The Orlando Magic are playing for something more meaningful and tangible during the season’s final stretch than they did the previous two campaigns.
After Tuesday’s 122-112 win over the Washington Wizards at Amway Center, the Magic (30-43) are still in the race for a spot in the play-in tournament.
Their chances of qualifying for the play-in appear bleak with nine games left entering Thursday’s home game vs. the New York Knicks.
They entered Wednesday 5 games behind the Chicago Bulls for the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference standings. Seeds 7-10 in each conference compete in the play-in tournament for the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds in the playoffs.
But still being eligible and having the opportunity to compete for postseason play is motivating the Magic, who were already eliminated from playoffs contention by this time in the previous two seasons.
“I do think that for a young team, it helps,” big man Moe Wagner said, “because the long-term road seems so far sometimes that it’s difficult to get up in the morning if you work for something that seems to be down the road.
“These short-term goals help us [stay motivated], stay locked in on a day-to-day basis, and connect even more than we would do if we played for something next year. Having that in mind and really putting the league on notice that the Orlando Magic are doing something and going in the [right] direction, that means a lot to these guys.”
Playing in meaningful games down the stretch has helped the Magic grow in clutch situations.
They’re 14-11 in their last 25 games that featured clutch situations — when the scoring margin is 5 points or less with five or fewer minutes remaining. Orlando started the season 3-12 in games that had clutch minutes.
“For us, this season, there’s been a lot of growth this season and we’ve actually had a lot of close games,” guard Cole Anthony said. “We’ve lost to some, but we’ve learned from it this season and have been able to improve on it.
“That was something that we did [Tuesday]. We were able to execute down the stretch and that’s what helped us ultimately win this game. The more we’ve gotten into these close games, I feel like the better we’ve gotten.”
Second-year guard Jalen Suggs won’t be available against the Knicks for a fourth consecutive game because of a concussion.
The Magic will induct Dennis Scott into the organization’s Hall of Fame Thursday afternoon at Amway Center. Scott will become the 12th member of the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame.
Scott will be honored during Thursday’s game, which tips off at 7 p.m.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.
As reported by Boston Herald
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Author: Amnon Jakony |
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