The Orlando Magic are the most bipolar team in the NBA.
There is no other proper way of describing this 2018-2019 Orlando Magic team 43 games into the season. They lose games they should win, win games they should lose, get blown out by teams they’re better than, blow out teams they’re worse than, and so on.
Now sitting at 19-24 here in mid-January, they sit one game out of the eighth seed (final playoff spot) and are coming off improbable back-to-back wins against the Boston Celtics and the Houston Rockets, the latter a game that saw James Harden go 1-17 from three-point range.
These two big wins also come on the heels of a four-game losing streak, which saw the Magic blow big first-half leads in the second half of games, losing by a big margin to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and by double digits to the L.A. Clippers, Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz — all games they led by a healthy margin in at one point.
So, to hear Jerry Seinfeld ask it best: “What’s the deal with the Orlando Magic?”
That is the million-dollar question all Magic fans face right now, as Head Coach Steve Clifford continues to lose what little hair he has left trying to figure out this team.
Credit to Coach Clifford is very much due, however. This time last season, the Magic were 13-31, sitting close to the bottom of the East and playing, to put it bluntly, terrible basketball. Clifford has come in with very much a similar roster to last year and has improved them both on and off the court. His new mentality, accountability, and hard-nosed attitude has started to rub off on the players, but like many seasons prior with the Magic, it’s hard to shake off the rust of the old ways and find some consistency within the team.
That right there has been the bug-a-boo for this team thus far — consistency. The best teams in the NBA will play the same way, night in and night out and have a clear identity of who they are as a team and what makes them successful. While the Magic have their go-to players and have started to carve out their identity, it still continues to waver in those games where it seems like they either have no energy or they look completely lost on the court.
While center Nikola Vucevic is continuing to post career numbers this season, averaging a double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds), D.J. Augustin has become the stabilizing force in the Magic backcourt and Terrence Ross is continuing a claim for Comeback Player of the Year and 6th Man of the Year, the Magic still need more.
They need better bench production from their second unit.
They need Evan Fournier to play like he did last season.
They need Aaron Gordon to be that perennial All-Star that the team believes him to be.
They need a better option at the backup point guard spot.
Those are just a few of the issues facing the Magic right now. They have some opportunities with the trade window to make some moves and bring in some players, and their next few games present a unique opportunity to help build some ground back up into the playoffs, with games against the Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, and Washington Wizards coming up.
Is it possible for this Orlando Magic team to actually take advantage of the schedule their presented and push back into the playoffs? With the way the team has been playing the last few games, it’s possible. The thing with this team is, you really can’t be sure from quarter to quarter, game to game. It’s fun for some, frustrating for others and incredibly annoying for the rest.
But, for the Magic, it’s still worth tuning in, just to see what kind of team you’ll see that night. For fans of this bipolar team, keep enjoying those up and down waves, let them take you on a journey and just enjoy the ride. You never know where you’ll end up.