2019 Playoff Preview: Orlando Magic
Orlando Pinstriped Post
The Magic were not supposed to be a playoff contender this season but new Head Coach Steve Clifford revived the franchise and built an identity on a defense first mindset. The Magic finished 8th in the league in defensive rating which catapulted them up the Eastern Conference standings into the first playoff appearance in six years.
The Magic finished the season as one of the league’s hottest teams winning 21 of their final 30 games to finish with a 42-40 record.
Nikola Vucevic made his first all star appearance and was the team’s first All Star since Dwight Howard departed. Vucevic, who’s been one of the more underappreciated players since entering the league, had a season in which he averaged 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game. His offensive efficiency was just as impressive shooting 51.8% from the field, 36.4% from 3, and 78.9% from the foul line. Those are All NBA caliber numbers.
The Magic’s turn around this year was mostly due to their efforts on the defensive side of the ball. Orlando, who finished with the 8th best defensive rating, actually had the 5th best rating since the All Star Break. The Magic finished with a defensive rebounding percentage of 77.6% post All Star break which was tops in the league. The Magic also gave up the fewest second chance points in the second half and finished 8th in limiting fast break points.
It was their defense which led to their playoff appearance.
Point Guard play and lack of experience.
The Magic are a playoff team with D.J Augustin starting 81 games at point guard in 2019. If that’s not one of the most unbelievable stories of the season, than not really sure what else would qualify. Michael Carter-Williams is the primary backup and the Magic face a significant talent disparity going against Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Vleet.
Orlando is also a team with hardly any playoff experience. Most of their primary rotation will be playing in the playoffs for the first time or this would their first time getting significant playing time. Facing a team like the Raptors with plenty of playoff experience will be a disadvantage.
Former Toronto Raptor and sixth man Terrence Ross will be the key to the Magic’s success in the series. Ross had a career year averaging 15.1 points per game in 26.1 minutes a night. Ross is catching fire at the right time, averaging 23.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and shooting 49% from three in has last five games. The Magic will need Ross to knock down big shots to have a chance in the series.
Player To Watch
Everyone knows now how good of a player Vucevic is and how important he is to the Magic. The real player to watch will be Jonathan Isaac and how he fairs in his first postseason. The former 6th overall pick in 2017 will likely be matched up with Kawhi Leonard in a lot of possessions so seeing how he holds his own will be notable to see.
Estimated Playoff Run
The Magic are more than likely to lose in round one to the Raptors but I can see them pushing the series to six games. The playoffs are a different animal but the Magic did spilt the season series with the Raptors so they’ll have a bit of confidence heading into the series.