Behind center Nikola Vucevic’s 28-point, 11-rebound double-double, the Orlando Magic crushed the Philadelphia 76ers Monday to stay in the NBA Playoffs hunt. Orlando improved to 36-38, just a half-game behind the Miami Heat for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The former Southern Cal center won his matchup with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, as the 7-footer from Switzerland only needed 29 minutes to outscore and outrebound the Sixers All-Star. He’s turned out to be a star this season, averaging a double-double with 20.7 points and 12.1 boards a game.
Those are the highest totals the former first-round pick has had in his 7-year career that has been mostly in central Florida. The Sixers drafted him with the No. 16 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Orlando head coach Steve Clifford has his team on a 5-game win streak and surging towards its first playoff berth since 2012. That’s also the same year the franchise last finished above .500. Tuesday at Miami will go a long way towards reaching both of those goals.
Let’s take a look at Sacramento’s playoff chances, most likely seeding and remaining schedule.
Magic Playoff Chances & Potential Seeds
The Magic did their necessary business against 4 consecutive teams with losing records. According to Playoff Status, Orlando entered the evening with a 36 percent chance of making the postseason. That split up into a 22 percent chance at the 8-seed and a 10 percent chance at the 7-seed.
ESPN’s BPI was slightly more optimistic, giving the Magic just over 37 percent odds. The metric also predicts a 39-43 record, just a game behind the Heat at 40-42.
Tonight’s win over a high-seeded playoff team absolutely boosted Orlando’s chances per Playoff Status. The upset raised the postseason chances to 47 percent, including a healthy 27 percent at the 8-seed. A loss would’ve dinged them several percentage points.
Most Important Games Down the Road for the Magic
Unfortunately for the Magic, they hold the third-easiest remaining schedule out of Eastern Conference teams according to Playoff Status. That consists of 5 road games against teams currently in the Eastern Conference playoffs, including 1 each versus the Raptors, Celtics and Pacers.
Team Rankings pegs their final record at 39-43. While the projections are currently getting better, the Magic need to continue stealing wins over highly-regarded teams. Even more important, they need to hold serve against the dregs of their schedule.
Those include matchups with the Knicks and the Hawks. Team Rankings projects both of those as wins with over 77 percent certainty. Outside of that, the rest of the games are 6 road games. In addition to the teams previously mentioned, Tuesday’s trip to Miami, Thursday’s trip to Detroit and the regular-season finale at Charlotte loom large.
None of those games have over an over 40 percent chance of Orlando winning. However, some teams such as the Raptors may be resting starters to prepare for the playoff grind, so Orlando could steal a win or two over understaffed competition.
The Magic would have to reverse a major negative trend in road games to make the final push. They are just 13-22 on the season away from Amway Center.