This week, the Boston Celtics will host two games against the… Orlando Magic? These are two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
No, that wasn’t a mistake.
The Magic are tied for second place in the East with Milwaukee, just one game behind the Celtics. They beat Cleveland 104–94 on Monday night. Starting in the middle of November, Orlando went on a nine-game winning streak that included wins over Denver and Boston. The Magic will now play the Celtics again on Friday and Sunday.
“No longer do we want to be the doormat and a team that people say, ‘It’s just the Orlando Magic,'” said guard Jalen Suggs. “Let’s be that tough team. When you come play us, you have to scout and be mentally and physically ready.”
Orlando hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2020, but that doesn’t really show how bad the team has been lately. The last time the Magic won a playoff series was in 2010, when Dwight Howard took them back to the conference finals. That was a year after Orlando made it to the NBA Finals for the second time in the team’s history.
Since Howard left in 2012, the Magic have only had one winning season. That year, they went 42-40.
There were some good signs last season, when they went 34-48, which was an improvement of 12 games. It wasn’t enough to get them into the play-in round, but Orlando has made a big step forward with a group of young players who keep getting better together.
Four players on the team who are 22 years old or younger are in the starting group. It was a first-round draft pick for all of them.
There isn’t a superstar like Howard or Shaquille O’Neal on this Magic team like there were on past winning teams. And Orlando did have the first pick in the 2022 draft. They chose Duke’s Paolo Banchero, who won Rookie of the Year. So far this season, the 6-foot-10 forward has scored 20.7 points per game, just ahead of Franz Wagner, who was picked eighth overall in the 2021 draft.
In 2021, Suggs was picked fifth overall. This year’s sixth-round pick, guard Anthony Black, has started all 17 games as a rookie.
So far, this group of young players has made one of the best defences in the league in 2023–24.
“It’s fun to play defence,” Suggs said. “Everybody does it, and everyone believes it.”
The team led by third-year boss Jamahl Mosley is ranked third in the league for defence. Two games in a row, the Magic kept Chicago to less than 100 points, which was the start of their big winning streak. They did the same thing in their last two games, when they beat Detroit 123–91 and then held Cleveland to 94 points.
Before the break, the Cavaliers were ahead, but in the third quarter, they were held to 15 points.
Orlando’s winning streak was the second-longest in the team’s history, and Mosley was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for it. The Magic have done well in games against the league’s best teams. They’ve won their last three games in a row against Charlotte and Washington. But before that, Orlando beat Boston 113–96 and then beat Denver 124–119 to become the winner.
The Magic beat the Celtics to make it 3-1 in the NBA In-Season Tournament, but that wasn’t good enough to get out of the group stage. In the end, Boston beat Orlando because they had more points than Orlando.
On their record, the Magic have also beaten the Lakers, the Bucks, and the Pacers. Now, Orlando plays the Celtics again. They are going on a two-game trip to Boston that at the start of the season looked like it would be easy wins for the home team but is now looking like it will be a real test for one of the NBA’s most surprising teams.
The Magic are still following the same plan they’ve had all season.
Mosley told him, “I think you keep preaching exactly what you know to be true, which is defence.” “That’s what we stand for and what we’ll always be about.”