17, the Orlando Magic (16-28) sit four games behind the Chicago Bulls (20-24) for the final spot in the Play-In Tournament. That is not an impossible margin to make up but the team will have its work cut out for it.
The Orlando Magic have clearly separated themselves from the bottom of the Eastern Conference too, staying 5.5 games ahead of the Detroit Pistons for 14th in the East.
This is all to say, the Magic are too good to tank at this point if that is what fans still want this group to do. And there is significantly more value in trying to get this team to win than it is to fall down the standings.
At least for the third quarter of the season before those final stretch of games, the Magic can create their own destiny before other interests take hold.
That should be empowering. If Orlando can string together wins as the team did for much of the second quarter of the season, it can put itself in the position to play meaningful, pressure-packed games in March and April. And who knows from there?
But more importantly for the franchise, seeing this group play these pressure-filled games will reveal flaws the front office needs to fill to get to that next level.
Either way, these 21-or-so games (the third quarter of the season concludes Feb. 27 in New Orleans, just three games after the All-Star Break) will determine whether the Magic are in the postseaosn hunt or not.