Orlando Magic have built themselves up at home, ready to hit the road

The Orlando Magic have swept through the first five games of a six-game homestand and built their foundations as a team. Now the team is eager for the test of going on the road after Friday's homestand finale against the Washington Wizards.

Moe Wagner and the Orlando Magic have done well to establish their home court. That could be a base to grow as they hit the road.
Moe Wagner and the Orlando Magic have done well to establish their home court. That could be a base to grow as they hit the road. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
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The Orlando Magic have been feeling comfortable.

An eight-game win streak certainly has the team feeling a wave of confidence. Five of those wins came within the confines of an energetic Amway Center -- the team has listed a sell-out for seven of its nine games at the Amway Center.

The team is rolling right now and is doing what the good teams are supposed to do: Bank up wins at home before the road part of the schedule comes up.

The Magic are the talk of the NBA with their win streak, but they know a big test is coming as the team hits the road once again this week and through much of December.

There is a lot for the team to be satisfied with -- including the maturity to build their winning culture and take care of business against the teams they should beat. But there is clearly a lot more this team has to do and grow.

"Obviously, it's important for us to win games at home," Moe Wagner said after shootaround Friday. "It builds a great deal of confidence. I think just in general to build a rhythm at home, we haven't had that because of the Mexico game. We haven't had a long home game stint. I think that was really good for us to get a couple of practices in and get a routine.

"But again, now the challenge is to go on the road tomorrow and do the same thing which is difficult. We've been home for two weeks. We have to be ready. But we've got one today before that."

The Magic have indeed been excellent at home this year. The Amway Center has become an energetic fortress for this team and they have played some of their best basketball on the home parquet.

The Orlando Magic are officially 8-2 in home games this season -- that includes the Mexico City game loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Orlando has a +12.2 net rating in the team's home games, the third-best mark in the league. The team has a stunning 120.0 offensive rating in home games (with a 107.8 defensive rating). Everything seems to be clicking for the Magic at home.

During the first five games of this homestand, Orlando has a +14.4 net rating (124.9 points per 100 possessions and 110.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). It has been domination, especially with a suddenly surging offense that is now in the top half of the league for the entire season.

Young teams -- really every team -- usually play better at home. Sometimes significantly so. That has seemingly been the case with the Magic.

They have felt the energy so far.

"It's always cool playing in front of your home fans and playing in a good environment like we have had the last couple of games in this home stretch," Anthony Black said after shootaround Friday. "I think we're doing a good job handling business at home and to start going back on the road."

Orlando has definitely benefited from being at home for a bit of time though. It has helped the team grow and been a launching point for the team's current win streak.

The team had a road-heavy start to the year, opening the season at home against the Houston Rockets and then going on the road for a West Coast trip. The team then had a four-game "homestand" that was interrupted by the trip to Mexico City to play the Atlanta Hawks in the third game of the trip. Another four-game road trip followed.

Orlando has done well on the road. The team went 2-2 on the West Coast trip and 3-1 on the four-game road trip that preceded this six-game home stand. That makes Orlando a solid 5-3 on the road so far. But the team has a lot to clean up.

As good as the Magic have been at home, they have a -1.2 net rating with a 106.2 offensive rating on the road. The team is going to have to find a way to make its offense travel. And the team will have to find a way to gut out wins on the road, which the team has done so far this season.

But that could be one of the benefits of this long homestand. It has given the Magic a chance to establish its base and prepare for the road ahead.

"You keep thinking about how much energy takes, you keep reminding yourself we have 63 [sic] games left," Wagner said. "We haven't done anything. It's very important to stay in the moment and keep improving because that's what the best teams do. They get better over time and that's a great challenge for us."

That gets to the next thing though.

Notice that defensive rating? It is worse than the Magic's overall defensive rating for the season. There has been some noticeable slipping defensively in the last three games especially. Orlando has gotten off to some rough starts -- flipping the first-half/second-half successes and struggles of the team's four-game road trip.

Several players have noted that despite a 139-120 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, the team did not play as cleanly as it wanted. There were a lot of turnovers and a lot of poor defensive moments. The team kind of hoped Sunday's 130-117 win over the Charlotte Hornets would serve as the wake-up call.

Orlando knows it has to straighten some things out and fight against the human nature of relaxing on this win streak to be the team it wants to be.

"I think part of it is human nature," Wagner said. "You win seven in a row and you think you are kind of sweet and reality kind of gets you. That's something we've got to learn. How do you deal with small successes like winning a couple of games in a row? That wasn't our standard. The result -- win or loss -- doesn't matter in that situation, you have to play to your standard if you want to go someplace this year. the focus for a young team especially when stuff doesn't come natural is huge."

Orlando will have to take that step up on the road after Friday's rematch with Washington. Orlando will play a much more balanced schedule without any overly long homestands or road trips. But that can be just as challenging for this team.

The Magic have passed this first challenge of establishing their home court. Now they get the next challenge of managing and growing on the road -- with the competition stiffening up once again.

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This team has done well to set itself up to keep making a statement.