The schedule has been out for around a couple of weeks now so it is probably time that we take a look at it in some detail.
I am going to start by looking from the perspective of the team & what our season could hold.
Excitement & Expectations
The season is for many Magic fans a highly anticipated one. We are understandably excited to see what our squad can do running it back after last season’s 7th place finish & playoff appearance.
Being honest though; had we won the games where we had big leads or beaten perceived lesser teams our Orlando Magic could have (& probably should have) finished with a better seeding & we would not have been involved in the mad scramble for a postseason spot.
That failing affected us throughout the past season & is something this campaign needs to avoid & I strongly believe we will do so.
The Importance Of Getting To .500
The obvious place to start any look at the season is with the opening of that campaign.
A really interesting stat about the NBA is the correlation between wins in the opening 20 games of the campaign & success in reaching the playoffs.
In the Eastern Conference (across the last 20 seasons) there is a widely publicised statistic showing 87 teams have won 12 or more of their opening 20 games. Of those 87 teams 79 have reached the playoffs, a success rate of 91%. For winning 9 games, a stat attained by 30 teams only 18 made the playoffs (60%). Win 8 out of 20 & that percentage drops to 28%.
During the last season (2018-19) the Magic won 10 of their opening 20 games, seeing us attain a .500 record in this vital period & provide the springboard for us finally making the playoffs after a long absence.
The Opening Months
With that in mind lets look at our opening 20 fixtures for the new season. Our season begins at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 23rd. Those opening 20 games has 11 in the Amway, including one of two back-to-backs in that period.
The longest road trip here is 4 games & are all against Eastern Conference teams. We play the Raptors three times, the Cavs, Wizards & Pacers each twice. I don’t feel it is unfair to believe that at the end of this opening period we can be a .500 team again.
Last season from this point we did fall away in parts, so the team need to have a consistent success rate if we are to make the step forward that many of us fans & ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (he has us as finishing as the 4th seed in the East) believe this squad is ready for.
Home For The Holidays
December sees our first extended Western Conference road trip & it is a tough one, including what I believe is a horrible back-to-back in Salt Lake City against the Jazz & then in Denver to the Nuggets. December also sees us host the Warriors, Lakers & Rockets.
A little disappointing but no surprise that we don’t feature in the Christmas Day schedule but we are at home either side of Christmas. By the end of December I really hope we haven’t been derailed. That isn’t being negative but being objective. We will need to be at our best throughout the month to have achieved a good win percentage.
A Stormy January
January 3rd sees our first meeting of the season against Florida rivals the Miami Heat. As we head into mid January we hit what is probably our toughest period of the season, which seems to be the case every season.
From January 10th to January 20th we have a tough 6 game road trip, with 5 games against Western Conference teams including 3 games in 4 nights against the Clippers, Lakers & the Warriors. The trip concludes with a game in Charlotte. We then commence a run that sees us play in the Amway against OKC, the Celtics & the much fancied Clippers, followed by the Heat twice (both home & away).
The run up to the All-Star break has us take a 3 game road trip before a 3 game home stand, all 6 games being against Eastern Conference opposition.
After All-Star Weekend we have 27 of our 82 games remaining. Our longest home stand & road trip are both 4 game stretches.
The final 7 games of the regular season sees us in the Amway only twice, not dissimilar to last year where we achieved some excellent results to secure the playoff appearance.
Over the season the Magic have the least games of any NBA teams where we hold a rest advantage over our opponents, just 5 games in total. We also have 11 back-to-back games & some of those on paper look tough.
This is potentially a huge negative for us but before we get too down about this stat please take just a moment to remember back to last season. On January 12th 2019 having come off a 6 game road trip with a losing record of 5-1 we played a tough back to back against the Boston Celtics & the Houston Rockets…I doubt any fan has forgotten our performance in those two wins!
Those two wins were a big part of our confidence growth through the second half of the season. Following those two victories the ensuing 16 games saw us win 8 & lose 8 by the time the All-Star break arrived. None of those defeats had been blowouts & all had been by a margin of 10 points or less. In the 22 games after All-Star Weekend we won 15 games.
Being honest the schedule could probably have been kinder but I don’t think this one is too bad, we’ve definitely had worse. 11 back-to-back games is below the league average & is the fewest we’ve had in many a year. I read somewhere the figure is the lowest in 19 years but I’d be lying if I said I’d researched that.
If we hit the ground running in the early part of the season I see no reason for us not to be making the postseason again. The season run in looks pretty decent. We have a squad of huge potential, filled with youth & something we haven’t had for a time; continuity. Everything we did last season was built around our defence, that remains. Players have had time together both with our coaching staff & as a team…then add in the potential of Fultz. We can build on our 42-40 season, where we earned 17 more wins than the season before.
Tip Off With A UK Eye
Before I finish I want to take a quick look at the tip off times for some friendly U.K. viewing both on Sky’s coverage & for those of us who subscribe to the NBA League Pass. For me personally I won’t be heading to Orlando this season so will be watching mostly in the early hours or avoiding social media until I’ve watched the game the following day.
Unfortunately, despite our improvements of last season & appearance in the playoffs it would appear that it is true to say that there remains a lack of interest, love or respect within the media & broadcasters for our team.
The most U.K. friendly dates are:
15th December – 8:30pm tip @ New Orleans Pelicans – Live on Sky Sports
20th January – 10pm tip @ Charlotte Hornets
8th February – 10pm tip from the Amway vs Milwaukee Bucks
15th March – 10pm tip from the Amway vs Charlotte Hornets
5th April – 6pm tip @ Philadelphia 76ers
Other than that we are looking at 18 games that tip off at 11pm, the rest being midnight or beyond. As always expect some sleep deprived nights, but such is the life of a U.K. NBA fan!
Until next time friends.