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The Magic Missed the In-Season Tournament. How Can the NBA Fix This?



Well... the Orlando Magic didn't make the In-Season Tournament. If you weren't busy on Tuesday night, you might have found yourself watching The Sixth Man Show on Playback as Jonathan and Kevin tackled the Toronto vs. Brooklyn game. It was one of the sloppiest, most frustrating games ever played, and the melancholy was palpable through the screen as the game clock ticked down. It became apparent Toronto would not pull out a win after the Celtics blew out the Bulls, ending Orlando's hopes of striking it rich in Vegas.

But the Magic did go 3-1 in the IST with a +22 point differential. Not a bad showing at all. Again though, they fell short, unfairly so, if you ask any Magic fan. With this being said, what can the NBA do in future years to appease fans of near-miss teams? I have a few ideas to ponder.


Starting all games on the last day at the same time


On the last day of the Major League Baseball season, all games start at the same time. Division and Wild Card races often come down to the last few days of the season, and the start times encourages teams to play their hardest no matter what else is going on around the league. It lets them know exactly what needs to be done in order to clinch a postseason berth. The Nets and Celtics both benefited from the fact they played on the final day of group play for the IST. Brooklyn knew they needed to win by at least 14 points. Boston knew they needed to win by at least 24 points. Orlando had already played their final IST game on Friday.

Adam Silver's main interest in creating this tournament is more fan engagement, which leads to more ad dollars, which leads to more money for the NBA. Having all these final games start at the same time adds even more drama and intrigue to see how exactly everything will play out. Imagine if Orlando had been playing their final game at the same time. Now imagine how much fans across basketball would be checking game scores and the point differentials fluctuate back and forth for two-and-a-half hours. Twitter would be going wild (no, I refuse to call it "X"). The Magic still might not have made it under this format, but it would certainly create a level playing field for all 30 teams involved.


Eliminating the head-to-head tiebreaker

Why is this a thing? Why is there a head-to-head tiebreaker? There is such a small sample size, just four games, one against each opponent, that there isn't a large enough sample size to really say which teams are better than each other. There's a reason playoff matchups encompass a best-of-seven series. The head-to-head tiebreaker doesn't even fit on a graphic. If it weren't for this unique situation where Orlando, Boston and Brooklyn were in a three-way tie for first, I'm not sure we'd have any idea this tiebreaker existed. I'm willing to bet most fans don't know it exists either. Unfamiliarity is to be expected in the first year, though. Still, it seems wrong that a team such as Orlando on the hot streak they have can't continue to prove their mettle on a bigger stage. The Magic have been on a seven-game win streak and deserve a shot, which leads my to next point.


Play these games every day of the week

The Magic may have gone 3-1 in the IST, but do you know their record from November 3, the beginning of the tournament, to the end of it? 9-3! The only teams with a better record in the same timespan are the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves. So let me ask, why does a team who have had a better record than Boston, Brooklyn, Toronto and Chicago, the teams in their IST group, not have a chance at advancing in the tournament? Because the NBA decided all the IST games have to happen on Tuesdays and Fridays. These seem like arbitrary dates to say the least and it creates an odd mix of playing in the tournament, then not playing, then playing in it again. The day of the week a team wins or loses shouldn't matter. The NBA consistently works around scheduling conflicts with other events happening in arenas, so why not play all four IST games in a row? Teams shouldn't be punished for not playing on a certain day of the week. It makes zero sense.


The courts an affront to all religious deities

It likely doesn't have any impact on the outcome of games, but these courts, man. They're eyesores. Luckily for Magic fans, Orlando's didn't have wildly contrasting, bright colors. The ones with primarily red colors make it hard to see the ball at times. Anybody who likes these gaudy courts must also like having icepicks shoved in their eyes or the taste of rotten mangoes. The courts are also slippery, and in the case of the Dallas Mavericks, can't even be used. At least Orlando had a grippy court, according to Paolo Banchero and Cole Anthony.


Final thoughts

The Magic ultimately decided their own fate in the first IST game when they were blown out by the Brooklyn Nets 124-104 (thanks, Spencer Dinwiddie). But winning the next three tournament games, the last two of which were by significant margins, should still count for something, even if it's not a trip to Las Vegas. Orlando's in the middle of its best stretch since the 2010-11 season when the starting lineup was Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Brandon Bass and Dwight Howard. The Magic roster may not be in the running for $500,000 anymore, but they acquired some valuable experience and proved to the national media Orlando is a serious NBA team. After a decade of mediocrity, it would be audacious to ask for anything more.


Follow David Bernauer on Twitter


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