When the Magic begin their slate of eight seeding games Friday inside the Disney Bubble, the mission is simple: finish 7th in the eastern conference and avoid playing the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
The restart finds the Magic a half game back of the Nets who have lost about half their roster to various reasons coming into the Magic Kingdom. The two teams will play twice, including Friday's opener, of their eight game schedule. The Wizards sit 5.5 games back of the Magic and could be eliminated from playoff contention in a matter of days.
Does it really matter if the Magic finish 7th or 8th? Sure. The Bucks won all four games against Orlando this season and did so by nine points or more in all games. So the Raptors are a better matchup? Well, not exactly. The Magic went 0-3 against Toronto this season. But most basketball people think Orlando matches up better with the defending champs than Milwaukee.
So is NBA Playoff history on Orlando's side as a 7th seed to advance as opposed to being an 8th seed? Not exactly.
Five 8th seeds have beaten a one seed in NBA Playoff history. The last time it happened was 2012 when the Sixers beat the Bulls 4-2. In that series, Derrick Rose went down in game one with an injury. The Sixers lost in the next round to the Celtics but the series went seven games.
The other 8th seeded teams to beat a one seed:
1994 Denver beat Seattle 3-2
1999 New York Knicks beat Miami 3-2
2007 Golden State beat Dallas 4-2 (The Mavs won 67 games that year)
2011 Memphis beat San Antonio 4-2
Only the 1999 Knicks made it to the NBA Finals before falling to the Spurs 4-1.
How about 7th seeds against the second seed? Well, it's happened just five times as well. The last time was 2010 when San Antonio beat Dallas 4-2.It's also the only time a 7th seed beat a two seed since the playoff format changed to a best-of-seven format in 2003.
The other 7th seeded teams to win an opening round series:
1987 Seattle beat Dallas 3-1
1989 Golden State beat Utah 3-0
1991 Golden State beat San Antonio 3-1
1998 New York beat Miami 3-2
History says maybe it doesn't matter if the Magic finish 7th or 8th in the east. Again, Orlando is 0-7 against Milwaukee and Toronto. But these are unique times at Disney. There is no road crowd to deal with and who knows if a team can get hot and seeding becomes meaningless.
For the Magic, it's about avoiding a slow start hoping the Wizards have little interest and there is no chance for a 8-9 play in scenario. Ideally, Orlando wants to start strong at Disney and have the Nets show little interest. Lock up the 7th slot as quick as possible and be able to rest players like Jonathan Isaac so you can get more from him in the playoffs.
History offers no better path for a team finishing 7th or 8th. You want better odds? Finish higher.