Playing Against Elite Teams in Warmup Games Will Help Magic

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic restart their season on July 31 when they take on the Brooklyn Nets, the team they hope to leapfrog for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference.

Before that game, which will obviously be significant considering Orlando is currently just a half game back of Brooklyn in the standings, the Magic will have three warmup games. First they will play the Clippers on July 22, then the Lakers on the 25th and finally the Nuggets on the 27th. The two L.A. teams – Lakers above the Clippers – and Denver are presently one, two and three in the West standings.

Playing against those opponents – all championship contenders – will be a great test for Orlando as it looks to pick up where it left off before the hiatus. The Magic won eight of 12 before the league’s stoppage and ranked No. 1 in offense during that stretch.

With all teams in the early stages of gearing up for the restart, there is a lot of ambiguity as to how much playing time the game’s top-tier players will get in those scrimmages. Will LeBron James and/or Anthony Davis step on the floor for the Lakers when they face the Magic? Will Kawhi Leonard and/or Paul George do the same for the Clippers? And the same goes for the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

No matter what, Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford was happy to see those three teams on the Magic’s exhibition schedule, as he feels playing against top teams ahead of the seeding games will benefit his club.

“The scrimmages will be huge because you’re going to get a feel for where you’re at in terms of conditioning and where you are at in each aspect of offense and defense,” he said. “Having those three teams as opponents will help us greatly – three elite teams that are hard to play against – and it will give us a chance to work on things on both ends of the floor that will help us make progress.”

All three of the Magic’s scrimmages will be televised on FOX Sports Florida and the FOX Sports Florida GO App – which is exciting news for Magic fans who have been looking forward to seeing Orlando play ever since the league had to shut down due to the pandemic.

Compared to the 21 other teams at Disney, the Magic have one of the “easier” seeding game schedules. Four of their games will be against teams with losing records, and they will not play any of the teams that are currently in the top eight in the West. Having Toronto and Boston on its schedule is also interesting, as Orlando would likely play one of them should it climb to the No. 7 seed.

Playing well in those upcoming scrimmage games will certainly help boost the Magic’s confidence as they try to qualify for the postseason for the second straight year. The league adding them in makes it feel like they are working in a normal training camp environment, where exhibition games usually follow seven to 10 days of rigorous practice sessions.

“This is just like any other training camp getting ready for a season,” Magic point guard D.J. Augustin said. “We’re playing against each other every day and that could get kind of boring or whatever you want to call it, so just to go against other people, especially good teams, is definitely going to (allow us to) see where we are as a team at this moment and get us ready for the season. I’m excited about the scrimmages, and I think it’s a good thing they inputted that.”

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