Orlando Magic's postseason hopes hinge on taking care of business to end the season

The Orlando Magic currently sit in fourth in the Eastern Conference thanks to 11 wins in their last 14 games. But to keep that ranking into April and find themselves at the top of a crowded middle pack, the team must take care of business against bottom-tier teams.
Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets
Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets / David Jensen/GettyImages

Controlling the controllables.

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley has used that phrase in the locker room at least once to his now fourth-seeded team. Things have begun to fall into place for the Magic to make their first postseason appearance since 2020.

With one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NBA, the Magic have seven matchups against teams in the bottom four of each conference, the most of any team. Similar to the beginning of the year where their nine-game win streak featured four teams in the bottom four (Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Hornets and the Washington Wizards twice), the Orlando Magic have an opportunity to set themselves ahead of the Eastern Conference's middle pack as the season nears its close.

They have been doing exactly that: taking care of business. Since their national TV loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Orlando Magic have won seven of their last eight.

Two wins against the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers (both possible first-round playoff opponents) have put them back on the radar as true playoff contenders. But that streak has been finished off with wins against the lowly Detroit Pistons twice, the Brooklyn Nets and, Tuesday night, the Charlotte Hornets.

Taking care of business in these kinds of games are just as important as the marquee matchups the Magic will have in the final quarter of the season. And Orlando has dominated these kinds of games -- going 21-6 against teams with records worse than .500.

Not every matchup will present a postseason preview-type matchup that gives Orlando a statement win. They continue to control the controllables, moving up the conference standings whether the league takes notice or not.

"People are starting to slowly, but surely catch on," Cole Anthony quipped about Orlando's postseason hype after Tuesday's game. "There are some good teams in this league and we are trying to build our way up into those ranks. And I feel like we are well on our way. The hype will come. We just have to keep doing what we've got to do."

These games against teams with losing records are just as important as ones against top squads, because there are no bad teams in the NBA. The Charlotte Hornets have beaten both the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Boston Celtics this year. The Detroit Pistons took out the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Memphis Grizzlies have wins against the LA Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks.

The point is: "Bad" teams can beat "good" teams fairly often. So it is incredibly important for Orlando to have confidence in its offensive and defensive identities to work through these wins with no issues.

This young Magic team does not have playoff experience, either. A seven-game series, even against a lower-seeded team, is a totally different ballgame than a regular season matchup. If they fall out of rhythm in the second half, it is game over.

They can let it slide and work through it against Charlotte in March. But a slump of a third quarter against the Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers or Philadelphia 76ers in April and May? Very, very different.

So these matchups are key to understanding not only the Magic's best offensive approaches but also building thick skin for young guys who have not been under playoff pressure when things may go off the rails.

In Charlotte on Tuesday, a 12-turnover first half gave them just a two-point lead against the 15-47 Hornets. In the third quarter, Orlando pushed its lead to nine entering the fourth with a couple of threes and a bucket off the glass from Paolo Banchero and Cole Anthony.

"There was a level of poise with the guys," Mosley said after Tuesday's win. "It was a rocky game, back and forth, guys couldn’t really get a flow both offensively and defensively. It was physical, which we prefer. Our guys’ ability to stay poised, stay in the moment and just finding ways to win on the road was impressive.”

An undefeated record in the remaining seven games against those lowly teams for the rest of the season (the Washington Wizards, two against the Toronto Raptors, two more against the Charlotte Hornets, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Memphis Grizzlies) would give the Orlando Magic at least 46 wins, guaranteeing at the very least, a Play-In spot, even with a 10th-seeded Atlanta Hawks end of season surge.

Orlando's postseason standing during the next month hinges on how they take of business against "bad" teams. Especially with their three-game gauntlet to end the season.

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The Magic are better than most of the teams they play over the next few months. Proving that will be a big step to take before the playoffs begin in April.