Magic Meet Celtics in Critical NBA In-Season Tournament Matchup
ORLANDO – Over the course of their five-game winning streak, the Orlando Magic have faced a number of tough tests.
First was the challenge of beating a talented Bulls team twice in a row on their home floor. Then, the Magic had to find a way to slow down the Pacers and their No. 1 ranked offense. After that, Orlando had to go toe-to-toe with a Raptors squad that also possesses plenty of length and versatility. And finally, the Magic had to muster up a way to defeat a defending-champion Nuggets team while playing their sixth game in nine nights.
So far, Orlando has taken on every challenge and stacked up one impressive victory after the next.
The Magic (10-5) now get set to face the Eastern Conference powerhouse Boston Celtics (12-3), owner’s of the NBA’s best record, in an In-Season Tournament showdown on Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
“That’s what the growth of this team is turning into,” said Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley, whose team is 2-1 in In-Season Tournament play. “The belief system of knowing what we’re capable of doing in big games.”
If you’re looking for a crack in Boston’s armor, it’s hard to find. The Celtics have the league’s No. 1 net rating because they roll out the association’s No. 2 ranked defense (107.5) – tied with the Magic – along with a top six offense (117.6).
That offensive attack is led by Jayson Tatum, who currently sits among the league’s top 10 scorers by firing off 27.9 points per contest. Jaylen Brown is another 20-point per game player, 21.6 to be exact, and offseason addition Kristaps Porzingis is right outside that line, pouring in 19.6 points per game.
“When we walk into the building, we have a belief about ourselves that we’re not just competing that night, but we’re winning the game,” said Magic forward Franz Wagner, whose team went 3-1 against Boston last season. “Ownership (of the team as players) is a huge part of that. I think we’ve shown that we’re always engaged.”
This contest comes with huge In-Season Tournament ramifications. Should Orlando defeat Boston, it’ll own a key tiebreaker over the Celtics and put itself in solid position to advance, especially if Toronto is able to knock off Brooklyn on Tuesday.
IN AND OUT: Wendell Carter Jr. (left hand; fractured third metacarpal), Markelle Fultz (left knee tendinitis), Kevon Harris (coach’s decision), Jett Howard (G League – On Assignment), and Trevelin Queen (G League – Two-Way) are out for Orlando.
For Boston, Jrue Holiday (right ankle; sprain) is probable, Jaylen Brown (right adductor; strain) is questionable, and JD Davison (G League – Two-Way), Nathan Knight (G League – Two-Way), Neemias Queta (G League – Two-Way), and Jordan Walsh (G League – On Assignment) are out.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “You know, any time you’re the reigning champion, you’re going to get everybody’s best for 82 games. I tell you what, that Orlando Magic team, I don’t think it matters who they’re playing, they play hard. They come at you for 48 minutes. No matter if you’re a reigning champion or a team that’s lost 10 in a row, they’re going to play the same way. And that’s why they’re a good team and a dangerous team.” – Nuggets head coach Michael Malone
KEY STATS: The Magic improved to 10-5 after a 124-119 victory over the Nuggets on Wednesday. It marks Orlando’s best record through 15 games since the 2011-12 campaign when it started 11-4.
MORE ON THE IN-SEASON TOURNAMENT: After falling to the Nets, the Magic beat the Bulls and Raptors to move to 2-1 in In-Season Tournament play. In order to advance past the Group Play stage and into the knockout round, it’s critical that Orlando defeats Boston on Friday.
Group Play: All 30 teams were randomly drawn into groups of five within their conference based on win-loss records from the 2022-23 regular season. Each team will play four designated Group Play games – one game against each opponent in its group, with two games at home and two on the road – on “Tournament Nights,” which take place every Tuesday and Friday from Nov. 3-28 (with the exception of Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 7, when no games were played). The only NBA games played on Tournament Nights are Group Play games.
Group Play: To determine each team’s opponents in the Group Play games, the 15 teams in each conference were divided into three groups of five teams via a random drawing.
Before the drawing, each team was placed into a “pot” based on its record from the prior regular season (2022-23). In each conference, one team from each pot was randomly selected into each of the three groups in that conference. The pots were as follows:
Pot 1: The teams with the three best prior-season records in a conference.
Pot 2: The teams with the fourth- through sixth-best prior-season records.
Pot 3: The teams with the seventh- through ninth-best prior-season records.
Pot 4: The teams with the 10th- through 12th-best prior-season records.
Pot 5: The teams with the 13th- through 15th-best prior-season records.
The Orlando Magic are in EAST GROUP C, along with the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors.
A team will play each of the other four teams in its group in one Group Play game. A team’s record in these four intraconference games will determine whether the team qualifies for the Knockout Rounds. In the event two or more teams are tied within a group, the tie among the teams will be broken according to the following tiebreakers (in sequential order):
Head-to-head record in the Group Stage
Point differential in the Group Stage
Total points scored in the Group Stage
Regular season record from the 2022-23 NBA regular season
Random drawing (in the unlikely scenario that two or more teams are still tied following the previous tiebreakers)
Knockout Rounds: Eight teams will advance to the Knockout Rounds: the team with the best standing in Group Play games in each of the six groups and two “wild cards” (the team from each conference with the best record in Group Play games that finished second in its group). The Knockout Rounds will consist of single-elimination games in the Quarterfinals (played in NBA team markets on Monday, Dec. 4 and Tuesday, Dec. 5) and Semifinals and Championship (played in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 and Dec. 9, respectively). The Knockout teams will compete for a prize pool and the new In-Season Tournament trophy, the NBA Cup.
In each conference, Quarterfinal games will be hosted by the two teams with the best record in Group Play games, and the team with the best record in Group Play games will host the wild card team.
During the Knockout Rounds on days when In-Season Tournament games are not scheduled (Wednesday, Dec. 6 and Friday, Dec. 8), the 22 teams that do not qualify for the Knockout Rounds will each play two regular season games. The four teams that lose in the Quarterfinals will each play a regular season game on Dec. 8.
Prize Pool: For the 2023-24 season, the In-Season Tournament prize pool will be allocated to the players on the teams that participate in the Knockout Rounds as follows:
Players on winning team of Championship: $500,000 each
Players on losing team of Championship: $200,000 each
Players on losing team of Semifinals: $100,000 each
Players on losing team of Quarterfinals: $50,000 each
League Honors: At the conclusion of the In-Season Tournament, the NBA will name the Most Valuable Player of the In-Season Tournament and the All-Tournament Team. Selection will be based on the players’ performance in both Group Play and the Knockout Rounds.