Orlando Magic must take advantage of softening schedule

The Orlando Magic have one of the easiest schedules for their next 15 games -- including seven straight against teams with losing records. They have an opportunity to climb the standings and get key players some much-needed rest.
The Orlando Magic have an opportunity to make up ground in the playoff chase with a soft part of the schedule coming at a critical juncture in the race.
The Orlando Magic have an opportunity to make up ground in the playoff chase with a soft part of the schedule coming at a critical juncture in the race. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The time is now.

The Orlando Magic (31-25) have an opportunity in front of them like no other team in the NBA. The team is playing some of the worst teams in the NBA for their next stretch of games.

Why do the Magic have the easiest schedule in the league by opponent win percentage? Their next seven games are against teams with losing records and they have an eight-game homestand due up at the end of March.

Everything is set up for the Magic to make a major push up the standings and stake a claim to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. All the Magic have to do is take advantage of it.

They are in the thick of the race and the next few weeks could be a space for them to gain some separation.

Entering Friday's games, the Orlando Magic were a half-game ahead of the Miami Heat for seventh in the Eastern Conference. They are a half-game behind the Indiana Pacers for sixth. The Orlando Magic trail the fifth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers by 1.5 games and the fourth-seeded New York Knicks by three games.

They are behind the third-seeded Milwaukee Bucks by four games. That is less than the distance between the Orlando Magic and the ninth-seeded Chicago Bulls.

That is all to say, the Magic can gain some ground. This next run of games will go a long way to establishing where the Magic can finish in the final standings.

The Magic should be licking their chops after seeing their team complete the first half of the season at 30-25 and scoring the win over the Cleveland Cavaliers coming out of the All-Star Break. Eleven of the next 13 games, including the next seven games, are against opponents with record worse than .500.

Orlando is 16-5 in games against teams with sub-.500 records. This is how the team has built a lot of its success.

That means that there is a good chance that the Magic will go on a serious winning streak in these next 15 games. This is a part of the schedule where the Magic have to get greedy and feast. By the time they get to the end of this run, they may well be sitting where they will finish the season in the playoff standings.

A lot of things have to go right for that to become a possibility. The Magic must stay healthy and continue getting quality minutes off of the bench from guys like Jonathan Isaac, Moe Wagner and Joe Ingles. It likely means Cole Anthony continues his resurgence and Anthony Black continues to give solid minutes filling in for Markelle Fultz.

But everything is set up for the Magic to go on a run. Just look at who is coming up on the schedule:

They start off this run against the Detroit Pistons (8-47) and Atlanta Hawks (24-31) in a back-to-back on the road. Sunday's game in Atlanta could be a schedule loss with a tough travel and time change -- Saturday's game in Detroit has an 8 p.m. tip off. But a 2-1 road trip out of the All-Star Break is a success for this team.

After those two road games, they play three home games with the Brooklyn Nets (21-34) on Tuesday, the Utah Jazz (26-31) on Thursday and then the Detroit Pistons again. Orlando has been strong at the Kia Center, going 18-8 on the home parquet.

Then the Magic play three more road games with the Charlotte Hornets (14-41) and Washington Wizards (9-46) in a back-to-back to open the trip. They then finish their season series on the road against the New York Knicks (34-22) in one of the biggest games remaining in the season -- and the first team with a winning record they will face in this run.

Orlando returns home on March 10 to face the Indiana Pacers (32-25) in a critical game for playoff seeding. Then they play the Brooklyn Nets at home and the Toronto Raptors (20-36) twice, the Charlotte Hornets again, the New Orleans Pelicans (34-22) and the Sacramento Kings (32-23).

That second game against the Raptors tips off an eight-game homestand that will cement the Magic's spot in the playoff picture and determine whether they can avoid the play-in or not. After facing the Sacramento Kings, the Orlando Magic get the Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers.

The Magic will have to get their work done early then with five of their final seven games on the road. That will be a lot for this team but a lot of opportunity to pick up ground and plant their flag in the playoff picture.

The Magic have not been able to get national respect from pundits and journalists. They did not have any games added to the national TV schedule -- especially those Knicks and Pacers games. But they can put their names front and center if they can go on another winning streak and climb the standings.

The Magic have the opportunity to silence their critics and put the entire NBA on notice with this upcoming schedule. They have a chance to climb the standings and shock everyone when the playoff begins. The 4-seed is not impossible for them.

Next. Magic sprint playoffs 02.23.24. Orlando Magic's sprint to the Playoffs begins. dark

Only time will tell if they will take advantage of this opportunity.