ORLANDO -- With the NBA finally unveiling their schedule for the 2018-19 season on Friday, Orlando Magic fans can eagerly start digesting the 82-game schedule and picking out the biggest games to see at the Amway Center.
Here is OrlandoMagic.com’s list for the 10 biggest home games and/or home stretches of the season for a Magic squad that is hoping to make big strides this season under new head coach Steve Clifford. Making things even more festive is the fact that it’s the Magic’s 30th season of NBA basketball and there will be events and celebrations all season honoring the franchise’s many glorious accomplishments on and off the basketball court.
So, away we go with those 10 must-see games and homestands at the Amway Center:
Nov. 17, vs. Los Angeles Lakers: The Magic have had to face LeBron James either three or four times a season for the past 15 years as he’s always played in the East with Cleveland, Miami and Cleveland again. Now, he’s a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and many Magic fans will get their first chance to see James in purple and gold on this night. The game will be on a Saturday night and it could potentially set a new Amway Center attendance record.
Feb. 28, vs. Golden State Warriors: As if the Warriors of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala weren’t already loaded enough, they went out and signed mercurial center DeMarcus Cousins to a free-agent deal in the summer. Considering the ease with which the Warriors have won titles each of the past two seasons, the tempestuous Cousins might offer the NBA its best shot at unseating the champions this time around.
Dec. 26, vs. Phoenix Suns: Magic fans will get a belated Christmas present to unwrap when center Mohamed Bamba takes on Suns’ rookie Deandre Ayton for the first time at the Amway Center. (They will play in Phoenix on Nov. 30). Ayton was the No. 1 pick in last June’s NBA Draft – an image that Bamba uses as the screen-saver on his computer for daily motivation while he’s working out. Bamba feels he should have been the first player drafted and this will be his chance to prove it in a center showdown.
March 14-25, vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers: This 12-night, five-game home stand could go a long way in helping the Magic reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012. The key, of course, is staying in the hunt before this key home stretch rolls around. January (nine road games, seven home games) and February (six road games, five home games) will assuredly test the toughness of this young Magic team.
Oct. 17, vs. Miami Heat: The Magic open the season at the Amway Center against the hated Heat for a third consecutive season. How odd is that? Well, in the previous 27 seasons the two Sunshine State rivals opened the season against one another just twice – both of those games being won by the Magic. More recently, Miami won in Orlando to open the 2016-17 season, while the Magic beat the Heat last year to open the 2017-18 season. This one should serve as a tense rubber match.
Oct. 19, vs. Charlotte Hornets: This will be the first time that Clifford has faced the franchise that he coached for the previous five seasons. Charlotte beat Orlando all four times last season with Clifford at the helm and it owns an 11-game winning streak over the Magic. Orlando is hopeful that having Clifford on its side helps to end that unsightly streak. Maybe Cliff knows how to slow down long-time Magic-killer Kemba Walker.
Nov. 20, vs. Toronto Raptors: Kawhi Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio and now might be the best player in the Eastern Conference with James moving to the Lakers. The Magic will most likely desperately need to win this game what with their longest road trip of the season coming up next.
Dec. 23-30, vs. Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons: Though games against superstars James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Nikola Jokic undoubtedly hold plenty of intrigue, it’s this stretch of home games that could decide the Magic’s fate this season. Considering the rigor ahead in January and February, the four-game stretch in late December might be a make-or-break moment. If the Magic can play well late in 2018 and rack up a host of home wins, it will help brace them for what’s ahead in 2019.
Nov. 9, vs. Washington Wizards: Since forcing his way out of Orlando in 2012, Dwight Howard has played for the Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Hornets. Now, after being traded to the Nets and promptly bought out, he signed with the Wizards. He has said he wants to end his career in Washington, D.C. Then again, he said the same things in Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte.
Nov. 18, vs. New York Knicks: Mario Hezonja, the fifth overall pick from the 2015 NBA Draft by the Magic, returns to the Amway Center for the first time since signing with the Knicks in the offseason. Hezonja never seemed to find a firm footing in Orlando and the NBA – until it was too late. The Magic didn’t pick up his fourth-year option early last season, meaning he would be a free agent this past offseason. Realizing that he’d never get the consistent playing time that he wanted while being stuck behind Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and maybe even Bamba, Hezonja signed a one-year deal with the Knicks. He should get plenty of scoring opportunities in New York with Kristaps Porzingis out injured early in the season.
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