Early Portion of Magic's Schedule Favorable; Orlando Hosts Cleveland to Tip Off Season on Oct. 23

by John Denton

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ORLANDO – An Orlando Magic team that steamrolled its way into the playoffs by ending last season as one of the NBA’s hottest squads might have a chance to pick up where it left off in the upcoming season thanks to a favorable schedule in the early going.

The NBA’s 2019-20 schedule, which was released by the league on Monday, revealed that Orlando will play three of its first four games against rebuilding teams that missed the playoffs. The lone playoff team in the Magic’s start to the season will be a Toronto Raptors squad still processing the defection of superstar Kawhi Leonard following the franchise’s first championship.

Orlando opens the regular season at the Amway Center for a fifth straight season – this time against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 23. Following road games in Atlanta (Oct. 26) and Toronto (Oct. 28), the Magic will be back at the Amway Center on Oct. 30 to start a three-game homestand against a New York Knicks franchise that came up mostly empty in its pursuit of top free agents over the summer.

Orlando had the biggest win-improvement total (plus-17) in the NBA last season to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012. The Magic went a stellar 22-9 down the stretch and carried that momentum over into the summer with some significant transactions pulled off by President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond. The Magic retained free agents Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Khem Birch and signed defensive ace Al-Farouq Aminu. Those players return along with a nucleus of veterans Evan Fournier and D.J. Augustin, promising youngsters Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Mo Bamba, Markelle Fultz and Wes Iwundu and an experienced coaching staff led by Steve Clifford.

Orlando, which opens training camp on Oct. 1 at the Amway Center, plays 23 of its 41 home games on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights. Season tickets are already on sale and are available for as low at $13 a game with the full season pass. Monthly payment options for season tickets are also available. Single-game tickets go on sale on Aug. 22 at 2 p.m. For more ticket information, call 407-89-MAGIC or log onto OrlandoMagic.com/tickets.

The Magic are hopeful that their continuity from last season and improvements made over the summer will help them throughout a demanding, marathon-like 82-game schedule that will be highlighted by a total of 11 back-to-back sets of games and several lengthy homestands and road trips in season’s first 3 ½ months.

In an effort to have players better rested for games, the NBA has worked to reduce the number of back-to-backs for all teams. The Magic’s 11 such back-to-backs (22 total games) are down dramatically from the 15 they played in 2017-18 and 14 in 2018-19. The Magic have two difficult back-to-back sets of games early in the season: Nov. 1 and 2 home games against Milwaukee and Denver and road games on Nov. 5 and 6 in Oklahoma City and in Dallas. The Magic play five back-to-backs in December and January.

Orlando’s longest homestand of the season will be from Nov. 8-17 when it faces five foes (Memphis, Indiana, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Washington) over a 10-day stretch in The City Beautiful. The Magic will then hit the road for a four-game trip (in Toronto, Indiana, Detroit and Cleveland) over an eight-day period from Nov. 20-27.

December and January will be filled with long stints at home and on the road for the Magic. From Dec. 15-20, the Magic will play a four-game, six-day trip with stops in New Orleans, Utah, Denver and Portland. From Jan. 3-8, the Magic will host a four-game, six-day homestand against Miami, Utah, Brooklyn and Washington. Then, comes the longest road trip of the season: six games over 11 days with showdowns against the Suns, Kings, Lakers, Clippers, Warriors and Hornets.

The Magic will likely be a team playing below the national radar again this season despite their strong finish in the spring and the high hopes this time around. Heading into the season, Orlando is scheduled for just one appearance on national television: March 4 versus the rival Miami Heat (ESPN).
All Magic games will be televised locally in high definition on FOX Sports Florida.

The most grueling stretch of the season could come in April when the Magic play five of their eight games on the road. In fact, five of six games at one point in April will be on the road before Orlando wraps up against the Raptors at the Amway Center on April 15. That tough finishing stretch will likely make the fourth-game home stand against Indiana, Brooklyn, New Orleans and Charlotte from March 25-April 1 a critical one for a Magic team that has designs on securing a top-four playoff seed this season.

The NBA’s much-anticipated free-agent period lived up to its billing in a chaotic July with several high-profile players moving to different teams. Leonard and Paul George teamed up with the championship-favored Los Angeles Clippers, who will make their lone Amway Center appearance on Jan. 26. A Los Angeles Lakers team with four-time MVP LeBron James traded for superstar forward Anthony Davis in June, and the new-look Lakers will be in Orlando on Dec. 11.

A bit of scheduling oddity will have the Magic facing the Lakers (Jan. 15) and Clippers (Jan. 16) on consecutive nights in Los Angeles midway through the season.

The hated Heat, who opened the past three regular seasons in Orlando, won’t play at the Amway Center this season until Jan. 3 and Feb. 1. The Heat acquired veteran guard Jimmy Butler in July after missing the playoffs largely due to three defeats at the hands of Orlando last season. The Magic face the Heat in South Florida on Jan. 27 and March 4.

Brooklyn grabbed some of the biggest headlines of the offseason by landing all-star guard Kyrie Irving and two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant in early July. The Nets are expected to be without Durant all of the upcoming season after he tore an Achilles tendon in the NBA Finals. The Nets play in Orlando on Jan. 6 and March 27.

Golden State, winners of three of the past five NBA titles, rebounded from the loss of Durant quite nicely by trading for all-star guard De’Angelo Russell. The Warriors and two-time MVP Stephen Curry play in Orlando on Dec. 1. The Magic play at the new Chase Center in downtown San Francisco on Jan. 18 during their longest road trip of the season.

As always, the Magic play Southeast Division rivals Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta and Miami four times each in the upcoming season. As for the rest of the Eastern Conference, Orlando faces Milwaukee, Boston, Brooklyn, Toronto, Indiana and Cleveland four times apiece. It plays Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and New York just three times.

Boston, which added Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter in the offseason, plays in Orlando on Jan. 24 and April 10. That game could also feature 7-foot-7 center Tacko Fall, who played collegiately at UCF.

Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks play at the Amway Center on Nov. 1 and Feb. 8, while past MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook make their lone appearance at the Amway Center on Dec. 13 with the Houston Rockets.

Philadelphia, which resigned Tobias Harris and added Al Horford and Josh Richardson to go along with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, plays in Orlando on Nov. 13 and Dec. 27. Zion Williamson, the top pick in last June’s NBA Draft, plays in Orlando on March 29 with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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