Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Celtics (1/26/12)
By Josh Cohen
January 26, 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.
ORLANDO -- It hurts. It really hurts.
You assumed the bleeding would stop at some point.
You assumed logic would prevail and the Magic would coast to a revenge victory.
You assumed a heart couldn't sink more and more after each made or missed shot.
You assumed eventually Paul Pierce would burn out and familiar faces, Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus, wouldn’t sting the Magic in their homecoming.
But no, the Celtics are still the Celtics of old and would never surrender.
The Magic led by as many as 27 and it appeared they were on the verge of earning some sweet redemption against their rivals.
But then suddenly, those same detrimental moments that resulted in a lopsided loss in Boston on Monday were restored.
Pierce resembled the superstar that tore up the Magic in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, Kevin Garnett was just as hardnosed as ever, Bass and Pietrus were seemingly automatic and Boston’s defense was unrelenting.
"We lost composure," Glen Davis said. "The Celtics showed perseverance and we didn't."
Perhaps the Celtics, like the Pistons were to Orlando several years ago, are just one of those teams that gives the Magic problems.
Boston may just be a team Orlando has to hope it doesn’t meet in the playoffs.
Fortunately for the Magic, they play on Friday. After Monday’s Boston Massacre, Orlando traveled to Indiana and thrashed the Pacers. Everyone should expect them to do the same in New Orleans in less than 24 hours.
There are personal feelings in sports. Athletes will constantly deny it, but it’s an actuality.
It gets especially personal when a player gets traded. Every competitor believes he is worthy of being a part of the foundation of a franchise.
But when management decides they can do just fine without you, it inevitably makes you feel bitter and aggravated.
For Orlando’s Glen Davis and Boston’s Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus, these emotions ran deep this week.
On Monday in the Boston Massacre and again in Thursday’s Celtics victory, Bass delivered two outstanding performances to hint that Orlando should have reconsidered its decision when it dealt him to the Celtics.
Pietrus, meanwhile for Boston, also had a strong outing with 12 points in Boston’s unimaginable comeback win.
Davis, meanwhile, certainly came out with a purpose. His heart and hustle helped the Magic jump out to a 27-point advantage before the Celtics stormed back.
It’s a never-ending demonstration around the league, considering how often trades transpire.
Now that we have all had an entire month to watch the Magic play, it's the perfect opportunity to evaluate each of the players on their performance up until this point of the season.
After reading through my analysis, vote on the grade you think each player deserves. In this edition I dissect Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson.
A - Excellent; Absolutely sensational; Definitely at a first-rate level
B - Pretty good; Generally content with a few exceptions here and there; Still need some improvement if they want to be a significant contributor this season
C - Somewhat disappointed; Expect more consistency; Hope for major improvement as the season marches forward
It may already be a foregone conclusion that Dwight Howard will earn Defensive Player of the Year honors for the fourth consecutive year and it’s very possible he will lead the league in rebounding for the fourth time in his career.
D12 is the ultimate game-changer because of his defensive commitment to protect the paint and his freakish athleticism and dominance at the rim.
Some may even suggest that Dwight deserves MVP consideration because of how much he influences the outcome of games just by his presence alone.
The one blemish, however, is Howard’s declined field goal and free throw percentages. It remains unexplained whether all the distractions regarding his future are hindering his offensive progression.
What grade would you give Dwight Howard for his performance so far this season?
It was a big inquisition during training camp: would any of Dwight Howard’s teammates suffer from all the trade rumors and requests?
Up until this point of the season, it appears just one player – an important one in fact – has been mightily affected from all this drama and ambiguity.
Jameer Nelson, who reached All-Star status in 2009 before a shoulder injury, was the Magic’s most reliable player during the 2010 playoffs and was the team’s most clutch player last season, has deflated considerably this year.
Nelson is averaging a career-low 8.3 points and has become turnover-prone. However, when he has played well, it has catapulted the Magic to great success.
Against the Lakers, for instance, Nelson poured in 17 points and dished out nine assists in a big victory. He also delivered 16 points in a surprise victory in Portland a week earlier.
It is critical for Jameer to play well if the Magic want to enter the playoffs with a high seed and a heavy dose of momentum.
What grade would you give Jameer Nelson for his performance so far this season?
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