Cohen's Magic Viewpoints: April 17

By Josh Cohen
April 17, 2011


Here are some perspectives and thoughts I have following the Magic's Game 1 loss and prior to Tuesday's Game 2.

DOMINANT DWIGHT

I inscribed this judgment during the regular season and after his astounding 46-point, 19-rebound performance in Game 1 against the Hawks, I figured it’s worth repeating and reaffirming. Dwight Howard should be recognized as one of the best centers of all time – in spite of the fact that he is just 25 years old and has not won a ring yet.

Like it was for Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal in their respective prime, Howard is essentially unconquerable in the low post and remains the most intimidating defensive player of his generation (like it was for Bill Russell in his time).

Especially with the way the Hawks have decided to defend the Magic, it’s very possible that Dwight will post astronomical numbers throughout the series and set all kinds of franchise and even league records.

For the purpose of reputation and status amongst the league's best, it's always significant for stars to play their best in the postseason because that is when many casual fans and those outside of their respective region get a chance to watch them play.


HEDO CRITICAL FOR MAGIC

It’s no secret anymore that Gilbert Arenas has become a non-factor because of his injury problems and at this point, it would be unreasonable to expect him to suddenly erupt with dazzling performances. The more bewildering mystery is that of Hedo Turkoglu – who has been inconsistent ever since he returned to Orlando back in December.

After substandard play in Toronto and Phoenix allowed Hedo to become available in a trade and when the Magic decided they would reacquire the 11-year veteran, there was some uncertainty as to whether Turk would restore the same success he did when he guided Orlando to the NBA Finals in 2009.

Immediately after the trade, Turkoglu showcased those desired traits – recording a triple-double, dishing out a career-best 17 assists and allowing his teammates to flourish because of his willingness to distribute.

But ever since then and highlighted in Game 1 against Atlanta, Hedo just doesn’t resemble the same player that Magic fans had become accustomed to. He tallied just six points on 2-of-9 shooting from the field – a stat line you would have never seen from him in the playoffs just two years ago.

The million-dollar question right now is: Is it physical or psychological? Is Hedo struggling because his body is worn down or has he not restored the confidence necessary to play at a high level? The rest of the postseason may resolve this curiosity.


YOU CAN RELY ON JAMEER

If I had to select one point guard in the NBA to take over a scoring load in the fourth quarter of a close game, there is no doubt in my mind who I would rely on.

I realize Derrick Rose has been extraordinary this season, I understand that both Deron Williams and Chris Paul are crafty and fit the perfect description of what a floor general is supposed to be and I respect the outstanding careers Steve Nash and Tony Parker have had. But ultimately, with the game on the line, I would choose Jameer Nelson.

Ever since last year’s playoffs, Nelson has become the Magic’s most dependable clutch scorer. During the regular season, Jameer connected on three game-winning shots, including a 3-point buzzer-beater against Denver, and single-handedly beat New York with an epic fourth-quarter performance.

Though Orlando couldn’t muster a comeback in Game 1 against the Hawks, Nelson once again demonstrated why you could always rely on him to make big shots when they are needed most. He set a franchise record with 20 third-quarter points and scored 26 of his 27 in the second half.

Nelson also remains the only reliable player on the Magic who can break a defender down off the dribble and attack the rim. Especially with Atlanta guarding the 3-point line so stringently, it will be imperative for Mighty Mouse to blaze to the hoop as often as possible.