1) Brooklyn (x3): Friday, November 9th at Home, Sunday, November 11th at Brooklyn and Friday, November 30th at Home
The Nets are looking to be one of the contending teams in the East, and these games will serve as the first true measuring stick of where Magic may stand in relation to the best teams in the East.
The Nets have a talented cast and one of the best starting lineups in the league, after re-signing both Gerald Wallace and Deron Williams and bringing aboard former Hawks perennial All-Star Joe Johnson.
Add to this equation a healthy Brook Lopez and an emerging MarShon Brooks, and the Magic have a recipe for these games to be blowouts in the Nets' favor.
Jameer Nelson has always struggled with bigger point guards, and the 6'3" Williams fits the bill. Joe Johnson also will give the aged Jason Richardson a lot of trouble, as Richardson no longer has the lateral foot speed nor strength in his knees to cover the more clever ball-handlers at the shooting guard position.
The perimeter defense will be a problem for the Magic, as it consistently has been, but coach Jacque Vaughn must stress the importance of it for the Magic to thrive without Dwight Howard.
I firmly expect the Magic to lose by double digits in at least two of the three games.
2) Wednesday, November 28th vs. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs appeared to be headed to the NBA Finals last season after sweeping both the Jazz and Clippers in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
They were eventually thwarted by Kevin Durant and the Thunder, after taking a 2-0 series lead and then proceeding to drop four straight.
But that doesn't mean they aren't still a contender.
Dwight Howard had one of his best career plays against Tim Duncan and the Spurs (see video), and will be looking to prove himself against Duncan, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner (if you can read Bonner without laughing, you're a bigger man than I).
While we know Howard wants out of Orlando, his play did not suffer throughout the circus show last year, and I'm going to assume that he stays focused on what matters: basketball.
That's really the only way you can approach a win-loss prediction, as intangible factors such as motivation and effort are difficult both to predict and to measure.
3) Sunday, November 25th vs. Boston Celtics
The Magic have had a long-standing rivalry with the Celtics dating back to the 2007-08 season, when the Celtics brought their Big Three together. The players have openly feuded, and tension has remained high.
The Magic defeated the Celtics in Game 7 in the 2009 playoffs, as the Magic went on to make their first Finals appearance since 1995.
Boston will stand in the way again, most likely, for the Magic to make a return trip to the Finals (something that seems quite unlikely given that the team is rebuilding).
Jameer Nelson did not play in the series—he was still out with a shoulder injury—and it may have been a boon to the Magic that such was the case. Nelson has perpetually struggled with the speed and length of Rajon Rondo, and this game will be no exception.
Expect the Celtics to set the tone early and continue to jump all over the Magic, just as they did when they held the Magic to a franchise-low 56 points in an 87-56 victory on January 23rd, 2012. In that game, the Magic shot an absurd 24.6 percent from the floor with even Dwight Howard missing 11 of his 15 shots.
November W-L Prediction: 8-7
Wins: Phoenix, New York, Detroit (x2), Toronto, Atlanta, Cleveland, Brooklyn (third matchup)
Losses: Denver, Chicago, Minnesota, Brooklyn (x2), Boston, San Antonio