Unique sit­u­a­tion

Orlando Sentinel - - Sport Wednesday -

have ever ex­pe­ri­enced.”

He also sees op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“It’s a unique sit­u­a­tion and that’s the way that you have to look at it,” Clif­ford said. “We’re going to go back with eight games left in the sea­son. For our team, they’re going to be the eight most im­por­tant games we play this sea­son.”

The Magic sit eighth in the Eastern Con­fer­ence. They trail the Nets by a halfgame but lead the Wizards by 5 1⁄2 games. Under the restart plan, the eighth-place team needs to fin­ish the sea­son with at least a 4 1⁄2-game lead over the ninth­place team to se­cure the fi­nal play­off spot.

With just eight seed games, it seems un­likely the Wizards would pass the Magic or the Nets, but they cer­tainly could move within that four-game win­dow. If that hap­pens, it would ac­ti­vate play-in games. The Wizards would need to win twice in that sce­nario to earn the eighth seed.

For the teams that find them­selves in more se­cure play­off po­si­tions, Clif­ford said the eight seed­ing games will be more like an ex­tended pre­sea­son for them.

How­ever, Clif­ford said that un­like last sea­son, when Eastern teams such as Mil­wau­kee and Toronto were build­ing mo­men­tum in the run-up to the play­offs, the restart puts ev­ery­one back to square one.

“As we sit here to­day, there’s a much more even play­ing field than you [nor­mally] would have with eight games left,” Clif­ford said. “You can’t say right now with any cer­tainty that any team is play­ing a lot bet­ter than any­body else. So I think for a team like ours, it’s a great op­por­tu­nity.”

That’s not to say get­ting there will be easy. Teams will need to main­tain a bal­ance be­tween push­ing play­ers as much as pos­si­ble phys­i­cally and reach­ing the point in which the work pro­duces in­juries. Clif­ford said the first few days of a pre­sea­son train­ing camp nor­mally in­volve some five-on-five work be­cause play­ers have been able to work out prop­erly dur­ing the off­sea­son and ar­rive in shape.

That won’t be the case now.

Clif­ford pre­vi­ously had said get­ting play­ers back to the proper phys­i­cal level would not be a quick process. In­di­vid­ual vol­un­tary work­outs cer­tainly have helped as play­ers at least have been able to fo­cus on some bas­ket­ball skill work.

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