As the calendar turned to the New Year, the NBA season slowly creeps towards it’s midway point. With most teams having 35-38 games in the books, many teams know what they are, and what they can expect on a night-to-night basis.
For others, like the Orlando Magic, that is still a big question they’re trying to answer.
Sitting at 16-21 following a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, the always inconsistent Magic find themselves on the outside looking in of a jumbled battle for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With nine of their remaining 13 games in the month of January on the road, the Magic will have to find some much needed consistent if they want to keep things afloat, something they were unable to do in January last season.
Included in that stretch of road games if their first of two West Coast swings this season, a six-game, 11-day road trip that includes an extended four day stay in Los Angeles to face the Lakers and Clippers. Following that they travel to Portland for the front in of a tough back-to-back against the Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz. They wrap up the road trip with an early tip in Denver against the Nuggets on Martin Luther King Jr Day, and a pitstop in New Orleans before returning home.
Needless to say, this trip is one the Magic could have success on. For the season, only the Clippers and Jazz — fourth and fifth respectively in the Western Conference — sport winning records, with the Lakers, Blazers, Pelicans and Nuggets sitting a combined 34 games under .500.
Simply put, if the Magic want to be a playoff team, they have to beat the teams they should beat, and they should beat the likes of the Lakers, Pelicans and Nuggets. Portland, who sports one of the bust guard duos in the league in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, could pose problems to a Magic team that’s struggled to limit guard penetration over the last month.
Customarily the first West Coast trip of the season sheds a lot of light on the Magic and the direction the team will be heading moving forward. If they’re successful, they could be poised to make a push for the playoffs. If they fall flat, and string together more inconsistent, uninspiring low-energy performances, it could be time to hit the panic button and make a move ahead of the much anticipated trading deadline.
If the Magic are able to come out of the road trip around the .500 mark, it would likely mean they still have a chance to make that much needed playoff push. If they fall face first and go 1-5 or even 2-4, it could mean the time is now to make a move and bring in some fresh faces to try and turn things around.
At the end of the day, this road trip will tell us a lot about the inconsistent Magic bunch. If they’re able to have the same success they have had on the road thus far —they sit at 9-9 on the road, compared to 7-12 at home — it could turn things around and give them the momentum they appeared to be building in early-December.
If they fall flat, we’ll continue to ask who this team is, as they likely try and integrate more new faces.