By Dan Savage
March 19, 2012
ORLANDO -- Right now, the Orlando Magic’s season resembles one of the many local theme park roller-coaster attractions.
There’s been a series of highs and lows, with twists and turns mixed in between.
After the Magic went 3-1 in a difficult stretch that featured wins over the Bulls, Pacers and Heat, it looked like they had turned the corner, put the inconsistencies in the rearview mirror and were ready to make a strong push into the playoffs.
But in the blink of an eye, they’ve shifted the season into reverse with Monday’s 85-59 home loss to the Bulls being the latest speed bump along the way.
While there is no doubt that this squad has the talent to succeed, the Magic have fallen into some bad habits that could plague them come the postseason if not corrected quickly.
For starters, they’ve shot themselves in the foot with turnovers. Orlando’s 19 giveaways on Monday led to 25 Chicago points.
“When you play the way we played tonight, this is a team-wide thing,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “This was bad all the way around.”
There was also the lack of effort. From the tip, the Bulls looked like a team ready to do battle on every play, while the Magic resembled a squad picking and choosing its spots.
“That’s it; they played harder than us,” All-Star center Dwight Howard explained. “One through 15, whoever stepped on the floor just played harder than us.”
After executing with immense precision and explosiveness during the aforementioned four-game stretch, the Magic have struggled over their last two contests to find quality shots.
“Our offense was pathetic,” Van Gundy said. “And that’s something that I have got to take a look at because we’ve got better players than that. It’s really two games in a row now where we’ve been playing very bad offensively.”
With all that said, there’s also the realistic fact that playing on the second night of a back-to-back against the top team in the East, after taking on the league’s best home team the night before in Miami, is not exactly an easy thing to do.
And despite their struggles the past two games, the Magic are still a legitimate title contender and own the third best record in the conference.
“When we play hard, we can beat any team in this league,” Howard said. “(The Bulls) know it and so does everyone else.”
The Magic’s superstar tried to put everything in perspective.
“We’re going to win some games, we’re going to lose some games, it happens,” he added. “(The Bulls) just beat Miami pretty bad the other day, does that mean that Miami is a sorry team? No. It happens. We are fine, we know what we have to do.”
It’s just a matter of making sure that it’s all in sync in time for the postseason.
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