Orlando Magic's playoff push starts with taking care of their business

The standings in the Eastern Conference continue to bunch up as the Orlando Magic make a push for their playoff spot. This young team is beginning to understand they have to take care of their business first.
Cole Anthony and the Orlando Magic know they are in the middle of a playoff chase with the season heading toward its final quarter. They also know they have to take care of their business before anything else.
Cole Anthony and the Orlando Magic know they are in the middle of a playoff chase with the season heading toward its final quarter. They also know they have to take care of their business before anything else. / Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

The standings are posted somewhere in the Orlando Magic's training facility. Everyone is at least tangentially aware of how tight they are and how important every game is.

Trying to keep track of them is a daily challenge. Something happens every night that shifts and changes the standings -- the Orlando Magic's win over the Utah Jazz on Thursday lifted them into a virtual tie for fifth in the standings with the Philadelphia 76ers.

It is a lot to keep track of. So it has gotten to the point where Cole Anthony, someone who seems to know always what something means, is not going to bother to check them daily.

What would be the point?

The only thing he seems certain of is the Magic control a lot of their own destiny. Or at least that is the only thing they should be concerned with. Orlando has put itself in a position where if the team takes care of its business and stacks up wins, the playoff seeding will take care of itself.

"You can't ignore it," coach Jamahl Mosley said after the team's shootaround Thursday. "At the end of the day, this is why you break it down into the segments we break it down to. You don't look at the whole run of it. You focus on what we need to do in each one of our games as opposed to what other teams are doing. As much as we can control our effort, our energy and our focus on the game plan, the better we'll be."

For them, looking at the standings is not going to be productive. They are going to change constantly. What the team is focused on is playing to its standard -- or even establishing a playoff standard -- to play to. They know they have to take care of their business to be successful and achieve their goals.

That is what is ahead of them. Orlando had the easiest schedule by opponent win percentage after the All-Star Break entering this stretch of seven games against opponents with below-.500 records. The Magic still have the easiest schedule remaining by opponent win percentage with just three back-to-backs remaining and 13 games at Kia Center, where the team is 20-8.

All this is to say the team knows it controls a lot of its own destiny. And the Magic know if they take care of that business, everything else will take care of itself. They just have to take care of these soft spots in the schedule.

There are two important stretches for the Magic in this run that the Magic have taken care of to this point in the season.

The first is their seven-game stretch against teams with losing records the team is in the midst of. The Orlando Magic are currently 3-1 in that stretch with three games remaining -- Sunday against the Detroit Pistons, Tuesday at the Charlotte Hornets and Wednesday at the Washington Wizards.

Orlando will also have an eight-game homestand beginning March 17-April 1, featuring "winnable" games against the Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers. All this before five of the final seven games come on the road.

The Magic are not looking that far ahead of the schedule, but they know this is a time they have to take care of their business.

"I think we've talked about that a ton, being able to respect your opponent no matter who," Mosley said after shootaround Thursday. "You can't play teams by their record. you can be beaten by any team with any record. us being able to respect the opponent, number one, and being able to stick with the gameplan when asked."

The Magic have done that. These are the exact games they have taken care of -- even beyond winning three of their last four and four of five since the All-Star Break.

Orlando has a 19-6 record against teams with record below .500. And five of those losses came to the Atlanta Hawks (three) and two to the Brooklyn Nets.

Further, the Magic have a +6.7 net rating at the Kia Center, the sixth-best mark in the league. They have a 116.7/109.7 offensive/defensive rating split. Both marks are better than their season averages, as is to be expected.

The fact that so many games remaining are at home shows how important it is for the Magic to continue doing what they have done all season. That will inevitably push the team up the standings. They do not have to worry about what anyone else is doing.

That is the focus the Magic are trying to bring to these games. They know they must focus on their gameplan and take care of their home floor. They have to make teams feel uncomfortable -- something that took them a little while to do in Thursday's win over the Utah Jazz. It is clearly not easy.

But if they do that, everything else will fall into place.

The team has worked hard through the difficult parts of their season to get to this part they can take advantage of. That is always how the schedule is set up for them. This is when they know they have to play their best basketball and they are trending that way and taking advantage of it so far.

"I think as a unit we have had a lot of highs and a lot of lows," Anthony said after shootaround Thursday. "I think we have done a great job weathering the storm. We've had some guys in and some guys out. Some dudes not playing well, some dudes playing well. I think we have done a pretty good job of weathering that storm. I still think we have yet to play our best basketball."

The Magic have indeed done so. Since Franz Wagner returned from his ankle injury, the Magic are 12-6. They have a +2.3 net rating with a 115.3 offensive rating. The Magic still have plenty to improve on but they are picking up steam and playing some of their best basketball now.

There will be challenges ahead and the Playoffs will be an entirely different animal for this young team. Orlando is getting ready for it all.

As much as everyone is focused on the standings -- and here they are entering March 1's games: the Orlando Magic are one game behind the New York Knicks for fourth, percentage points behind the Philadelphia 76ers for fifth, tied with the Indiana Pacers for sixth and a half-game ahead of the Miami Heat for seventh -- those will change daily.

Orlando Magic have to regain their defensive fire. dark. Next. Magic defensive fire 02.29.24

Orlando knows it controls its own destiny. Those standings may not matter. The Magic just have to keep winning.