The Orlando Magic have won only 19 games all season, and this is because they are a lottery bound team. However, they are not as bad as their record would suggest, and going forward there are many reasons for optimism. The roster is young and hungry, two ingredients which could yet turn this team into a playoff team again sooner rather than later. However, with the Magic having only won four games away from home all season, that is a number that is hard to get away from. It’s been mentioned here before that there is nothing left to play for this season, but if Orlando could put in the effort on their upcoming road trip, getting over that hump and winning a couple of games on the road may do wonders for this team mentally.
Earlier this season, the Magic lost 16 straight road games, tying the franchise record for most consecutive road losses. That streak was snapped against the woeful Philadelphia 76ers and you have to think that had they not played Philly when they did, the team would have set a new record for most road losses in a row. The team caught a lucky break in that respect, but all the luck in the world wouldn’t turn this team’s fortunes around on the road. This is puzzling in some respects though, as anybody who watches the Magic on a regular basis knows that they have actually been quite competitive in some of those away losses. Their road form is actually classic of any lottery bound team, however. That is, they play competitively and relatively well for three quarters, before ultimately falling away in the fourth when talent has a habit of taking over. This Orlando team is devoid of any real talent at this moment in time, although the intriguing pieces the team boasts have been well documented. So playing well for three quarters is all well and good, but basketball is a four quarter game, and until the Magic can find a way to close out games, they will continue to struggle.
This week the Denver Nuggets and Washington Wizards will come into town to play. The Nuggets game at one point would have looked winnable, but the return of Ty Lawson has the Nuggets playing a more confident and up tempo game that Orlando will struggle with on the defensive end. Right now the Wizards know they look a playoff team, and are 8-2 over the last 10 games. Afterwards though the Magic are heading to the West Coast to play four games. Yes, the draft now comes into focus, so losing is not the end of the world anyway. This would in theory enhance their lottery chances. Long term though, doing well on this trip could really help the belief within the team. The goal here should be to go 2-2 on this trip. Not a massive task you would think, but the way the games fall and the opponents they will play turn this into a difficult.
Orlando will play two back to backs, starting next Tuesday at the Golden State Warriors. Wednesday sees the team play the Phoenix Suns before taking the next few days off. Saturday it’s the Utah Jazz, while the last game of the trip is a match up with the Los Angeles Lakers. On first look, the team would wish the games were flipped, as starting the trip off with games against the Jazz and Lakers would be far more ideal. These are two far easier games, and if Orlando played them first and won both of them, they would then have some invaluable momentum. This is not the way the games have fallen though, and the Magic must prepare for two fast paced games in the Warriors and Suns. Orlando’s poor defense will likely be crucified by the flowing Warriors offense, while the Suns may have similar joy. The return of Eric Bledsoe to the Suns lineup may hinder their chemistry initially, but it would be a safer bet that both Bledsoe and Goran Dragic have a field day against the Magic. That would leave the team at 0-2 and with a lot of searching to do before the next pair of games.
If Orlando can pick themselves up, a win is possible against the Jazz. It won’t be easy; ironically, Utah is probably the Orlando of the Western Conference. Young and with pieces of interest, they are a team going places as well. An enjoyable game is in store it would seem, but the Jazz are no pushovers at home themselves, and will make it difficult. The Lakers game is certainly up for grabs, at this point you just don’t know which Los Angeles team will show up. They could be the team that beat the Oklahoma City Thunder recently, or the one that played one of the worst 48 minutes of competitive basketball in living memory against the Los Angeles Clippers. Either way, it represents the opportunity of a valuable road win for the Orlando Magic.
At this point, it is about the small steps for the Magic, and this road trip represents a chance to get a little bit better. Losing is not the end of the world, but the goal should be to go 2-2. It would certainly breed confidence and belief for the players as the season winds down for them. As an added incentive, they could play spoiler should they pick up wins against the home court chasing Warriors or playoff chasing Suns. For this team, wrecking the hopes of others is about as competitive as it gets for them at this point in the season.
Tags: Orlando Magic