How the Orlando Magic stack up with potential Eastern Conference playoff opponents

The Orlando Magic are positioned for their first playoff appearance in five years. With a young squad hungry for postseason success, here is a look at how they stack up against each potential Eastern Conference playoff opponent when records turn to seeds.
Indiana Pacers v Orlando Magic
Indiana Pacers v Orlando Magic / Don Juan Moore/GettyImages
3 of 5

How the Orlando Magic stack up with each playoff opponent

New York Knicks (4th)

The most likely outcome for the NBA season still feels like it will see the Orlando Magic facing off with the New York Knicks in the 4/5 matchup in the Eastern Conference. There is still a lot to sort out before we get there. But this is what Magic fans have been preparing for.

Looking at just regular season matchups, it has been pretty much all Orlando this year.

In three early season matchups right around the turn of the calendar year, the Magic preyed on New York's offensive inefficiency (with credit going to Orlando's defense just the same) - the Knicks shot 41.9 percent from the field in those three games, a fair amount below their team average of 46.1 percent.

Of course, those three games all had stipulations to them. The first win in December was the last game before the Knicks traded for OG Anunoby. The win in January came with Jalen Brunson sitting out the MLK Day matinee. And the third Magic win came against an injury-depleted Knicks team before the All-Star Break.

Fast forward to the beginning of March and the box score told a very, very different story.

The Magic were in fourth in the Eastern Conference, as high as they had been since the first 20 games of the year. New York, sitting right below them, were hungry to avoid a season sweep in a playoff-like atmosphere. A small litmus test of what may be coming once records turn to seeds.

Orlando suffered their worst defeat of the season, 98-74 -- with that 74 at the time the lowest points scored by any team in the league this year (ironically broken by the New York Knicks two days later in a 79-73 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers).

New York, while not breaking 100 points that night, leaned on an element to the team's offense that has been average across the NBA but a back-breaker to the Magic if effective: three-point shooting.

The Knicks connected on eight of their first nine attempts, building a double-digit lead just four minutes after the tip.

"Coach said that is what a playoff game is like so we gotta look at this game and adjust,” Paolo Banchero said after the loss in New York.

Matchup-wise, however, there is not a ton to adjust on Orlando's side.

As far as star player matchups, Orlando has done a great job limiting power forwards, including Julius Randle (who would miss a potential series with a shoulder injury). The Magic rank as the second-best defense against power fowards across the league (with a 20.45 points per game this season).

Even with Randle out, the Magic use their size effectively. It is one of their biggest advantages.

“We got some big bodies down there, too,” Magic guard Cole Anthony quipped on holding Randle to a quiet night in the win at Madison Square Garden. “We got like eight 7-footers on this team. And they all play their part pretty well. … We just did a great job putting some bodies on him and baited him into taking some tough 2s.

Eight may be a little bit of a stretch, but give Anthony some slack -- they are the second-tallest team in the NBA, trailing only San Antonio Spurs. It is a recipe for success for this Orlando team that thrives once opposing teams cross the three-point line. Less space for the offense to operate means the Magic can double out at the free throws, then make quick switches if the ball skips to the corner or crash the ball if it goes inside.

The big weakness for Orlando in a hypothetical playoff series would be Jalen Brunson.

The Magic are one of the five worst teams defending point guards and Brunson has thrived against the weaker contingent of guards. He has scored more than 20 in the three matchups he has appeared in this season, including 33 on Valentine's Day.

With rookie Anthony Black as the primary defender in that February matchup, Brunson was deadly from deep, making 5 of 8 three-point attempts.

But where New York dices up the Magic defense was with their litany of pick-and-roll actions to get a big on Brunson. This allows him to use his shiftiness to either attack the basket or pull up in the midrange. He's a tough three-level scorer for his size (one of the best in the NBA).

This is a winnable playoff matchup for Orlando in this spot. They have the pieces to match up star-for-star but need to limit the outside scoring threat in Brunson to maintain an advantage dow nthe stretch.