Orlando Magic’s In-Season Tournament Group play will challenge young team

The Orlando Magic close their In-Season Tournament schedule with a major battle with the heavy favorites, the Boston Celtics. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic close their In-Season Tournament schedule with a major battle with the heavy favorites, the Boston Celtics. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic will start their In-Season Tournament run on the road, taking on the Brooklyn Nets and wrap up Group C play at home with an afternoon game on Black Friday against the Boston Celtics to conclude group play.

The Magic’s In-Season Tournament schedule is interesting as the team will play all of its games in consecutive tournament game windows and finish its group play first among teams in Group C (all games in November on Tuesdays and Fridays will be In-Season Tournament games, with the league once again taking Election Day off). It is also interesting that Orlando will play its two road games first before closing with two home games.

And, of course, there is always the potential the Magic will host an all-important win-and-advance game at home against the tournament-favorite Celtics on Black Friday afternoon — Boston will have one more game after the team’s game in Orlando.

The winner of each group with one wild card team — the second-place team with the best record — will advance out of the group stage. The quarterfinals will take place Dec. 4 and 5 in host cities with the semifinals and finals taking place in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 and Dec. 9.

While the Celtics are the prohibitive favorite to win Group C, it is a balanced group beneath them and one that should give the Magic a chance to test themselves early and apply some winning pressure on a young team learning how to win.

That will be the ultimate point of the In-Season Tournament and why it should be so valuable for this young Magic team. It is a chance to manufacture some playoff pressure on the team and see how they respond.

The Orlando Magic start on the road in their inaugural In-Season Tournament run as it will provide a big challenge to a young team that could gain a lot from the tournament pressure.

For sure, the Magic will also be focused on getting off to a good start next year after starting 5-20 and going in too deep of a hole for them to get out of. They will hope that their continuity is something they can take advantage of too.

That is the perfect storm the Magic are walking into as they hope to have a strong showing early in the season and in these kinds of games.

That does not mean it will be easy. Unlike other teams who will have some off days in their schedule, the Magic will knock out all of their Play-In Games all in a row — there could be a game on Nov. 18 or 19 either on the road or at home (we find that out Thursday), but they will play two tournament games in a row each time.

They also start their Group Play late among Group C (the Raptors will play all of their games in the final four windows) and finish their group play games first. They will set the lead in the clubhouse after their afternoon game against the Celtics.

That too will increase the pressure to perform in these games.

The Magic will spend two weeks essentially playing games that should have heightened focus and attention. They will spend two weeks — like you would during a Playoff series — playing must-win games.

The challenge then is that the team will have to start on the road. Orlando is a young team and struggled a bit on the road last year — 14-27 on the road. And so Orlando’s hopes of getting out of the Play-In will start away from the Amway Center.

If the Magic come out of those games with a split though, they could be in a position to finish the group 3-1. And with a win over the Celtics, that would put them in a great position to advance out of the group. It should take going at least 3-1 to advance to the knockout rounds.

That is also the thing that is at stake and why the Magic got something of a favorable draw into Group C.

The Celtics are by far the favorites to win this group as the lone title contender in the group. They are also the overall tournament favorite.

The Magic though should feel they can be competitive with the other teams in the group.

The Brooklyn Nets struggled a ton after trading Kevin Durant even with Mikal Bridges having a breakout finish to the season. The Orlando Magic finished right behind the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls in the overall standings. Neither team made dramatic improvements to their roster — with the Raptors losing Fred VanVleet.

The question for Orlando will be whether the team can find its maturity and rise to the pressure and be ready to play when these games come up on the schedule.

On top of all of this, if the Magic are indeed going to be fighting for a postseason spot, they will need all the wins they can get against the Nets, Raptors and Bulls. Those are all teams they should be competing with for a postseason spot.

These games also count toward the regular season record. So these games matter even if the team stumbles out of the gate and fades out of the In-Season Tournament. The games matter regardless of where the team is at in the tournament picture.

Everyone should view this In-Season Tournament as a test for the team as a whole. It is an early litmus test to see whether the team is truly prepared for the postseason run everyone is anticipating this year.

It will be a test. The Magic do not have an easy road. Two games on the road to start this thing is a challenge for a young team. But it is a challenge the team can overcome.

Next. Anthony Black needs to lean on defense to succeed as rookie. dark

And that gives them the chance to accomplish something special and fun. A sign of how much this team has grown. . . and how much it will still have to grow.