Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Bucks (2/17/12)

By Josh Cohen
February 17, 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 -- On this night, Hedo Turkoglu lived up to that everlasting nickname, Mr. Fourth Quarter.

On this night, Jameer Nelson did what we have always admired of him, closed the show with a fury.

On this night, Dwight Howard overcame the pressure at the stripe and buried some critical free throws.

On this night, the Orlando Magic awoke at the most important time to shut down the feisty Milwaukee Bucks for their fourth straight victory.

It didn’t come easy and it took a while to realize that a win on their home floor against a mediocre opponent was essential before journeying for four games in five nights on the road.

While their effort over the first three quarters was less than satisfactory, the Orlando Magic finished on a 17-0 run to help eradicate any chances of something totally unsuspecting and unsettling.

Howard enjoyed his seventh 20-20 of the season (26 points, 20 rebounds), but more impressively, the six-time NBA All-Star shot 10-of-14 from the free throw line.

And Ryan Anderson, meanwhile – well, he just continues to show that you can rely on him to deliver big performances on a nightly basis. Anderson finished with 23 points and shot 4-of-7 from 3-point distance.

"The only thing that matters is that we brought it when we needed to and we got a win," Anderson said.

The last two weeks have been somewhat kind to the Magic. While winning four straight, five of six and eight of 10 is never easy in the NBA, there was only one back-to-back during this stretch and three of those victories were against guys probably battling frostbite (Milwaukee and Minnesota).

Yet, with triumphs against the Heat and 76ers and even in their losses, both in overtime to two extremely competent opponents (Clippers and Hawks), the Magic look like a team who deserve to be mentioned in the same conversation with all championship contenders.

The big test is approaching and Orlando must be prepared to overcome any obstacle imaginable.

The adventure starts with a trip to Miami for a clash with their Sunshine State rivals. Then, they must hop on a four-hour flight to Milwaukee to play against a team that is looking for revenge. Orlando stops in New Jersey to play against the Nets, one of the teams; of course, on Howard’s short list of teams he requested a trade to during training camp. And finally, they arrive in Atlanta where haunted memories from last season’s playoffs remain likely unforgotten. It’s probably unreasonable to try and come up with an “acceptable” win-loss percentage during this stretch of four games in five nights.

However, it’s undeniable that if the Magic win more than they lose (4-0 or 3-1), there will be some serious talk around the league that Orlando is for real and that championship uncertainty will evolve into championship veracity.

"Very tough," Quentin Richardson said about this arduous road trip. "We’ve just got to take it one game at a time. We can’t look past anyone and we just need to stay focused.”

Let’s all remember, the NBA trade deadline is March 15 and every player understands that it is imperative to be playing first-rate basketball to avoid any potential roster shakeups.

As of right now and despite all the distractions and drama, the Magic look real strong and ready to challenge any opponent -- whenever, wherever.

Oh yea and by the way, Philadelphia lost to Dallas on Friday -- meaning the Magic and Sixers are tied for third place in the East. And if you read my commentary often, you know how important I think playoff seeds are in the NBA.

What record do you think the Magic will finish with during this upcoming four-game road trip?
What record do you think the Magic will finish with during this upcoming four-game road trip?
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