Denton: Magic Ready for Critical Game 4

By John Denton
May 4, 2012

ORLANDO – Two days removed from Wednesday’s disheartening Game 3 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Orlando Magic have a renewed hope that they are still very much alive and well in this best-of-seven first-round playoff series.

Win on Saturday in Game 4 at the Amway Center and the sixth-seeded Magic will draw even with the third-seeded Pacers. Then, it will make for a best-of-three series and anything in the form up an upset could happen. But the Magic are also well aware that they can’t afford to lose on Saturday and fall into a 3-1 hole before heading back to Indianapolis.

Prohibitive underdogs before the series began, the Magic are once again being looked at nationally as a team that will soon be eliminated. But that thought has not pervaded the Magic’s locker room and they believe that the power of another win on Saturday could turn around this series.

``It’s not over yet. We know that we’re one game away from tying it up and making it like 0-0. That’s what they did (in Game 2) and we can do the same thing,’’ said Magic center Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, who will be playing through knee and ankle soreness in Game 4. ``We still have good spirits and the coaching staff has done a good job of making adjustments. The team is in a good state of mind. We’re just anxious to get out there and play.’’

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy reminded his team following Wednesday’s crushing 97-74 loss that the Pacers didn’t get extra credit for winning in lopsided fashion. Indiana led by as many as 29 points in the fourth quarter and never trailed. Van Gundy showed his team some of the lowlights from that game, stressing that the Magic need to play with more energy and a greater sense of urgency in what amounts to a must win on Saturday afternoon.

``Our guys looked at the film yesterday and they know. They were embarrassed by it. They knew it was bad, but not as bad as they saw on film,’’ Van Gundy said. ``These guys have a lot of pride and they’ll be ready to play. Motivation won’t be a problem.’’

Van Gundy said that while the Magic have struggled offensively – four of the five starters are shooting less than 40 percent in the series – and were repeatedly gashed defensively in Games 2 and 3, there is still a strong belief that they can win on Saturday.

Van Gundy tinkered with the idea of replacing the struggling Hedo Turkoglu with J.J. Redick in the starting lineup, but ultimately decided against it. He said he will make some minor changes to the rotation, such as playing Quentin Richardson more and not keeping Davis on the floor for such long periods of time, but the Magic will mostly stick with what got them to this point. After all, Van Gundy said there is still a strong belief in what the Magic are doing.

``The spirits are fine. You see a lot of things that you can do better, so it’s not a hopeless situation,’’ Van Gundy said. ``It’s not like we were out there running our offense with great energy and they just locked us down and it’s hopeless. That’s not what our guys are seeing. They are seeing that they have to play the game a lot differently and know it’s going to be difficult.

``There are adjustments that we can make to be a lot better,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``So I don’t think our guys have lost hope or faith and that’s not an issue. The issue is, `Are we going to play well enough to beat them on the court?’’’

One of the Magic’s lone bright spots in this series, Davis, has played well in the past two losses, scoring 18 and 22 points in Games 2 and 3. It’s quite a turnaround for Davis, who seemed to bottom out emotionally and on the court early in the season when he initially struggled with his new team.

Davis signed with the Magic in December in hopes of becoming a starter at power forward. When that didn’t happen, he sometimes sulked and his play on the court dipped, resulting in some boos from the fans. But all of that has changed now, and Davis is leading the charge in winning back fans and giving the Magic hope that they can win in the series.

``At the beginning of the year it was tough. I wasn’t playing well and you get boos. I got boos and everybody knows I got them because I wasn’t playing well,’’ Davis said.

``Now, I’m playing well and everybody wants to clap and hoorah and hooray. It feels good that the fans have accepted me. At the end of the day you can’t just come here and think people are going to give you all claps and hands. I used to play for the enemy and I had to produce here, and that’s basically what they told me.

``I was out there trying my best, but I wasn’t producing. Now, I’m producing and the fans are accepting me,’’ Davis reflected. ``Now, they see what type of player that I am, they see my heart and see the way that I play the game. They appreciate that and I’m glad it’s come at the right time. Now, they know who I truly am and what I can do. That feels good.’’

What would feel especially good to the Magic would be a Game 4 victory to knot up this series and ratchet up the pressure on the heavily favored Pacers. Redick echoed the thoughts of his teammates that there’s still a strong belief that Orlando can win this series.

``You have to have a good perspective about things and realize the next game is just as valuable as the game before. As long as we value Saturday for what it is, we’ll be OK,’’ Redick said. ``In our eyes, it’s a chance to tie the series. We’re ready to go. Nobody was pleased with how the other night went, so we’re ready to go for Saturday.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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