3 Orlando Magic games to watch before All-Star break

Jan 15, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley reacts with center Moritz Wagner (21) and forward Franz Wagner (22) in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 15, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley reacts with center Moritz Wagner (21) and forward Franz Wagner (22) in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are approaching the most crucial stretch of the season so far.

Now in the third quarter of the 2022-2023 season, the Magic are 16-28 and 13th in the East. In this interesting place as they find themselves four games out of the play-in tournament but only 5.5 games ahead of the last place Detroit Pistons.

This “no man’s land” leading up to the All-Star break usually finds teams trending in a direction, one way or another. Many teams in the league are struggling with injuries, gauging the trade market and deciding if this year ends in the postseason or the lottery.

In this roller coaster of a season, the Magic have battled injuries, tweaked the rotation countless times, and solidified their franchise centerpieces in Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero.

Led by Wanger and Banchero, if the Magic have any plans for a postseason run, it starts right now.

The Orlando Magic have found their footing and perhaps their stars. To make a postseason chase this year, the team has some key games to win before the All-Star Break.

Between now and the All-Star break, the Magic play 12 games against the Eastern Conference, including clashes with teams close in the standings like the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors.

Win a good portion of these games and you are right there in the playoff race. Lose most of them, and you are refreshing Tankathon all of April.

While this could sound nerve-wracking, this is exactly the type of high-stakes basketball you want a young team to experience. The goal of this season is still development and progress, but a little reward of a postseason appearance wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Jan. 23 – Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic are not in the same class as the Boston Celtics and that is okay. This is a team that is years ahead in their timeline.

Coming off their NBA Finals appearance, Boston has not broken stride this season. The Celtics currently hold the best record in the league and the highest net rating at +6.7 points per 100 possessions.

Chalk this up to their league-high offensive rating of 117.8 points per 100 possessions, top five defense, or insane bench depth. However you spell it out, the Celtics are a force and a perfect test for the Magic.

The Celtics will also likely be bringing an active win streak with them to Orlando. They are currently at seven wins in a row, just needing to extend it through this weekend. And they are certainly not going to be happy after dropping two straight to the Magic in December at home. They can at least split the season series by winning in Orlando on Monday.

In terms of individual matchups, this is a great challenge for all of the young Magic players.

Paolo Banchero will get tested by some of the best defending forwards in the league. The Celtics will stretch the Magic defensively with their floor spacing. And the bigs will need to be sharp on the glass.

Play this game close and gain the confidence needed to make a little run. Win this game and you stole one versus the best team in the league.

Jan. 28 – Chicago Bulls vs. Orlando Magic

The Chicago Bulls are currently the 10-seed in the Eastern Conference and the biggest competition for the Orlando Magic to have a real shot at the play-in tournament.

Just four games ahead of the Orlando Magic, the Chicago Bulls are seeing the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Magic in their rearview. But the objects are closer than they appear.

In terms of talent, the Magic are right there with the Bulls and it looks like both franchises are trending in opposite directions.

As has been discussed countless times, the Bulls took a shot with a Nikola Vucevic trade in an attempt to get over the hump with a core of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. But the team quickly cooled off and have not reached the same heights since.

The Magic took the deal, gladly plugged Wendell Carter into the rotation and used one of the draft picks to select Franz Wagner.

The Bulls still owe the Magic their first-round pick this offseason, top-four protected. What a disaster of a trade for Chicago.

Other than selecting Paolo Banchero, this trade was likely the most important foundational transaction for the Magic franchise.

If the Magic hope to contend for the playoffs for years to come, this is the type of game they need to get used a winning.

A matchup with a team stuck in the mud needs to become easy money, especially when the Magic have more to play for.

Feb. 7 – New York Knicks vs. Orlando Magic

The New York Knicks come to play every night and this is important for a couple of reasons.

First, the Orlando Magic need to plan to get punched in the mouth this game. New York is 7-3 in their last 10 games and playing some of the best basketball around the league right now.

They play hard, have plenty of guys who play defense, rebound and get in passing lanes and, by most accounts, are a tough out just about every night.

If the Magic can come out and match the Knicks’ energy, this will be a great game. If they go through the motions, the Knicks will do what they normally do against lower-tier teams and grind out another victory.

Secondly, my hope is the Magic eventually begin to compete like this on a night-in and night-out basis. They have shown flashes, like their two games against the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets, but the consistency needs to be better.

In no world are the Knicks much more talented than the Magic, other than a little bit for experience. But they are eight games ahead in the standings.

The difference between the 7-seed in the playoffs and a spot in the lottery is nightly effort and personnel that are willing to do the little things.

Next. Orlando Magic should be wary of selling low on Terrence Ross. dark

The Magic can get there and the best time to start could be in Orlando on February 7.