Orlando quietly closed out an awesome month last night with a 103-96 win over the Warriors.
The Magic won eight of 11 games in February, including seven of their last nine, and, as Tom Ziller pointed out on this morning’s Good Morning It’s Basketball, they’ve been doing it with defense: Steve Clifford’s forgotten franchise had the best defensive month of any team in the league, allowing 100 points per 100 possessions, 4.4 less than the second-place Pacers.
The Magic are a team on an uptick, currently in possession of the eighth-spot in the Eastern Conference. But they’re also 29-34, a supreme indictment on how bad the East has been this season outside of Milwaukee, Toronto, Indiana, Philadelphia and Boston.
Right now, the Magic are .001 percentage points above the Charlotte Hornets, the season-long heirs to the eighth-seed. The Hornets are 28-33. The Pistons are in seventh-place with a 29-31 record. The Nets, in sixth, are flirting with a below .500 record at 32-31.
The worst team record-wise to ever make the playoffs in the eight-team format was Chicago in 1985-86, at 30-52, which was actually a good thing, because Michael Jordan had his famous 63-point performance against the Celtics in that first round.
It is safe to assume no team will make the playoffs with 30 wins in 2018-19, but we might be looking at the type of season the East produced in 2003-04, when the Bucks (41-41), Knicks (39-43) and Celtics (36-46) filled out seeds No. 6-8. Those three had six combined coaches and one combined playoff win.
Meanwhile, the Clippers, at 34-29, have current control of the eighth-seed in the West, three games ahead of the Lakers.
Folks, be prepared to watch a sub .500 wanderer in the first round this year, and not LeBron James -- if that doesn’t drive change toward a conference-less playoff picture, nothing will.
[Read: Would a LeBron-less playoffs be bad (or good) for the NBA?]
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