Orlando Magic lock in for wild final week to regular season

There is only one week left in the NBA's regular season and a lot unsettled for the Orlando Magic. The best part for them is they get to decide their fate on the court.
Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic have four games to make their final statement and set themselves up in the standings for a strong Playoff push.
Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic have four games to make their final statement and set themselves up in the standings for a strong Playoff push. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic knew their effort Friday night in Charlotte was not up to snuff. They knew that in the wild Eastern Conference, they could find themselves fighting to stay in the Playoffs and avoid the Play-In Tournament with one loss just as much as one win could lift them.

Everything felt like the world was collapsing around the Magic. All the work of the season to this point seemed like it was about to end. The dream of being in the 4/5 game or even avoiding the Play-In Tournament was going to disappear.

Then came Sunday's game. A raucous effort where the Orlando Magic dominated from the beginning of the game with their defense and routed the Chicago Bulls.

Suddenly the Orlando Magic had climbed to third in the Eastern Conference, tied with the New York Knicks and a half-game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers. With four games remaining, everything seems possible for the Orlando Magic, including catching the Milwaukee Bucks for second (trailing by just one game).

The only thing anyone knows at this stage of the season is that everything is going to change daily. Every game is going to feel bigger than the last. The Playoffs are arriving to some extent early as the Magic try to establish their place in the final standings.

Buckle up, it is going to be a wild final week in the NBA.

"It's perfect for us," Markelle Fultz said. "It's getting us perfectly ready for the Playoffs. It's going to be huge games against great teams. We have an opportunity to get semi-like playoff games coming up. Games that really matter. But for us, it's taking it one game at a time, understanding what we need to do, preparation going into the game and playing Magic basketball."

The East standings are bunched up from 2-8. Nothing is settled except the 10 teams involved in the Playoff field, the Chicago Bulls facing the Atlanta Hawks in the 9/10 Play-In Game and the Boston Celtics holding the top seed.

Everything else is going to be up in the air the rest of the way.

Here are the standings entering Tuesday's resumption of the schedule after taking Monday off for the NCAA Tournament's title game:




2. Milwaukee




3. Orlando




4. New York




5. Cleveland




6. Indiana




7. Philadelphia




8. Miami




The standings will not look like this much longer.

The most basic thing to understand is the Magic are knocking on the door of clinching a playoff spot. They will punch their ticket to the Playoffs with any combination of two wins or two losses from the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat. They clinch the Southeast Division -- something that would be important in potential tiebreakers -- with two wins or two Heat losses.

Orlando's first priority is, of course, going to be to win games. The Magic control their own destiny and by even going .500 the rest of the way, the Magic would ensure they head to the Playoffs and avoid the Play-In.

But there is so much more to play for. The Magic are fighting for homecourt advantage in the first round and potentially even the 2-seed.

Getting there will not be easy.

The Orlando Magic hit the road to face the Houston Rockets on Tuesday before turning around for a pair of major games against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday and the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday. They close the season Sunday at Kia Center against the Bucks.

The Magic control their own destiny then for the 2-seed with a pair of games against the Bucks. Winning both would almost assuredly clinch a spot in the top three, if not No. 2.

The game against the 76ers with Joel Embiid is likely the most important though with the Sixers' schedule (more on that in a bit) and the chance to prevent them from catching the Magic.

It is easy to see how each game is going to get more and more important as the week moves on. The path ahead for Orlando will not be easy.

But the team will keep its focus on each individual game to get there. That is all the team can do.

"I'm going to go with being locked in on a game-to-game basis," coach Jamahl Mosley said of the team's approach to the final four games. "That things flow up and down a ton in these last four. So us being able to just focus on doing what we're capable of doing is all that matters right now."

The standings are going to change every day. It probably will not do well to obsess with how they change every night. But it is still something to keep tracking.

Tuesday will be another big day with the Milwaukee Bucks hosting the Boston Celtics at Fiserv Forum, the Philadelphia 76ers hosting the Detroit Pistons, the Indiana Pacers visiting the Toronto Raptors, the Miami Heat visiting the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls hosting the New York Knicks for the second time in three games.

Wednesday will see the Orlando Magic take the Milwaukee Bucks in a difficult back-to-back, the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Memphis Grizzlies and the Miami Heat host the Dallas Mavericks. At least on paper, the Magic could clinch the Southeast Division with a win Tuesday and a Heat loss against the streaking Mavericks on Wednesday.

Thursday has the New York Knicks visiting the Boston Celtics.

Friday sees the face-off between the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, the Indiana Pacers face the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland in a critical matchup for playoff positioning, the New York Knicks host the Brooklyn Nets, the Miami Heat open its first of two games at home against the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The final day of the season sees the Orlando Magic host the Milwaukee Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Charlotte Hornets, the Indiana Pacers host the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Heat host the Toronto Raptors, the New York Knicks host the Chicago Bulls (for their third matchup in the last week and a half of the season) and the Philadelphia 76ers host the Brooklyn Nets.

Just digesting all of that, the Magic and the Bucks face the toughest road home and not just because the two teams face each other twice. But there are decisive games along the way like the Pacers-Cavs game on Friday or the Heat-Mavericks game Wednesday.

The standings are going to change dramatically. The only thing the Magic can do is face their own schedule and just find a way to keep winning. Ultimately if they want to win homecourt advantage, they have to win.

"For us to finish this one out the right way before we hit the road in front of our home fans, you can't say enough about their energy and their excitement in this building," Mosley said after Sunday's win. "It fuels us. It helped us start the game out the right way and that's a big portion of it."

That should be a goal for the team -- whether that is finishing second, staying in third or moving down to fourth. Orlando has been excellent at the Kia Center.

The Magic are 28-11 at the Kia Center -- and just 18-21 away from Kia Center (including the Mexico City game). Orlando has a +7.4 net rating in home games, the fifth-best in the league. Playing in front of home fans as much as possible should be a priority and goal for this team.

That is the carrot out there on the road tirp for the Magic. That is the carrot for these final four games.

Orlando will not be able to control what the teams around it in the standings do -- well, it kind of does with two games against the Bucks and one agianst 76ers directly in its control. But the Magic can finish the season strongly.

How the Orlando Magic stack up against potential Playoff matchups. dark. Next. Magic Playoff Matchups Preview 04.08.24

And if they do that, they will survive this wild final week and set themselves up well for the Playoffs.