Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Timberwolves (2/13/12)



By Josh Cohen
February 13, 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 CONFIDENCE BUILDER FOR SURE


ORLANDO -- Now that was a complete performance.

They were aggressive, cohesive and defensively driven.

All the way around, the Orlando Magic’s effort against the Timberwolves was championship pedigree.

It’s remarkable how rapidly and frequently the “state of a franchise” can change.

There are moments – like the first three quarters against Atlanta on Friday and Milwaukee on Saturday – where a team can look stale, frozen and out of their element.

And then there are other instances – like the fourth quarter in Milwaukee and most, if not all, of Monday’s victory against Minnesota – where a club with championship aspirations can appear unassailable.

You can compliment Orlando’s unselfishness as six Magic players scored in double figures. You can applaud the Magic limiting two-time All-Star Kevin Love to six points below his season average. You can admire Orlando cutting down on turnovers (just nine) or honor its pristine ball movement and execution in transition.

Next to their recent win over the Heat and some of those triumphs while on the West Coast in early January, Monday’s victory against a vastly improving Wolves club was one of the Magic’s best wins of the season.

"We're playing good basketball right now," said Earl Clark, who contributed eight points, five rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes. "We're moving the ball. Our superstar (Dwight Howard) was in foul trouble and we were able to pull the game out."

Considering their current position in the standings (No. 6 in the East), it’s imperative for the Magic to deliver duplicates of Monday’s performance over an extended stretch.

If you thoroughly analyze the Eastern Conference, which I tend to do at least six times a day, the Magic should be eyeing the No. 3 seed.

Sure, a No. 1 or 2 seed would be ultimate comfort heading into the playoffs, but assuming both Miami and Chicago stay in the fast lane and counteract injuries and this truncated season’s grueling schedule, a No. 3 seed is most pragmatic for Orlando.

There is no reason why the Magic can’t jump Philadelphia, Atlanta or Indiana by season’s end and there is no rationale for suggesting Boston should fly past Orlando at any point.

Sure, it’s extremely early to start calculating potential playoff seeds and matchups since there are still about 35 games left.

But, it is practical to make sensible forecasts in an abridged season that will be over before we know it.

There are other, more superficial, reasons why a No. 3 seed would be the “perfect” landing spot. When the Magic advanced to the NBA Finals in 2009, they were a No. 3 seed and last season the Dallas Mavericks won the title with the third best regular season record in the West.

It’s a notion I have defended countless times in my features, seeding in the NBA playoffs is critical. In contrast to the NFL or MLB where seeding is almost irrelevant, history suggests it greatly matters in this league.

As we approach the All-Star break and with teams about to get serious about potential trade offers as the mid-march deadline nears, it’s essential for the Magic to prove their potential over the next few weeks.

If Orlando is sitting comfortably in third place by March 15, the decisions Otis Smith and his staff make will be drastically different than if, for instance, they are crashing at No. 6.

For now, the Magic should utilize their win over the Wolves on Monday as another source of motivation and encouragement. The more confidence they have, the more likely they will climb up the standings and be in the perfect position to challenge the Heat or Bulls come playoff time.

What seed do you think the Magic will ultimately end up with?
What seed do you think the Magic will ultimately end up with?
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