A little while ago, we spoke here about the possibility that the Orlando Magic could make amends for their horrific away form during their recent four-game road trip. Games against the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns were never going to be easy, and as it happened they weren’t. Orlando lost both games by a combined total of 30 points, failing to score more than 100 points in both contests, too. The following two games against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers represented an opportunity to redeem themselves. This didn’t happen either, with the team coming up short in both games. Now at nine straight losses, how much worse can things get?
This team is 1-23 on the road since the turn of the calendar year, that’s Philadelphia 76ers bad. All the more puzzling is the fact that this team has periods of good play, yet still has nothing to show for this. Saturday’s one-point buzzer beating loss to the Jazz, the result of a Trey Burke effort, was tough to to take because the team had been in the game up until the final moments. The loss to the injury depleted Lakers the next night though was unacceptable. Los Angeles center Jordan Hill had a career night, going off for 28 points and 13 rebounds. Make no mistake, Hill is a good young player who has played admirably when given minutes by Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni. But the Magic’s defense made this guy look like Shaquille O’Neal in his prime out there. There was no real attempt made to stop him from doing damage inside the paint. Yes this season is over for the team, but it is still possible to play for pride and the knowledge that putting in the work to be successful for next season starts now.
Speaking of next season, that is all the Magic have to look forward to as they are now officially and mathematically out of playoff contention. Of course they’ve been out of the equation since about November, so nothing changes here. But if ever there was a time to mess around with rotations, line-ups and pretty much anything else to see if this team can unearth some kind of magic formula to win games, now is the time. This is year two of a complete rebuild job for this organization since Dwight Howard went away, and the third year of anything in the NBA is usually a make or break season. It is this year in a player’s career that they breakout and become a true All-Star, or go from obscurity to becoming a wanted role player on a team. For teams as well, this has been the year in the past where struggling franchises like the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder made the breakthrough and tasted the playoffs once more. Maybe playoff talking is a little premature, but next year there will come the first wave of expectation this team has seen since Howard was wearing their uniform. How they react to this will be big for them going forward.
As this season winds down however, the Magic are once again hobbling to the finish line. Thankfully the road trips are over for the year, although the one just gone represented an opportunity to win some away games and break the hoodoo they currently have over this team. Unfortunately though, there aren’t many more easy games left either. This team needs to play better defense though, and also begin to find some sort of offensive shape. There is just no way a team can be that good if Arron Afflalo is your go to guy offensively. One positive though, is the fact that the loss to the Lakers leaves the Magic with the third worst record in the league. They now trail Los Angeles by five games in the race to the draft lottery. It is absolutely the worst way to look at things as nobody likes losing or talking themselves into thinking that losing can actually be a good thing. It is the only saving grace for this team though, in what has once again been a bad season for the team. This road trip only served to highlight this fact once again. Things can only get better next year, right?