Denton: Magic Return West Hoping to Recreate "Magic"
By John Denton
January 6, 2013
PORTLAND, Ore. – It was just more than a month ago when the Orlando Magic were mired in a three-game losing streak and faced with the prospect of having to start a nine-day West Coast road trip that could have turned into a death march of sorts if things had gone badly.
What followed, however, was a stirring defeat of the Los Angeles Lakers and a highly successful 3-2 jaunt through the Western Conference that buoyed the hopes and spirits of the Magic.
The Magic are now faced with a similar scenario to the one back in early December. Orlando left for a four-game, nine-day West Coast trip on Sunday with a frustrating eight-game losing streak in tow. Injuries have beset the roster over the past two weeks, but they haven’t broken the will of a Magic team that has dropped six of the eight games during the skid by eight points or less.
Knowing full well that this likely would be a season full of exhilarating highs and challenging lows, the Magic are determined to respond to the road trip ahead similarly to how it did in Los Angeles last month.
``I don’t expect our team to give in to losing or the frustration,’’ Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick said. ``I expect us to keep playing hard and we’ll win some games soon. We’ll turn this around.
``Road trips can bring you together a little bit and our last trip out West did that,’’ Redick continued. ``We had a chance to win all five games (on that previous trip), and I think this could be a good trip for us.’’
The Magic (12-21) play the surprising Portland Trail Blazers (18-15) on Monday night. They then face Denver (Wednesday), the Los Angeles Clippers (Saturday afternoon) and Washington (Monday) on a trip that will crisscross the country. Reserve forward Josh McRoberts symbolizes the Magic’s willingness to continue to fight while playing out of position to help out a squad in need of healthy bodies. Over the past week, he’s played small forward, power forward and center while guarding the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Tyson Chandler.
McRoberts pointed to the way the Magic saved their season a month ago when they dug out of a losing streak with a solid showing on the road. McRoberts said that the mentality of a team often lives and dies a little with winning and losing, and he’s confident the Magic can salvage their season with some solid play on the upcoming trip.
``The thing about the NBA since I’ve been a part of it is when you are losing you feel like you are never going to win and when you are winning you feel like you are never going to lose,’’ McRoberts said. ``But that’s not really how it is. You have to just keep staying with it. We’re going to break through one of these games here and we hope that comes sooner than later obviously. We’ll just keep fighting.’’
The hope is that the team will get back power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, point guard E’Twaun Moore and reserve center Gustavo Ayon at some point on the trip. The Magic haven’t won since Davis dislocated his shoulder two weeks ago, but the power forward is improving rapidly and hopes to play within the coming week to 10 days.
Moore sprained his left elbow last week when his arm was pinned onto the floor during a scrum for a loose ball. He reported no pain last week and said that he was close to resuming basketball-related activities. As for Ayon, his injury might be the most serious as has a deep thigh contusion and was not with the team during Saturday’s loss to the New York Knicks.
Facing an already thin margin for error, the Magic have struggled without several of their key pieces late in games when trying to finish off teams. Five of the losses during the skid have been by four points or less – most of them coming when the Magic had the lead or a shot to tie late in the game, but couldn’t convert.
Orlando took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss, but ended up falling 114-106 when Carmelo Anthony scored 16 of his 40 points in the final period. Magic guard Arron Afflalo said the team has to do a better job of learning how to play its best basketball with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
``The coaches are doing a great job in terms of the game plans and schemes and we’re definitely competing hard as players, but we need to learn how to win,’’ said Afflalo, who has played some of the best basketball of his career during the team’s skid. ``There are certain instances within the game that we can fine-tune, simplify and be smarter about to put us in a better position to win these games.’’
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said he’s been encouraged by the resiliency of his team and the way it has battled through adversity with injuries and tough losses all season. He expects the same to come from the Magic over the coming week as it tries to shake itself from the eight-game losing skid.
``All of the games (on the trip) are challenging, but hopefully we can get on the road and bond a little together and continue to stay together and fight,’’ Vaughn said. ``I know the guys in this locker room are looking forward to the next game. We are excited about the challenge and we’ll get it done.’’
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