Race To The 3rd Seed: Predicting the Orlando Magic's seeding

The Orlando Magic are in the midst of a dream season and are only one game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 3-seed. With a tough road ahead to finish the season, what are their chances of climbing that high?
Portland Trail Blazers v Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers v Orlando Magic / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

The Orlando Magic are climbing the standings.

Although the Magic only have one all-star on its roster, it has been one of the most successful seasons in Orlando's history and the most successful seasons for the team in the past decade.

At 44-31, the Magic sit in fifth with seven games to go. But they are a half-game back of the New York Knicks in fourth (the Knicks play the Miami Heat on Tuesday night) and one game back of the Cleveland Cavaliers in third. A higher playoff seed is there for the taking.

The Magic's road ahead is not easy though. They play five of their final seven on the road with only one game against a team outside of postseason contention (Friday's game against the Charlotte Hornets). They have only two games remaining -- Sunday's game against the Chicago Bulls and then the finale next Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Every game is going to be important down the stretch with so much on the line. But there is still a clear path to the third seed if the Magic can take care of business on the road.

The Magic will have their work cut out for them because the three-game losing streak last week at home did not help their cause. That is the big thing the Magic have prove -- that they can beat these Playoff-caliber teams.

Orlando lost three consecutive games to playoff-bound teams in the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and LA Clippers. If they want to grab the 3-seed, then the team cannot afford to drop too many games. They are going to have to finish the season strong, especially considering the schedules the Cavs and Knicks have remaining.

The Cavaliers have a gauntlet of Playoff opponents to end the year. It starts with their West Coast trip while the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four occupies the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Tuesday night they play the Utah Jazz in the Delta Center and then they play the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers. It is possible for them to lose all four games. But in either case, it will be a tough road for a team that has lost 14 of its last 24 games.

Basketball-Reference currently projects the Cavaliers to win 49 games. That should set the goal to be the 3-seed at around 48 wins. The Magic would just have to 5-2 in their final seven games to have a shot at it.

The Knicks too have a pretty tough schedule to end the season.

Tuesday they play a Heat team looking to move up in the standings and put pressure on the Magic from below (the Magic lead the Heat by 2.5 games with seven games to play). They are currently on a two-game winning streak and a game behind the Indiana Pacers.

After tonight's matchup with the Heat, the New York Knicks have to play the Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics. They could possibly lose all four of those games and end the season with a 48-34 record and tied with Cleveland.

Basketball-Reference projects the Knicks at 48.7 wins.

That sets a pretty clear goal for the Magic. The 3-seed will take 49 wins. So the Magic will have to win five of their last seven games in order to jump them in the standings.

The Magic have a daunting remaining schedule too.

They play the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center, which is not an easy task. New Orleans is 21-16 at home and coming off a frustrating loss to Phoenix. The Pelicans will be hungry for a win -- and some revenge after the game last week.

The last time the Magic played the Pelicans, Paolo Banchero had a 20-point triple-double and the Magic won 121-106 in the Kia Center. This time may be different as the sixth-seeded Pelicans attempt to defend home court and move up to the fifth seed in the Western Conference.

After that matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans, the Orlando Magic gets a relative breather with the Charlotte Hornets to complete the road trip and then return home to face the Chicago Bulls. Those are the final two teams the Magic face with a losing record -- where the Magic lead the league with 27 wins and a 27-6 record.

Then the Orlando Magic face a daunting final three-game road trip, traveling to face the red-hot Houston Rockets. The Rockets are fresh off of an 11-game winning streak. They are trying to chase down the Golden State Warriors and have been strong at home, going 26-12 in Toyota Center.

A lot of things have changed in Houston since that whooping on Opening Night and they should challenge the Magic a lot more than they did the first time they matched up.

Orlando's road record is not particularly strong either. The Magic are 17-19 away from the Kia Center. And they will have to prove themselves with this tricky road trip.

Orlando goes from Houston to Milwaukee for a difficult back-to-back. The Milwaukee Bucks are 2.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for second in the East. They should be close to wrapping that up by the time the Magic arrive in Milwaukee. Still, they are trying to round into form for their Playoff run.

They then head to Philadelphia to take on the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers have beaten the Magic twice already this season. And they should have Joel Embiid back by next Friday's game as he tries to gear up for the Playoffs.

Chasing down the 3-seed or even the 4-seed will be tough because of this schedule. Orlando has to keep stacking up wins to keep up.

Basketball-Reference currently projects the Magic to finish fifth with 47.6 wins. Getting to the 4-seed is still very possible if the Magic can flip an unexpected game along the way. But it will be a challenge.

Orlando Magic are a few players from contention. dark. Next. Magic point guard center contention 04.02.24

The team will have their hand full facing three of the best players in the entire NBA in the last stretch of the season. But that experience is exactly the type of opponents they need to defeat to gain more confidence before a Playoff push.

The chase is on to the end of the season.