Orlando sports fans can rejoice because, for the first time in seven years, the Orlando Magic are heading to the playoffs. The Magic clinched their spot with their win over the Boston Celtics Sunday night and will now play either the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors or Philadelphia 76ers in the first round.
Kudos to head coach Steve Clifford, who got a team that could not figure out how to win over the last several seasons, to play great defense, sport at least a .500 record and win the Southeast Division. Anyone who is sitting there now saying that Orlando still should have tanked games merely to get a better draft position is out of their minds and forgets just how great it was when this franchise was an annual postseason participant.
Yes, the Magic are still a ways away from being serious championship contenders, but just being in the playoff mix makes you much more relevant across the country. The celebrations around the win on Sunday and the well-wishes from across the league and from former franchise greats made it all worth it.
Orlando Magic Are Back In The Finals. Where Will You Be Watching?
Even, if you think Orlando does not have a good chance to advance past the first round, having those two postseason games at Amway Center will be significant. It is great for local businesses, fan morale and shows other NBA players that this is a team ready to be a winner, which could be helpful come free agency.
What remains now for the Magic is their final regular season game on Wednesday against Charlotte and the chance to find out whether they which of the East's last three seeds they will slide into. Of course, seeding remains significant because of the opponent and individual matchups Orlando will face.
I believe the Magic have the best chance to make things interesting against Milwaukee. Yes, the Bucks have the potential NBA MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they are the least experienced squad of the three teams.
One of the team's best players, Malcolm Brogdon, has been out with a foot injury at season's end and has no guaranteed timetable for return. Even if he is able to come back at some point during the series, he will likely be rusty and have to reacclimate to his role in the lineup.
A chief strength Milwaukee has is that they are a deep team, but the strength of a team's bench matters less in the postseason. Philadelphia and Toronto both feature more star players who can take over games in the playoffs.
I think Orlando can be a tough out for anyone they face, but they have the best chance of stealing the most games from the Bucks. After registering the league's fourth-best record over the last 30 games, they are certainly not a team that anyone can afford to ignore.
Other Orlando Sports Headlines
- Orlando Predators continues to keep hope alive for a decent season, as evidenced by their 4-3 win against the Colorado Rapids this past weekend. Granted, Colorado may be the league's worst team, but Orlando at 2-2-2 sits inside the playoff picture at this early hour. Good signs included Chris Mueller as a late-sub spark plug and two goals from Nani, including the go-ahead punch-in on a penalty kick.
- UCF Football will take the field in front of fans again with the annual spring game at Spectrum Stadium. While these glorified scrimmages often provide little for excitement, this is probably the most compelling version of this spring contest since Scott Frost's first spring in 2016. Chief amongst the intrigue is a quarterback battle that has been left wide open by head coach Josh Heupel and features incumbent late-season starter Darriel Mack Jr., Notre Dame graduate transfer Brandon Wimbush, local walk-on product Quadry Jones and true freshman Dillon Gabriel.
- While the Orlando Apollos may have folded up and left town, another football team that once called the city home is returning to action. The Orlando Predators kick off their season Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. against the Columbus Lions in the National Arena League. Unfortunately, indoor football has been in a constant state of flux the last several years and there are no guarantees this new reboot with the Predators will work, but the team was once one of the best value entertainment options The City Beautiful had to offer.
Photo courtesy OrlandoMagic.com
Do you like pizza, local beer, and sports trivia? Come join us at Orange County Brewers, Wednesday, April 10th for all three while we watch the Orlando Magic take on the Charlotte Hornets in the finals. Click the link to RSVP for a FREE slice and $4 beer specials all night.