Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag: December concerns?
Should we be concerned by the Orlando Magic's December swoon?
Yes and no.
The Orlando Magic went on a nine-game win streak and that built the team its cushion with its record. They know they have that in them. And the team should be able to bank wins and avoid prolonged losing streaks.
Every team goes through swoons and difficult phases in their schedule. Every team is going to face some kind of struggle at some point in the season. They are going to have to find their way and grind out wins and keep their head above water.
To some extent, that is what the Magic are going through now. Their schedule in December -- they went 6-8 in December -- was tough.
Their schedule in January is even tougher -- the fifth-toughest in the league by opponent win percentage according to John Schuhmann of NBA.com. They do not face many teams with a losing record and among those are going to be some tough challenges -- they already lost to the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies now with Ja Morant come calling too.
And the Magic are dealing with injuries through this all.
It is going to be rough sailing. But know there is light at the end of the tunnel with the schedule after the All-Star Break, including another potential win-streak-building eight-game homestand.
But, there is plenty of concern too.
Injuries have gutted this roster and it has been tough to maintain the team's overall defensive posturing. But the team is 12th in defensive rating since Dec. 1. That kind of slipping on defense, combined with the team struggling to shoot and score, has made the magic a clear sub-.500 team.
December and January will be the team crashing back to earth a bit. They were noever the second-best team in the East as much fun as it was to sit on top there. With all the injuries, Orlando is struggling to stay above .500.
But I am not overall concerned with how much the team struggled through December. They have to learn how to manage the injuries and this tough spot in the schedule and scratch out wins. Eventually, it will spin back around.
The team just has to stay above water or grind out pars -- whatever analogy fits for you.
Competing for homecourt advantage in the first round is going to remain a challenge for this group. They are struggling to keep pace in that race -- all the teams in that chase have their own flaws to deal with. But the Magic should remain in the hunt to avoid the Play-In Tournament. And that should be the team's biggest goal.
Right now, Orlando just has to stay afloat. The team did a decent job of that in December. But January is a bigger challenge.