By Dan Savage
January 26, 2012
In an NBA squad’s quest for a title, there are a lot of obstacles that must be overcome along the way.
Often, teams have to battle through injuries, create chemistry and take down conference rivals.
As the Magic make their journey to a championship, there’s one item they clearly need to pickup along the way: the right frame of mind.
“When we were in the fourth quarter, I’m not sure that anybody was in a good frame of mind to play the game,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said after Orlando's deflating 91-83 home loss to Boston on Thursday. “There was a lot of frustration, and we’ve got to get to where we can just play the game.”
At this stage in the season, there’s a clear difference between the mental makeup of the Magic and the perennial title-contending Celtics. That’s not to say that Orlando is mentally weak or soft, because they’re not.
Instead, it’s an indication that the Magic need to learn to operate in consistent manner, regardless of whether things are going poorly or well. They also need to constantly play within themselves and not try and do too much.
“Guys have to know their roles and do what they have to do,” superstar center Dwight Howard explained. “You can’t step out of what this team needs each and every player to do.”
“We had four or five times where guys just decided, I’m going to bull my way to the basket and draw a foul,” Van Gundy said. “All with the intention of making a good solid play, but not just playing our game and moving the ball.”
The Celtics, on the other hand, stuck with Doc Rivers’ program and operated with the same collected demeanor both from behind and ahead.
“What the Celtics did was they stuck with the gameplan,” Howard pointed out. “Not once did they fight or get mad at each other. They just kept playing, they stayed together and that’s how they won the game.”
Glen Davis was one of the first players in the Magic’s locker room to fall on the sword and take the blame for not operating in the same manner as his former teammates did on Thursday.
“I put it on myself as far as losing this game,” the power forward said. “I lost this game for this team, because I was supposed to be the energy guy, come to play night in and night out, and I didn’t. I didn’t come to play in the second half and we lost.”
But he clearly was not the only one.
“The guys know that we didn’t come out in the second half like we were supposed to,” shooting guard Jason Richardson said. “To go and give up a lead like that? We have to figure out a way to maintain stuff like that, like how to play with leads like that or when teams put pressure on us.”
Until then, they’ll have to continue to search for the right frame of mind.
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