By John Denton
Aug. 14, 2017
ORLANDO – A closer look at the Orlando Magic’s 2017-18 regular-season schedule, which was released on Monday by the NBA:
FAST START: The Magic have plenty of new faces again this season what with the team adding free agents Jonathon Simmons, Aaron Afflalo, Marreese Speights, Shelvin Mack and Khem Birch and drafting Jonathan Isaac and Wesley Iwundu. The Magic will need to develop chemistry early in training camp and the exhibition season if it is going to get off to the fast start that it so desperately wants.
For a second straight year, the Magic open the regular season at home against the rival Miami Heat. The Heat got to the rim time and again in last season’s opener to whip the Magic and set a negative tone for the season. An opening win against Miami could do wonders for Orlando’s hopes of starting quickly.
Following the opener against Miami, five of the next seven games will be on the road. Difficulties could lie in playing at Cleveland on the second night of a back-to-back and facing Charlotte and New Orleans on consecutive nights – both of which will be on the road.
Of the first Magic’s first 17 games, nine of them will be against teams that made the playoffs last season. But that number could be a bit deceiving as Memphis (Zach Randolph), Chicago (Jimmy Butler), Utah (Gordon Hayward) and Indiana (Paul George) suffered major free-agent or trade losses in the offseason and are trying to rebuild their rosters.
HOME FOR A LATE PUSH: Orlando’s hopes to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012 could come down to how it does during a seven-game homestand from March 14-30. It is the team’s longest homestand since Feb. 11-March 1, 2011 in terms of the number of consecutive games at the Amway Center.
That seven-game homestand will see the Magic face Milwaukee (March 14), Boston (March 16), Toronto (March 20), Philadelphia (March 22), Phoenix (March 24), Brooklyn (March 28) and Chicago (March 30) at the Amway Center.
After playing 28 of the first 50 games on the road, the Magic will close with 19 of the final 32 at the Amway Center over February, March and April.
NOT HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: The Magic won’t be involved in playing on many major holidays, but the team will still be on the road during most of those festive times.
Orlando will travel from New Orleans to Memphis on Halloween (Oct. 31). The Magic will be in Boston on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) preparing for a game against the Celtics (Nov. 24). Per NBA rules, the Magic must fly to Miami on Christmas Night for a game against the Heat (Dec. 26).
The team will ring in 2018 in New York City before playing the Nets in Brooklyn (Jan. 1).
The Magic will host former all-star center Dwight Howard and the Charlotte Hornets for Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, while they will face Howard’s former team, the Hawks, in Atlanta on Easter Sunday (April 1).
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The Magic’s schedule will see them play more games on the road (28) than at home (22) over the first 50. The payoff for that difficult first four months will come in February, March and April when the Magic will have 19 home games and just 13 road games.
The Magic’s longest roadtrip of the season will span from March 5-13 when it will play five games over a nine-night period (at Utah, at L.A. Lakers, at Sacramento, at L.A. Clippers and at San Antonio). However, the roughest stretch could come in November when it has two lengthy trips in rapid-fire succession. Orlando has two four-game roadtrips on Nov. 10-15 (at Phoenix, at Denver, at Golden State and at Portland) and Nov. 22-27 (at Minnesota, at Boston, at Philadelphia and at Indiana). During both trips, the Magic will play a potentially exhausting four games in six nights.
January could be another potential problem area for the Magic as eight of the team’s 13 games that month are on the road. Conversely, nine of the 14 games in March will be played at the Amway Center.
BACK-TO-BACKS: The league is opening the 2017-18 regular season on Oct. 17 – significantly earlier than the Oct. 25 tipoff last season. The league and the players association agreed to an expanded calendar in hopes of reducing the number of back-to-back sets of games and completely abolishing the practice of playing four times in five nights.
This season, the Magic will play 15 back-to-backs – the same number as last season. Still, that number is much better than the 19 back-to-backs that the Magic played in 2015-16, the 18 back-to-backs in 2013-14 and the 17 back-to-backs in 2014-15. The NBA’s league average for back-to-backs this season is 14.4.
Of the back-to-backs this season, eight will have the Magic playing road games on consecutive nights; twice they will be playing a home game followed by a road game; four times the Magic will be playing a road game followed by a home game the next night; and they will play home games on consecutive nights once (March 2-3).
AMWAY ATTRACTIONS: Here are five of the biggest marquee games at the Amway Center in the coming season:
1. Oct. 18, vs. Heat: The Magic dropped the season-opener to Miami last year – their only loss to Miami in four games. If they want to get off to a fast start this season, the Magic will have to do a better job of containing Miami’s dribble-drive penetration.
2. Nov. 5, vs. Celtics: Boston, not LeBron James and the Eastern Division champion Cleveland Cavaliers, had the best regular-season record in the East last season. Now, the Celtics have added do-everything forward Gordon Hayward and rookie Jason Taytum to an already stacked roster. This meeting will give the Magic a chance to test themselves early in the season against the Boston team expected to repeat at the East’s No. 1 playoff seed.
3. Nov. 29, vs. Thunder: Orlando and OKC have played some absolute classics the past two seasons at the Amway Center – with Russell Westbrook hitting long, tying 3-pointers late in both games. Now, the reigning MVP comes to Orlando with Paul George as a teammate. George and Magic coach Frank Vogel are still close and it will be interesting to see the defense the Magic design to try and slow down the two superstars.
4. Dec. 1, vs. Golden State: The Warriors, champions in two of the past three seasons, make their lone appearance at the Amway Center on this date. Playing with Kevin Durant on the team last season, the Warriors broke open a close game with a 44-point outburst in the third period behind Steph Curry’s 3-point shooting. The Warriors are heavy favorites to win the title again and this will be fans one chance to see a team that could go down as one of the most dominant in NBA history.
5. Feb. 6, vs. Cleveland: Could this be the last time that LeBron James plays in Orlando in a Cavaliers jersey? And by February, will all-star guard Kyrie Irving still be on the Cleveland roster after issuing a trade demand? Let’s just hope that by this point in the season the Magic will have ended their 17-game losing streak to Cleveland – a streak that incredibly dates to Nov. of 2012 and is the longest such team-to-team skid in the NBA entering the season.
TICKETS: Orlando Magic season tickets, partial plans, group and single-game Amway Center suite rental opportunities are on sale now.
Ticket highlights for the Magic’s 2017-18 season in the Amway Center, honored with TheStadiumBusiness Awards’ 2013 Customer Experience Award and named SportsBusiness Journal’s 2012 Sports Facility of the Year, include: 2,500 seats priced $20 or less, 8,000 seats priced $40 or less and 9,000 seats priced $50 or under.
Single-game tickets for all regular season games will go on sale August 31 at 10 a.m.
For ticket information, log on to OrlandoMagic.com or call 407-89-MAGIC.
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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.