Cohen Courtside: Magic at Pistons (1/2/12)

By Josh Cohen
January 2, 2012

In Cohen Courtside, Josh Cohen examines the state of the Orlando Magic after games this season. He will tackle sidebar storylines and focus on topics that stretch far beyond the box score. There will also be some analysis on league-wide subjects.


With noticeably tired legs, seemingly discombobulated and devoid of that same ruthless attitude that just one night earlier propelled them to an astounding comeback victory, the Orlando Magic’s four-game winning streak came to an abrupt end in Detroit on Monday.

On the court that haunted the Magic for years, the resemblance from those epic playoff battles spelled doom for Orlando early and often.

Except it wasn’t Chauncey Billups or Richard Hamilton hitting daggers or Rasheed or Ben Wallace bullying an inexperienced and undeveloped front line. It was Ben Gordon burying a myriad of difficult shots and role players like Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight breaking down Orlando’s guards on drives to the basket.

A contrast from the Magic’s previous few games, in which the men in blue and white found a successful balance between interior scoring, proficient long distance shooting and a stifling defensive approach, Monday’s performance was certainly one Orlando would like to forget without delay.

The statistics are glaring – the Magic’s starting backcourt (Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson) combined for four points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field, Dwight Howard continued to struggle at the free throw line (3-of-8) before fouling out and only three players accumulated double digit scoring.

“You can point to almost anything. I don’t know if we did anything good," Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We ran out of gas offensively, that may happen but we weren’t committed from the beginning of the game to getting any shots."

In this truncated season, it was expected that the latter of back-to-backs, especially when they are played on the road, would be difficult games to excel in for any team.

While there are no excuses in the NBA, it was very apparent that Sunday’s remarkable victory against the Raptors impacted the Magic’s energy and potency at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Not to suggest the Magic were lethargic and disoriented necessarily, but in comparison to a Detroit team that had Sunday off and are in the middle of a home stand, they just had no answer for their vigorous opponents.

“Obviously we had a long stretch of games and not a lot of time to rest," said Ryan Anderson, who recorded 13 points. "You can always have excuses but I think tonight they came out and played really hard. They had a ton of energy and they used that to their advantage today.”

Certainly no need to panic, especially with an opportunity to redeem themselves in a couple of nights when the Wizards arrive at Amway Center, there is undoubtedly some questions that need to be answered rather quickly.

First off, what is up with Nelson and J-Rich? The backcourt tandem has struggled mightily over the first six games of the season. Normally a nightmare for adversaries, Nelson has looked far less explosive to the basket when he attempts to drive the lane.

And while it’s probably unnecessary to be concerned about J-Rich’s 3-point shooting considering he was second in the NBA in threes made last season, you must start to wonder if he is getting exceedingly discouraged.

It’s no secret that the Magic’s main weakness is there deprivation of a perimeter player who can consistently go through stretches where he is “impervious” to any defensive scheme.

Gordon, for instance on Monday for Detroit, had the kind of performance that afterwards you can’t help but say, “I wish the Magic had someone who can take over a game like that.”

Though he is discredited often for his unpredictability, Gordon, who racked up 26 points, has games sometimes where he is untouchable.

Perhaps it was just one of those peculiar and atypical NBA nights. When you check out Monday’s scoreboard, you may notice that aside from Orlando losing, Miami, New York, Oklahoma City and San Antonio all lost as well.

Sometimes it’s encouraging to know that it’s acceptable for “elite” teams with championship aspirations to lose unsuspectingly.

Just like it is after wins, the fact of the matter is, Monday’s defeat is now in the past and it’s time to move on to the next game.

Watch out Washington, the Magic will likely come out with a vengeance on Wednesday to forget their visit to Detroit sooner than later.

Maybe on the flight back to Orlando, the Magic should blast that classic 80's tune from the Bangles, "It's just another Manic Monday."

What do you think was the key to Monday's loss in Detroit?
What do you think was the key to Monday's loss in Detroit?
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