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
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How the Orlando Magic stack up with each playoff opponent

Indiana Pacers (6th)

Recent struggles for the Indiana Pacers are resulting in an underwhelming month of March, but that cannot be a reason for Orlando to look at them any lighter.

While not towering over the league with 127 points per game (as they were back in November), they still have the NBA's top offense by the raw scoring, led by All-Stars Tyrese Haliburton and mid-season acquisition Pascal Siakam.

Despite the success, recent performances by Haliburton are the microcosm of a post-All-Star break team showing why they finished five games out of the Play-In last year. Haliburton himself is shooting 30.1 percent from three since the All-Star Break -- a stark contrast to his 40.0 percent number before lacing it up at All-Star Weekend.

The team? Similar story. Hanging right around .500 at 14-9 since the break, Indiana went from being two games from third around the All-Star break to a non-guarantee at a full playoff spot.

This is a team teetering around the 6-seed and the Play-In.

A late run with a schedule just as easy as Orlando's down the stretch (Indiana and Orlando have the 13th and 14th-toughest strength of schedule remaining) could vault them into a possible 4-5 matchup in the postseason -- or a 3-6 if the Orlando Magic stay ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers this week.

In matchups this season, Orlando went 2-0 pre-Siakam trade. The Magic shot a combined 82 free throws in those two wins -- resulting in 68 points to the Pacers' 33.

In March, the game featured two fully healthy teams (and Pascal Siakam), Indiana handed Orlando one of just three home losses since the All-Star break. After making seven of their first 23 shots, Indiana erupted out of a 15-point hole thanks to a TJ McConnell/Obi Toppin bench duo that combined for 34 points down the stretch.

The big X-Factor if Orlando gets matched up in a series is pace.

The Pacers push the pace (ironically). Second to only the Washington Wizards, the Indiana Pacers' speed, particularly in transition, has been their biggest strength. As a team, their 26.3 points per game in transition ranks third in the NBA, just one of the statistics that personifies one of the highest-scoring offenses in league history.

The Magic, while a top half-court defense in the NBA, sit more in the middle of the pack in transition defense, shown perfectly in their March playoff preview matchup.

“We just didn’t do a great job of having that sense of urgency, to sprint back,” Cole Anthony noted after that loss. “I know Toppin had five or six layups where he just outran everyone down the court. That can’t happen. That’s their style. They’re comfortable in it. We let them play their game.”

The identity behind a top-three defensive unit in Orlando is a swarm of switches, double teams and collapses as soon as the ball touches the hands of opposing players.

For the Magic to get out of this potential series, they will have to shoot efficiently to have a shot. At 24-1 when shooting better tahn 50 percent from the field (the lone loss coming to Dallas on Jan. 29), Orlando will need to win the battle of percentages in the halfcourt to escape this matchup.

Still, among the matchups the Magic could see in the Playoffs, this feels like the most likely for the Magic to win. The Pacers have a style the Magic have done well to slow down this year and they lack the Playoff experience that could put the Magic in a bind.

How the Orlando Magic stack up with each playoff opponent

Miami Heat (8th)

The reigning Eastern Conference champions may be the most confusing team in the NBA. Last year, the Eastern Conference's 8-seed blitzed the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks and survived a seven-game series against the Boston Celtics for a trip to the NBA Finals.

Once again this season, Miami finds itself in the Play-In late in the season. Orlando, despite holding a better record, posted a 1-3 record in four games against Miami. It feels like the one matchup Orlando would most like to avoid.

In their one win, however, the Magic showcased one of their best "playoff-like" performances this season. The opening-day starting five were in the lineup together for the first time in almost three months for this Jan. 21 matchup (Markelle Fultz-Jalen Suggs-Franz Wagner-Paolo Banchero-Wendell Carter) and made quick work of the Heat, holding them to a season-low 87 points.

All five starters went for double-digit scoring efforts (Banchero leading the way with 20) to turn the corner on a rough two-month stretch at the Kia Center. An 8-23 record dating back to December. The Heat shot 37.5 percent and had 18 turnovers in the first of two times Miami was held to less than 100 points this season against Orlando (the only team to do it twice).

“It felt good to have everyone back tonight, and it’s good to see how effective our defense is when we have that unit in,” Markelle Fultz said after one of his stronger all-around performances of the season.

This postseason, it is fairly unlikely we get a Battle of the Sunshine State, given the current state of the standings. The Heat's loss to the Pacers on Sunday made getting out of the Play-In that much tougher. But Orlando can still climb to the 2-seed and face off against the Heat as a Play-In winner.

Orlando will need a healthy frontcourt to defend the biggest source of trouble on Miami's roster: Bam Adebayo. He is averaging 18.8 points per game, 9.3 rebounds per game and 4.8 assists per game in four regular season contests this year. Adebayo is an above-average glass-cleaner and does well for Miami getting second-chance points.

Limiting Adebayo's offensive output, especially against backup bigs in Goga Bitadze and Moe Wagner, will be a big point of contention in a potential playoff series.

Adebayo is able to stretch the floor too, which draws Orlando's top-10 defense inside the paint out on the perimeter, spreading the team thin, allowing for Adebayo to operate in more spacing (whether that be a drive, pull-up, or dish to an open man).