Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Mavericks (3/30/12)
By Josh Cohen
March 30, 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 -- We’ve seen this movie before at Amway Center.
It’s a script that seemed ordained for a happy ending but unexpectedly features a heartbreaking finish.
The Orlando Magic essentially won the first 46 minutes of Friday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. They led by as many as 15 at one point and it infrequently felt like anything haunting was forthcoming.
But like some of their other last-second defeats at home this season, there was no opportunity to celebrate.
Jason Terry will probably be in Orlando’s nightmares for a night or two as a result of his spectacular fourth-quarter performance and Dirk Nowitzki may join him after hitting the game-winner with 5.9 seconds left.
It’s no secret that one of the Magic’s defects this season has been their inability to overcome those pressure-packed moments in close games down the stretch.
We witnessed it recently when the Thunder were in town and the Magic had no answer for Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook. We saw it when Chris Paul and Caron Butler couldn’t be denied in the final stages of a loss to the Clippers. We observed it against the Celtics when Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett found a way to overwhelm Orlando in the fourth quarter.
Fortunately for the Magic, however, it’s just the regular season and one may conclude that the problem is more bad luck than anything else.
You see, in all of Orlando’s losses at home in which the outcome hung in the balance until the final buzzer, the Magic have always had good looks at the basket on their final possessions.
Recall Jason Richardson and his open 3-point attempts in down-to-the-wire defeats to the Clippers and Hawks. Bear in mind J.J. Redick’s 3-pointer against the Spurs that was released immediately after the horn went off. And on Friday, Hedo Turkoglu’s 3-point shot and Ryan Anderson’s follow were both reasonable attempts in such a pressure-fueled situation.
In fact, it’s probably a discussion you and your friends have had plenty of times this season. And by the completion of the argument, a few migraines likely encircled the group.
It’s a twisted puzzle that is virtually impossible to figure out.
This is exactly what transpired this week. The Magic thrashed the Raptors in Toronto on Monday, were smashed by the injury-plagued Knicks at MSG on Wednesday and then against the Mavs, seemed back to being insuperable before a sudden collapse ensued.
But, the fact of the matter is, when the Magic are motivated and cohesive, they are just as good as anyone in the NBA. That includes all of the championship contenders such as the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and as demonstrated for most of Friday, the reigning titleholders.
Gradually, the Magic have restored confidence in the unbiased and objective national onlookers.
At the start of the season, last season’s First Round exit to the Atlanta Hawks spoiled all the profound championship expectations observers had for the Magic the previous few years.
Most critics suggested Orlando was a one-man band and that the supporting cast wasn’t strong enough to help Dwight Howard.
Also, all the inescapable distractions regarding Howard’s ambiguous future made many wonder if this obstacle was too much to overcome.
During stretches of the first month, some neutral spectators started to give Orlando a “fighter’s chance” to challenge any of the elite teams in the league as role players like Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick had shown significant improvement.
But it seemed all that optimism was negated when the Magic suffered any of their unanticipated and bleak performances in the middle of some of their impressive efforts.
And then while Howard made his decision to stay with the only franchise he’s ever played for, Orlando was playing its best basketball of the season with victories over the Bulls, Pacers and Heat.
It’s possible after Wednesday’s loss in New York and Friday’s defeat to Dallas, however, that the Magic will need to reprove their worth over the next few games.
There is a popular adage in the NBA; what have you done for me lately? If Orlando racks up some wins in its next few games, what happened at the end of this week will promptly be erased from everyone’s minds.
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