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Magic vs. Bulls preview: The Orlando Magic’s playoff push continues!

The Magic, seeking a sixth straight win, look to inch closer to a playoff spot

Orlando Magic v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The NBA All-Star break couldn’t end soon enough for the Orlando Magic.

With the Magic playing their best basketball in years, it was a week off that few within the organization probably wanted. The Magic finally return to the court tonight having won five straight games and seven of their last eight.

With 23 games remaining, the playoff push officially begins. Orlando enters just a half game behind the Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (and just one game behind the seventh-seeded Charlotte Hornets, and 2.5 games behind the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets). If the Magic take care of business against the 14-44 Chicago Bulls, and if the Pistons are somehow upset on the road by the 19-39 Atlanta Hawks, the Orlando Magic will actually move into a playoff spot.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard that this late in the season. Seven years to be exact.

The key is for the Magic is to pretend as if this potential momentum-halting week off never happened and pick up right where they left off.

During their five-game winning streak, the Magic had the best offensive rating in the league at 120.2 points per 100 possessions AND the best defensive rating in the league, allowing just 97.4 points per. Their effective shooting percentage (55.8 percent) and true shooting percentage (59.7 percent) in that stretch are both sixth best in the league, and they have connected on 39.8 percent of their threes. They are coming off consecutive victories of 30 or more points, the last of which snapped their 13-game losing streak to the Hornets, and their average margin of victory over the five games is 22.8 points.

Jonathan Isaac, over his last nine games, is averaging 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.2 steals, while shooting 47 percent from the field. Isaac’s breakthrough, along with sparks from Wes Iwundu, Khem Birch, and Isaiah Briscoe, have helped put Orlando in position to potentially win a sixth straight game for the first time since the 2010-2011 season. Oh, and...

The Magic, though, have proved capable this season of beating the league’s best and losing to the league’s worst. The Bulls must not be taken lightly. While Chicago owns the league’s fourth worst record, one of their 14 victories came against the Magic in December, with Orlando scoring just 80 points on 32.6 percent shooting.

The Bulls – who have gone 3-4 in their last seven with wins on the road against Brooklyn and Miami - enter with the league’s worst offensive rating at 103.2 points per 100 possessions and the seventh worst defensive rating at 111.6 per. But the Chicago offense has improved of late, particularly since the recently-acquired Otto Porter Jr. was inserted into the lineup. In four games with Chicago, Porter has averaged 22.5 points and 5.8 rebounds, including a 37-point outburst. The Bulls, also with weapons in Zach Lavine (23.0 points per) and Lauri Markkanen (18.5 points, 8.8 rebounds), went 2-2 in the four games and posted an offensive rating of 114.3 in that span, eighth best in the league.

“I mean, we have a losing record, so how could we possibly think teams having losing records not being good?’’ Evan Fournier told John Denton of “There are plenty of dynamics in the NBA with injuries, guys fighting for playoffs, guys playing for their contract and whatever. So, right now, we have a losing record, but I feel like we’re playing better. But we can’t look at (records) because we’re playing NBA teams and NBA players and they can kick your ass. So, don’t look at the schedule at all.”

It’s an exciting day for the Magic for more reasons that one. In addition to looking to extend their winning streak and inch closer to a playoff spot, Orlando will also induct longtime play-by-play announcer David Steele into the Magic Hall of Fame. Steele was nice enough to speak with us about his career.

Click on the links below for some pregame reading material....