Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
The circle of life that is the 2013-14 Orlando Magic regular season comes to a close tonight in the same way it began. It’s as if the schedule-makers, the Magic, and their opponent, the Indiana Pacers, the team they faced to start the season, conspired with the creative minds over at HBO to capitalize on the momentum of “flat circle” concepts of time.
Sure, the place is different. This final encounter comes in Orlando, not the confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, whatever the hell that is. Everything else, though? It’s the same, because such is life for the Magic as they build toward their future selves. This season is only nominally different from the last, a journey through the NBA calendar predicated on patience, development, and a “let’s see what we’ve got here” mentality coupled with an eye on future asset acquisition.
And if one year to the next is the same, how could April be unique to October? Orlando has successfully tanked this year, but been outdone by the Bucks and Sixers in the race for ping pong balls.
For all of their turbulence, internal and external, the Pacers are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, a result as likely now as it was when the season started.
And even the trials and tribulations Indiana’s faced this year are reflected in the Ouroboros of Orlando’s season. The Magic, you’ll recall, battled the Pacers tooth and nail over the first 30 minutes or so of their season opener, succumbing in the third quarter only to be buried in the last. It was the first data point on a trend for Indiana, as they’d spend far too many games politely deferring to the opposition in the first half only to impose their will after halftime.
Moral victories against superior competition gave way to an actual, honest-to-goodness, it’s-on-the-scoreboard victory for the Magic the last time the Pacers were in Orlando.
And, just like with seemingly every other win this year, a repeat tonight would not be in the Magic’s long-term interests. They currently stand alone with the third-worst record in the league, and all of the lottery chances that come with such a lofty ranking.
A win tonight and a loss by the Jazz, however, would drop Orlando and Utah into a tie for third-worst. The two teams would split the average of the number of ping pong ball combinations for third (156 combinations out of a total 1,000) and fourth (119), with each team receiving 137 combinations and a coin flip determining who gets the extra one.
In practical terms, a win tonight, combined with a Jazz loss, drops Orlando’s chance of getting the first overall pick from 15.6 percent to either 13.7 or 13.8 percent.
Maybe that’s worth it. Maybe fans want to start the summer with one last win, small changes in odds be damned. I don’t think there is a wrong or a right answer. All I know is that we’ll ask the question in the same manner that we first ruminated on another season of tanking — against the Pacers, with nothing and everything on the line.