Orlando was 19-13 after their 100-93 win against Brooklyn on December 30th. A 32 point fourth quarter helped erase a deficit and give Orlando their seventh win in their past nine games. The team was hot and appeared to have turned a corner as a franchise. After multiple losing seasons since the departure of Dwight Howard, Orlando has been a bad lottery team in search of development from its young players. The team has acquired talented pieces including Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic and was thinking not only of the future, but the present as well.
Playoff Hopes for the Orlando Magic are Dim
Flash forward to today. Since the calendar flipped to 2016, Orlando is 1-7. I began to wonder if Orlando was merely losing focus in their past eight games or if they were simply playing better than possible to start the year. I reviewed their schedule and realized a shocking statistic. While Orlando may be 20-20, they have THREE wins against teams currently over .500: November 6 vs Toronto, November 29th vs Boston and December 23rd vs Houston. In fact, Orlando is 3-14 against teams with a winning record. That percentage screams lottery bound.
Orlando has lived off of beating bad teams to start the year and their luck is about to run out. Starting January 29th, the team plays ten straight games against teams with a winning record. TEN. It is good to see Orlando at 20-20. They have made progress this year, especially defensively. Vucevic is already one of the best centers in the league and Aaron Gordon’s minutes are climbing. Yet this upcoming ten game steak will likely eliminate Orlando from a playoff push in a very competitive Eastern Conference: at Boston, vs Boston, at San Antonio, at Oklahoma City, vs Los Angeles Clippers, vs Atlanta, at Atlanta, vs San Antonio, vs Dallas, and vs Indiana. None of those games are easy and most of these teams are playing extremely good basketball right now, particularly San Antonio and Los Angeles. I won’t even mention the team plays Golden State twice shortly after.
Orlando was very efficient to begin the year offensively, often scoring over 100 points. Yet in their last eight games they have done this just once (and it was 103 points in OT, so does it count?). The team has scored 91, 79, 89, 86, 83 (W), 99, 103 (OT) and 81. Before these last eight games? They scored more than 100 in 11 straight. If they want to remain alive in the playoff hunt, they have to score more points.
Obviously Orlando is nowhere near being mathematically eliminated from the playoff push. They are currently one game behind Boston and have two games against them in the near future. Yet Orlando has proven so far they cannot beat good teams and is likely destined to descend in the standings.