The Orlando Magic have a few things to be optimistic about. After a 6-game, four- time zone road trip, they are finally back home on Saturday night.
They will play four of the next five games at the Amway Center over a span of one week. Despite a 17-24 record, and only one win on the road trip, they are still only three and one-half games out of the Southeast Division lead behind the Miami Heat.
Then, there is the bad news. Three of those teams visiting Orlando are among the best in the NBA.
The Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks, all with legitimate title hopes, will be joined by the improving Brooklyn Nets as guests of the Magic over the next seven days. Another downer is the order in which the games will be played.
The schedule makers did the Magic no favors by lumping all four games into two back-to-back sets on consecutive nights. NBA teams play back-to-backs all the time, but it is rare to have them at home and extremely rare to have them at home in the same week.
Reigning MVP James Harden and Houston will follow the Celtics on Saturday night. After a quick trip to Detroit on Wednesday, Brooklyn will fly in for a Friday night game followed by the Central Division-leading Milwaukee Bucks featuring MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo next Saturday.
The Celtics will be tough enough, but Houston will have the luxury of Saturday off before facing the Magic. Orlando will be facing Milwaukee with no rest while the Bucks will be enjoying the luxury of having two days off prior squaring off with the Magic.
Despite the daunting task ahead of them, the Magic are embracing the opportunity.
`We’ve shown when we’re right, we’re very good,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “To me, this is a good opportunity to turn it around.’’
Center Nikola Vucevic is only looking at the upcoming weekend. The other games will come soon enough.
`Obviously, these will be two very hard games for us, but also games like that are very fun for us,’’ Vucevic told OrlandoMagic.com. “Playing against the best teams and the best players in this league is fun. You want to play these kinds of games because they can bring out the best in you.”
Again on the bright side, the last time a title contender came to town, the Magic responded with a 116-87 blowout of the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors. The Celtics come into Saturday’s game off Thursday night’s 115-99 loss to the Heat in Miami.