Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Bucks (3/3/12)



By Josh Cohen
March 3, 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 DISTINCT CONTRAST FROM THURSDAY


ORLANDO -- A lesson was noticeably learned after Thursday’s fourth-quarter misfortune.

Just two days after Kevin Durant crushed the hearts of all those at Amway Center with a spectacular late-game performance, the Orlando Magic turned the tables behind a dazzling final 12 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

It’s not to suggest the Magic have realized their potential in pressure-packed fourth-quarters.

Especially considering Saturday’s outcome practically epitomized Orlando’s other three victories over Milwaukee in the last 22 days, the Magic, for the time being, were able to forget that disheartening finish against Oklahoma City.

More encouraging, however, for the Magic is the team’s extraordinary balance and solidity.

At least four Magic players have scored in double figures in every game since Jan. 30 in Philadelphia. On Saturday, six blue and white members crossed the mark with Dwight Howard leading the pack with 28 points.

When you toss in all the distractions and ambiguity regarding Howard and his undecided future, it’s actually remarkable. For so many players to remain this focused says plenty about their reliance in each other and the franchise’s overall ambition of capturing the NBA championship.

Also, beating the same team in a span of three weeks is fairly amazing. The Magic became just the fourth team since 1970 to defeat the same adversary four times in 22 days or less.

It’s undeniable that the Magic are one of the more peculiar teams in the league. Some nights they look almost impeccable and destined to challenge for an NBA title. Other nights, on the other hand, Orlando appears stale and frozen and far from competing against any of the other elite teams.

Orlando has generally been dependable defensively this season. For instance, only three times since Feb. 1 has an opponent eclipsed 100 points. Also, only twice all season have the Magic lost when a challenger exceeded 100 points.

But to Stan Van Gundy's dissatisfaction, periodically the Magic get lethargic and allow opponents to take uncontested shots.

"It's a matter of mentality, our disposition and our effort," Orlando's head coach said. "They're all very capable, it's just a matter of going out and doing it."

Naturally, based on all the uncertainties, it’s mysterious as to whether this group will still be together after the March 15 trade deadline. It’s easy to imply that after lopsided wins, the desire to keep this nucleus intact is stronger. After frustrating defeats, however, some of that craving shifts to other ideas and initiatives.

Sometimes it feels like the Magic operate off a light switch. It’s like on Saturday against the Bucks, not only was the button turned on in the first and fourth quarters but it was set at its highest beam. Orlando outscored Milwaukee by 15 in the opening frame and 11 in the final one.

In between that prosperity, however, the Bucks seemed unstoppable for a stretch of about 10-15 minutes when an all-but-certain win seemed in doubt. In these stretches, which appear occasionally, it feels like the switch has been turned off and darkness spreads over the court.

The Magic have a big week ahead as they head out on the road for contests against the Raptors, Bobcats and Bulls. By the time they return to Amway Center – next Sunday against Indiana -- there will be just four days remaining until the trade deadline.

If you ask me, this upcoming week may be the most significant one the Magic have faced in quite some time.

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