Denton: Magic Still Confident They Can Win Series

By John Denton
May 7, 2012

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has this theory that for a team to fight out of a hole it must have supreme confidence that it can not only just win a game, but it also must still believe it can win the series.

According to Van Gundy’s theory, a team simply playing for pride or trying to salvage one victory will break down and fold during tough times in a game. But a team still confident that it can dig out of a 3-1 deficit and win the series will remain strong through any adversity.

After having a day off to ``grieve’’ (Van Gundy’s word) over their crushing Game 4 overtime loss to Indiana, Magic players returned to practice on Monday and bubbled with confidence that they can go to Indianapolis and defeat the Pacers in Tuesday’s Game 5. Do that, Ryan Anderson said, and anything can happen in the series, including the Magic potentially winning in a seventh game on Sunday.

``We still can (win the series). We get one win over there and then the momentum is on our side and we can bring it back here,’’ said Anderson, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Sunday. ``We’re not looking at it like we’re down and out. Or that we’re trying to go out with a bang. We’re not thinking like that at all. We’re expected to go out and play hard and win (on Tuesday).’’

Facing a 3-1 deficit, the undermanned and underdog Magic are facing some long odds. Only eight teams in history have won series after falling behind 3-1. But Van Gundy said the fight that the Magic showed in Saturday’s Game 4, when they rallied from 19 down in the fourth quarter and six points behind in overtime, should tell everyone plenty about the resiliency of this team.

And Van Gundy said his team came to practice on Monday with a good enthusiasm and focus on the adjustment the team hopes to make in Game 5 on Tuesday.

``I think our guys think that we can win. I may be wrong on that, but I don’t think so,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I go by what I see and I saw guys practicing very hard today and guys were very focused. We practiced very much like we’re still in a series. That’s all I can go on and I think our guys will be ready to go.’’

The Magic are hoping to carry over the momentum of a fourth-quarter burst in which they outscored Indiana 26-7 over an eight-minute stretch. The Magic scored 14 straight points during one stretch by relentlessly attacking the rim out of pick-and-roll plays. Glen Davis had 12 points in the fourth quarter and four more in overtime, while J.J. Redick dished out six assists in the fourth-quarter rally.

``The energy level that we showed in the second half stuck to us. That’s the energy that we have to play with on both ends,’’ said Davis, who noted that he was miserable most of Sunday as he tried to recover from the Game 4 loss. ``We have to sustain that through the whole game as much as we can. If we can get this game it gives us a chance to stay alive.’’

The Magic missed a chance to win the game at the end of regulation when point guard Jameer Nelson missed a fade-away shot over Leandro Barbosa as time expired. Nelson drove hard to his left and shook Barbosa, but after spinning back right he faded away and his shot came up well short. Nelson has watched the shot multiple times on film and he was pleased with the attempt, but not the result.

``Obviously I want to make the shot,’’ Nelson said. ``But it’s not like I’m going into the next game thinking, `Aw, I missed my last one.’ I’m going up there to make the next one. I’ll take the same shot and make the same move because that’s something that I work on all of the time.’’

One adjustment that Van Gundy made down the stretch to spark the Magic rally was a small lineup with Hedo Turkoglu at power forward, Jason Richardson at small forward and Redick at shooting guard. Turkoglu had a difficult time checking the bruising David West in the post, but he also pulled the Indiana power forward out on the perimeter on the other end of the floor. And the Magic’s smaller, quicker lineup showed them a way to create offense – something they might resort to again in Game 5.

``We’re not a quitting team, but we can’t keep getting ourselves in a hole like that,’’ Turkoglu said, referring to the Magic falling behind by 19 points in the fourth quarter.

``We tried to make better decisions to get ourselves back in the game. … In this situation, I don’t care (if he has to guard David West). I’ll take whatever challenges there are and help the team. He’s stronger than me, but I’ve tried to front him and push him away from the basket. Hopefully, I’ll get some help and do a good job on him.’’

Another factor playing into the Magic’s favor is that they are plenty confident that they can win in Indiana. They won their twice during the regular season and in Game 1. And before the Game 2 loss, a game the Magic led at the half, they had won six straight times in Indy over a three-year period. Anderson said if the Magic can just find a way to gut out a win in Indianapolis that they will shift the series back to Orlando and shift the pressure back onto the Pacers.

``We came in there in the first game (of the playoffs) with a lot of confidence, we played hard and we won. We know we can win in that building. We just have to bring a lot of energy to this game,’’ said Anderson, who won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award on Friday. ``There’s no need to hang our heads. We’ve gone through a lot this year and we fought through it as a group. I think that we’re closer because of it. So we’re excited and we know what we have to do to play better.’’

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at

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