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Breaking down the schedule and weighing the Magic’s slim playoff chances

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Do You Believe in Magic Podcast: Episode 29

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic come into the 2018-2019 season with a highly touted draft pick, and newly appointed Head Coach. Could it be enough to make a playoff run?

The Magic’s schedule was announced this past weekend with six nationally televised events.

10/22 at Boston NBA TV

11/28 at Portland NBA TV

12/15 vs Utah in Mexico NBA TV

1/21 at Atlanta NBA TV

3/25 vs Philadelphia NBA TV

4/10 at Charlotte ESPN

As you probably notice above, the Magic host just one of these events, and the sixth and final game is almost certain to be flexed out with the Hornets and Magic likely to be out of contention on the league’s final night of the regular season.

The season begins with a matchup at the Amway Center against the Miami Heat, and while that game is certain to be a litmus test for the season, the matchup on October 22nd is certain to get national attention should the Magic pull the upset.

The biggest storyline from this past week’s announcements, however, lie within the two ‘home’ games that will be played in Mexico City. The Magic will ‘host’ the Chicago Bulls on December 13th, and the Utah Jazz on December 15th. Fans may be disappointed to lose their lone opportunity to see ‘Spider’ Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert play this season, but they will have another opportunity to see the Chicago Bulls on February 22nd. In addition, neither of these games will be played on the league’s most notable networks (ABC, ESPN, TNT), but instead will be played on Orlando’s local affiliate, FSN1, and NBA TV, which many fans do not have.

The Mexico City Magic come to Mexico for their doubleheader after one of their longest road trips of the season. A six-game in 12 night Western Conference road trip that will now culminate south of the American border.

Other notable games this season include:

10/20 Bamba v Embiid

11/17 LAbron comes to Orlando

11/30 Ayton v Bamba

1/29 Russel Westbrook comes to Orlando

2/28 Golden State comes to Orlando

The Magic’s longest homestand of the season comes in mid-March where they will face the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, and Philadelphia 76ers over the course of 11 days.

Playoff Chances

The odds are against the Orlando Magic to make any kind of meaningful run during the 2018-19 season after finishing with but 25 wins last season.

And yet, Steve Clifford did exactly that in the 2013-2014 season with the then Charlotte Bobcats, leading them from 21 wins to 43 in his inaugural season as the team’s Head Coach.

The Magic may not be a heavy favorite in the group of fringe teams for that 8th and final spot, but let’s take a look at what teams stand in their way:

1) Boston

2) Toronto

3) Philadelphia

4) Indiana

5) Milwaukee

6) *Washington

Washington comes with an asterisk due to the infighting last season between the back court stars, John Wall and Bradley Beal. So too, the team added troublesome player Dwight Howard, who will play for his fourth team in the past three seasons (if you include the buyout by Brooklyn).

After that, is anything in the East a certainty? Miami and Cleveland lie as the favorites for the 7th and 8th spots. Erik Spoelstra remains one of the top head coaches in the league, and carries continuity on the roster with him. But Goran Dragic is a year older, and the trouble of Hassan Whiteside could loom large with the likely workload of Bam Adebayo set to increase.

And who could possibly know what to expect from Colin Sexton and Kevin Love in Cleveland. Love is now four years removed from his superstar tenure in Minnesota that never resulted in a single playoff appearance. A team built around Sexton, Love, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, George Hill, and Cedi Osman should be considered anything but a guarantee.

After that, the Magic simply need to worry about Dwayne Casey, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond in Detroit, and Kemba Walker in Charlotte.

Brooklyn continues to improve, but with a lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Ed Davis and Jarrett Allen, a playoff lock is far from conceivable.

New York could make a late push with Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Kristaps Porzingis, should he return at 100 percent by the New Year, but even by then, it may be too late.

So, is there a chance that a team “running back” their starting lineup, fully healthy, with a fundamental, disciplined head coach, and the added firepower of a healthy Isaac and Mo Bamba could make a dent in the Eastern playoff race?

Join the cast of ‘Do You Believe in Magic’ as we break down these questions and many more!