The Orlando Magic begin the season with a big road trip very quickly coming on their horizon. After the first game of the season at home against the Houston Rockets, the Orlando Magic hit the road for an away stretch way out west.
The second game of the season puts them up against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Moda Center, then in consecutive order following that game, they play the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers and then Utah Jazz to wrap it up before having their second game of the season in the Amway Center on Nov. 4 against the Lakers (wrapping up that season series).
The road trip of four straight games against Western Conference teams on the Pacific Coast is a brutal way to start the Magic’s season within the first five games.
The Orlando Magic begin the year with a huge four-game, West Coast road trip within the first week of their season. This will be huge in testing the road awareness of the Magic as it is very early in the season and is a good sample size of Western Conference foes.
In the 2023 season, Orlando went 3-5 against those four teams they will play in the early season road trip. Against all Western Conference teams, the Magic finished below .500 at 14-16. In Western Conference games on the road, Orlando went 6-9.
Yes, these are losing records, but they are not significant enough to show that Orlando completely struggled against the West and the West on the road.
It is very doable for Orlando to do well to start the year and not let going away from the Amway Center affect them too much.
Orlando split its pair of games in Los Angeles in March last season, stealing a late-game 113-108 win over the Clippers before losing in a tight 111-105 game to the Lakers the following day. Orlando defeated Portland in its lone trip to the Rose City in January, withstanding a late rally from Damian Lillard and the Blazers to win the game by three. And the Magic lost a close 112-108 game against the Jazz on the road in Salt Lake City in their next outing.
These are all teams the Magic should feel they can compete against.
The road was a struggle for the Magic last season overall. The team had a -4.8 net rating on the road last season. The defense stayed relatively the same, giving up 113.1 points per 100 possessions (the team’s overall season average was 113.7 and the team had a 113.0 defensive rating after the 5-20 start). But the team’s offensive rating dropped to 108.2 points per 100 possessions on the road compared to the team’s overall average of 111.3.
This was the difference on the road. An already poor offense got even worse. Orlando needs to find a way to be more consistent to be successful on the road.
That starts Friday in Portland.
Starting well has been a challenge for the Magic as they have not started the first 20 games of a season .500 since the 2019 year when they ended up making the playoffs as a 7th seed and ended their six-year drought.
That is a goal Orlando looks to emulate this season with the rebuild beginning to come to a climax. It will come down to starting the season hot which includes this four-game span against teams in Western Conference and three teams in the Pacific Division.
Another thing to look at is how the Magic played on the road against not only Western Conference opponents but also Eastern Conference ones.
In total games on the road in 2023, Orlando went a poor 14-27 on the road compared to being a tick below .500 last season in the Amway Center at 20-21 (remember, the team essentially tanked the home finale agianst the Cleveland Cavaliers).
That 14-27 road mark placed Orlando as the fifth-worst road team in the league. If that win total marches up, so will the entire win total. This is a key area of improvement for the Magic overall. They have to be better on the road.
It begins with four of those road games in the first five matchups of their season.
This road record is something that needs to improve not only during the regular season but also needs to be improved if the Magic want to make any kind of a run in the playoffs if they make it.
All of this talk of improvement with the play on the road seems a little rushed, but the stretch of the schedule that is around the corner is a tone-setter for it.