Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Spurs (1/18/12)



By Josh Cohen
January 18, 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.

A THRILLER IN O-TOWN


ORLANDO -- We figured the finale of a back-to-back-to-back would not be easy.

With fatigue escalating and breathers hard to come by, the Magic – in spite of a resilient rally to force overtime and a near stunning end – just didn’t have enough fuel in the tank in the extra session on Wednesday as their five-game winning streak was snapped.

There were some shining moments – Dwight Howard’s monstrous performance that resulted in 24 points and 25 rebounds, J.J. Redick’s clutch play in the last minute of regulation and Von Wafer’s superb effort off the Magic’s thin bench.

There were also some frustrating times – Redick’s decision to ball fake before launching his what-would-have-been game-winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer in OT and another bleak and mystifying performance from Jameer Nelson (four points on 2-of-14 shooting).

Redick's final shot was very reminiscent to that of Nelson's last season against the Bulls -- when he connected on a straightaway 3-pointer immediately after the horn went off.

"When Dwight got the offensive rebound is when I looked at the clock and I saw three-something. It was about 3.4, 3.5 when he turned and threw the ball at me. I shot faked and it was 1.8. If I shot the ball right away, he was so high I wouldn't have gotten off a good shot," Redick explained about his decision to dribble before firing the shot.

Without Hedo Turkoglu (back spasms) and Jason Richardson (knee) and considering having to play on three consecutive days, which included an extra five minutes to close out this exasperating stretch, you have to respect Orlando’s unyielding effort.

"Our guys deserved the win with the effort they put in tonight," Stan Van Gundy said. "Our guys effort was tremendous, we out-rebounded them by 19."

In many ways, Wednesday’s outcome felt like revenge from what transpired nearly five years ago at the old Amway Arena.

Remember that renowned night when Howard slammed home a one-handed dunk as time expired to beat the eventual champion Spurs that season.

It was somewhat fitting that on this stirring night there was a moment where the Magic had the opportunity to repeat a similar feat from five years ago (last play of regulation) and it was also paradoxical that this time a potential game-winning shot was attempted a tick or two after the buzzer sounded.

It’s exciting, nonetheless, to notice the development from the Magic’s supporting cast. Despite not suiting up on Wednesday, Turkoglu has certainly outshined last season’s cheerless performance. Ryan Anderson and Redick have become two frontrunner candidates for the Most Improved Player award and Wafer has evolved into Orlando’s secret force off the bench.

But it remains to be seen if Nelson can return to his old form, if Howard can improve upon his free throw shooting and if others such as J-Rich and Glen Davis can deliver consistent quality outings.


THE SECRET WEAPON


It caught my eye back in mid-December when the Orlando Magic held their open practice at Amway Center a day before their first preseason game.

Assumed to be a toss-in in the Brandon Bass-for-Glen Davis trade, Von Wafer had a certain swagger, a confident approach and an apparent motivation to prove his value in this league.

In his sparing minutes, which have been increased lately because of Jason Richardson’s knee injury, Wafer has surpassed expectations over the first four weeks.

Though Stan Van Gundy wants his “secret weapon” to be more of an aggressor rather than a spot-up jump shooter, the veteran out of Florida State has shown glimpses of excellence.

After his 13-point effort against Charlotte on Tuesday, Wafer followed that performance up the next night with 15 points in Orlando’s loss versus San Antonio.

Especially because of this condensed 66-game season, it’s imperative for the backend reserves like Wafer to deliver quality performances on occasion.

The starters and the primary backups need to heal their wounds – like J-Rich (knee) and Hedo Turkoglu (back spasms) did on Wednesday – and it will be extremely difficult to rack up winning streaks if guys like Wafer don’t excel.




In the closing seconds with the Magic down by two, who would you want taking the final shot?
In the closing seconds with the Magic down by two, who would you want taking the final shot?
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