Orlando Magic aim to refine their best basketball ahead of the Playoffs

The Orlando Magic are almost assured to have their Playoff spot wrapped up and they will play postseason basketball. As they aim to climb the standings and improve their seeding, their real goal is to keep improving ahead of the Playoffs.

Joe Ingles and the Orlando Magic are gearing up for the Playoffs and hoping they can play their best basketball as the season winds to its conclusion.
Joe Ingles and the Orlando Magic are gearing up for the Playoffs and hoping they can play their best basketball as the season winds to its conclusion. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Ingles has been through the preparation for the Playoffs before. He has 50 playoff games to his name, more than any other player on the Orlando Magic's roster that is short on playoff experience.

The team knows it is in a good spot to make the Playoffs. They entered Saturday's game sitting in fourth place and trailing the Cleveland Cavaliers for third. It is hard to make any firm Playoff plans other than knowing the team will be in the postseason.

With 11 games left, the Magic have their eyes on the postseason. But as with any good team, it is less about what other teams are doing and more about their level of play. The Magic are focused far more on being the best version of themselves.

The whole goal of the season is to be playing their best and being at their best for the Playoff push. That is an area the Magic have found themselves succeeding lately. All with an eye on the postseason.

"Just that consistency of getting to the last 10-12 games, kind of ironing out those things, how we want to play and what we want to do," Joe Ingles said of the team's goals after shootaround before Saturday's game against the Sacramento Kings. "Obviously, we're in a good position to keep playing a little longer than usual. Just building what we've done throughout the year and ironing those things out so when we get to the last 10 of the year we are on the same page and playing the right way. We've done that for a big chunk of this year. Just make sure we know what we're doing."

Ingles said the level of everything they have done and their preparation has improved as the season has gone on. The team wants to learn and play the right way. The pressure of the postseason has brought some pitfalls, but has also brought a ton of focus.

Every game has added to this team's experience and helped them grow. And if there is something special about this team, it is that they have typically learned from their mistakes and rarely repeated them -- just look at how they responded to the physical play in the first quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans.

As coach Jamahl Mosley has said throughout the week, the team has players who are used to winning and have won at every level. This is just the first time they are doing that at the NBA level.

And last year's team saw a little of that pressure even if they never got closer than three games to the final Play-In spot before being the last team eliminated from postseason contention. The Magic always knew that when they were healthy, they could compete.

This is a driven and focused team that knows what they are good at and is still growing as the season draws to its end and the Playoffs become clearer.

"Defensively, I think we've done a pretty good job all year reaching our standard or getting close to how we want to play on that side," Franz Wagner said after shootaround Saturday. "We have shown a lot of growth since he Indiana game in how we move the ball and play together. It's not the first time we have done this this year. It's good to see it a couple of games in a row."

The Orlando Magic have won five in a row since that disappointing weekend series with the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers (both games played without Jalen Suggs). They have done so with a smothering defense.

It has helped being at home a lot -- Saturday marks game four of an eight-game homestand -- but the team is sharpening itself for the playoff run. It is clear to see how much more focused and locked-in the team has been.

The Magic entered Saturday's game third in the league in defensive rating at 110.8 points per 100 possessions. They are 21st in offensive rating at 113.0 points per 100 possessions. Since the All-Star Break, they lead the league in defensive rating giving up 106.2 points per 100 possessions and 15th in offensive rating at 113.4 points per 100 possessions.

In the last five games before Saturday's game, Orlando has given up 104.1 points per 100 possessions and scored 118.5 points per 100 possessions. That is all to say, the Magic seem to be rounding into form.

Now the trick will be staying locked in and consistent. The focus is indeed on the team cleaning things up about itself and continuing to stack wins ahead of the postseason.

The Magic are trying to play their best basketball at this point. The stats suggest they are.

"I think obviously guarding really well, offensively moving the ball and sharing the ball and playing together," Wagner said after shootaround Saturday. "One thing we have to get better at is taking care of the ball. Winning possession battles. Whoever gets more shots usually has a better chance. Those are two areas we have to get better at. But I think we're doing a solid job of progressing."

There are obviously still areas to improve. Protecting the ball and limiting turnovers remains the biggest one. And everyone will point out the team has played a fairly manageable schedule in this stretch. That will change.

The win over the New Orleans Pelicans felt cathartic for that reason -- it was proof of concept against a quality opponent and a sign of the growth the team needed to show after the losses to the Pacers and Knicks.

But the Magic are less concerned about who they are playing than how they are playing. They know they have a postseason future now. The point of the rest of the season is to be gearing up and peaking for the Playoffs.

Next. Magic sleeping 03.21.24. Everyone is still sleeping on the Orlando Magic. dark

Their identity is clearly established at this point. They are now playing their best basketball -- including holding opponents to less than 110 points in 15 of the last 16 games -- as the Playoffs come into clearer focus.