Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Hawks (4/13/12)

By Josh Cohen
April 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.


ORLANDO -- Saying the Orlando Magic are going through a tough time right now is probably an understatement.

When you assess all the challenges this team is facing, it’s safe to insinuate that the Magic are in the middle of a crisis.

First off, you have all the health concerns: Dwight Howard’s ailing back and Hedo Turkoglu’s uncertain return date following surgery to repair facial fractures.

It seemed like a rudimentary injury at first, but with his back still not healed, Howard’s injury is starting to become a far more significant nuisance.

Dwight traveled out to Los Angeles on Friday for a visit with a specialist to get a second opinion on his back. Tests in Orlando showed no structural damage or anything exceedingly serious. However, after the Magic's loss to the Hawks, it was revealed that Howard has a herniated disc in his back and will expectedly be out until the playoffs.

It was very apparent during the last game Howard played in that he was in excruciating pain. He grimaced every time down the floor.

Turk, meanwhile, was on Orlando’s bench during the Magic’s frustrating defeat to their familiar foes and division rivals on Friday. It’s possible he could be back before the start of the postseason if he heals in time.

To make matters more troubling, Quentin Richardson sustained a head injury on Friday and didn’t return after Zaza Pachulia inadvertently elbowed him in the face.

Aside from all the injury woes, however, the Magic continue to dig themselves into a deeper hole in the standings.

While it is just one game back of Atlanta in the East, Orlando, in essence, is two games back considering the Hawks own the tiebreaker as a result of their regular season sweep over the Magic.

And despite having an identical record as Boston, the Magic aren’t able to jump the Celtics – unless they somehow ultimately climb to the No. 3 seed – because the C’s are a division leader.

Here is the encouraging and refreshing news: It’s very possible the Magic, though they likely wouldn’t have home-court advantage in this circumstance – could clash with the one team they have considerable momentum against in the First Round.

If the playoffs started today, the Magic – as a No. 6 seed – would meet up with the Indiana Pacers – a team Orlando won three of four times this season.

The Pacers have a two-game edge over the Hawks for the No. 3 spot (and that’s a “hard” number since Atlanta possesses the tiebreaker over Indiana). Also, Indiana has a much softer, friendlier schedule than Atlanta the rest of the way.

The Pacers, meanwhile, have a three-game advantage (which really is a four-game lead since Indiana has the tiebreaker) over the Celtics for the same exact position in the standings.

And then there is a three-game gap separating the Magic from both the Sixers and the Knicks. Unless Orlando completely collapses in its final seven games and either Philadelphia or New York surges, it remains unlikely for the Magic to drop to No. 7 or 8.

It’s no secret that the Magic need Howard back sooner than later to be serious contenders in the East. Let’s face it, it’s the reason the franchise exhausted so much of their efforts trying to persuade him to stay before the trade deadline.

For now, though, Orlando must focus on gaining confidence. A win Sunday in Cleveland could help restore that.

And hopefully, Howard will respond well to treatment and he will be ready to go come playoff time.

Without Dwight Howard in the lineup, who do you think needs to step up the most?

Without Dwight Howard in the lineup, who do you think needs to step up the most?

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