The Orlando Magic’s quest for the seventh seed is officially over.
And that means they have a date with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The shorthanded Magic fought admirably in an attempt to keep their seventh-seed hopes alive, but ultimately surrendered a late lead and fell to the Boston Celtics in overtime, 122-119. That meant, in order to move up from eighth to seventh, they would have to win their final two games (against the Nets and Pelicans), and the Nets would have to lose their final three (against the Clippers, Magic and Blazers).
Still seemed doable given the competition. Then those depleted and scrappy Nets went and upset the Clippers, 129-120, late Sunday night, clinching the seventh seed and a matchup with the Toronto Raptors. The Nets - the very team that everyone, myself included, assumed would roll over and die during the restart with all of their injuries and opt outs - improved to 4-2 in bubble play. The injury-ravaged Magic - who played Sunday without Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Michael Carter-Williams and Jonathan Isaac - have lost four straight to fall to 2-4 during the restart.
So, the Magic-Nets game on Tuesday now has no impact on the standings, and will instead be used to for some combination of resting regulars, giving the end of the bench an opportunity, and experimentation.
Preparation for the 55-15 Bucks begins immediately. But it’s going to require A LOT of preparation and a rather large miracle.
The Bucks - who would have had a second-straight 60-or-more-win season under normal circumstances - boast the league’s top defensive rating at 102.3, and a top-10 offensive rating at 112.3 (7th). They swept the four-game season series against the Magic, winning by an average margin of 17 points per game.
Our Aaron Goldstone went inside the numbers, and they were not pretty...
Just to get some information out there for comparison...— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) August 6, 2020
-ORL/MIL numbers (four games)
-ORL/TOR numbers (four games) pic.twitter.com/tzR5yZa7Ym
The Bucks have gone just 2-3 in bubble play, but have had nothing to play for. Expect to see a team on a mission once the first round begins.