Perusing the NBA standings sitting in 9th place in the East, the Orlando Magic have been making quite a bit of noise lately. With just three games separating them and the Nets, it’s quite possible they’re gearing up to make a serious run at a playoff position this season.
The Magic have gone 8-2 in the last ten games and they only seem to be picking up speed. Namely, in the defensive part of their game.
Orlando’s hot streak recently propelled them to a win over the Toronto Raptors where the Magic worked to force turnovers, defend the paint, and block shots as they focused on getting ahead in transition. Terrence Ross was the lifeblood of the Magic scoring 28 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists at 42.9% from the field ad 37.5% from three. Not to be outdone by Ross, Magic center and NBA All-Star Nikola Vucevic tallied 23 points, and 12 rebounds of his own at 58% from the field, and a jaw-dropping 75% from three.
The Raptors put up a decent fight in the beginning of the match-up, but they cooled off in the final half of the game while the Magic pressed on. Ross had an incredible second half while Toronto’s Kyle Lowry looked more and more defeated as time ran down.
This recent win over the 2nd-seeded Raptors is just one example of the Magic’s fervor for winning recently, and it couldn’t be a better time for the team to peak this season. With Jonathan Isaac active and healthy the team is getting a look at their present and future. His slender frame is reminiscent of Kevin Durant and has caught the attention of the Slim Reaper himself.
In a recent interview with TNT, Durant praised Isaac’s skill set stating:
“The game is about evolution and if we keep pushing the boundaries it’s only going to make the game better. Then I come along, then AD [Anthony Davis], then Giannis Antetokounmpo” href=”https://www.orlandosentinel.com/topic/sports/basketball/giannis-antetokounmpo-PESPT0016744-topic.html”>Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and you’ve got Jonathan Isaac, the young guy in Orlando that’s this size, so you’ve got a lot of guys playing on the perimeter now as bigs and we’re just stretching the boundaries.”
Isaac beamed when asked how he felt about Durant’s comments, but remained focused on winning games and improving.
“With my mindset of just trying to get better each and every day to have a guy of KD’s status and stature to call me out in the way that he did, it just means so much and it’s very humbling and very exciting. Like I said, I just want to keep moving forward, tuck it in my back pocket and keep going.”
Getting real minutes this season after struggling with injury in his rookie year, Isaac is averaging 13.6 points and 6.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in the last 10 games so his contributions are making a big impact with the team.
The Magic are just one game out of the 8th slot in the Eastern Conference standings behind the Charlotte Hornets, and they’re only 1.5 games out of 7th place where the Detroit Pistons currently sit.
If they continue on the way they have these last 10 games, it’s probable that they’ll go on to face the Milwaukee Bucks or even the Toronto Raptors in the post-season. With just over 20 games left in the regular season, things will start to heat up fast as the final weeks of the NBA season wraps up. I’ll be interested to see where Orlando lands.