Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Nuggets (4/1/12)
By Josh Cohen
April 1, 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 sure seems that these thrillers that come down to the last second have some sort of antipathy toward the Orlando Magic.
While they tend to be more memorable and enlivening than those standard finishes where the outcome is decided long before the final buzzer, heart-racing endings can be infuriating if the result is not to your preference.
The Magic lost another heartbreaker on Sunday. Unlike Friday’s defeat to the Mavericks, however, this time Orlando nearly overcame a daunting late-game deficit against the Nuggets.
And rather than a crushing shot in the final seconds from Dirk Nowitzki, on this night it was a dagger from Ty Lawson that denied the Magic from conquering in the end.
It would only be fair-minded to mention, as well, that Dwight Howard was absent as a result of a sore lower back. It was just the sixth game Howard has missed in his career because of an injury or illness.
Also concerning is Ryan Anderson, who sprained his ankle and could barely walk off the floor after Lawson buried his demoralizing jumper in the last minute. Fortunately x-rays were negative.
Sunday’s loss was the third straight defeat for Orlando, which remains in third place in the East despite multiple teams creeping up in the standings.
There is a lot to learn about a team when the best player is out, especially when it involves the most dominant force in the league.
Jameer Nelson, meanwhile who has been on a tear over the last two weeks, was practically unstoppable and his 27 points kept the Magic alive until the final buzzer.
And Anderson, before twisting his ankle, showed that he could be just as effective without Dwight as he is with Dwight. Though he struggled from long distance (3-for-10), Ryan recorded 20 points and nine rebounds.
Considering Howard’s absence, the loss isn’t all that demoralizing. We all know the Magic need their franchise star to be serious championship contenders.
The concern, rather, is more related to the standings than anything associated to performance. Orlando played a solid game against Denver and in many ways exceeded expectations while Howard got treatment in the training room.
Boston is rolling right now and trounced Miami on Sunday for its fifth consecutive victory. The C’s are just 1.5 games behind the Magic for the third seed in the East and they already own the tiebreaker as a result of their two wins over Orlando earlier this season.
Atlanta is also 1.5 back and Indiana pulled even closer after its win over Houston on Sunday and is just a half game behind the Magic.
Prior to their miserable loss in New York on Wednesday, it was starting to feel like the Magic would be a lock to capture the No. 3 seed. Now, however, everything is up in the air.
While getting the No. 3 spot, historically, is significant since only one team in history since the league adopted a 16-team tournament in 1984 has won the NBA title with a four seed or lower (Houston in 1995), being the No. 4 or even No. 5 seed may not be so dire.
Unless there is a collapse from the Bulls and a blistering finish by the Heat, Chicago will likely be the No. 1 seed and Miami the No. 2. As a result, you simply have to ask yourself, whom would you rather the Magic play in the conference semifinals, Bulls or Heat, assuming they advance past the First Round.
We can debate all day what is in the best interest of the Magic regarding playoff seeding. For now, however, the concentration must be on getting healthy and snapping out of this current skid.
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