By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage
Some proposed it would take a month, some figured it would start to work by the All-Star Break and others wouldn’t have been surprised if it took the rest of the regular season before this refurbished squad began to click.
Not many suggested it would only take about a week, which is exactly how long it took for the Magic to reestablish success.
Orlando has won five straight and hope to extend its streak when it hosts the Golden State Warriors on Monday at 7 p.m.
Perhaps most impressive about this latest stretch of victories is that the Magic have won against some of the better teams in the NBA.
The streak started when Orlando snapped the Spurs’ 10-game winning streak followed by ending the Celtics’ 14-game stretch of consecutive victories. The Magic, subsequently, went on the road and thrashed the Nets and Cavaliers before returning home and edging the high-octane and vastly improved Knicks.
Their next opponent, the Warriors, who had a 20-point first-half lead against the Miami Heat on Saturday before stumbling down the stretch, are one of the better offensive teams in the NBA. They feature two premier wing scorers in Monta Ellis, who ranks third in the NBA in points per game (25.4), and Stephen Curry, one of the top 3-point shooters.
Unlike past seasons when it flourished only on the perimeter, Golden State has an inside threat after acquiring David Lee during the summer. The six-year veteran, who played collegiately at Florida, is averaging a double-double for his new team.
The Magic won both meetings against the Warriors last season.
Tune in to Sun Sports starting with the pregame show at 6:30 p.m.
While it did not start the way they hoped, the Bucks are somehow managing to overcome an injury-plagued campaign thus far to bounce back and start playing more effectively.
The Orlando Magic will try not to be the latest surprise victim of the Bucks when the two teams collide at Amway Center on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Milwaukee has already upset Dallas twice and the L.A. Lakers over the last couple of weeks.
It continues to try and conquer the loss of Brandon Jennings, who will be out a few more weeks after having surgery to repair a fracture in his left foot.
Jennings’ replacement for the time being, Earl Boykins, has stepped in and provided a major spark for Scott Skiles’ club.
The 12-year veteran has scored in double figures in Milwaukee’s last five games, including delivering a season-best 26 points against the Mavericks on Saturday.
Earlier this season in Milwaukee, the Bucks took advantage of the stomach virus epidemic that plagued the Magic during their Midwest road trip. Andrew Bogut enjoyed a monster performance with Dwight Howard out with the illness – pouring in a season-high 31 points and 18 rebounds in a Bucks victory.
Milwaukee ranks No. 4 in the league in points allowed this season (92.5) – which is one spot higher than Orlando (93.2).
The Magic and Bucks were one game away from playing each other in the conference semifinals last season. If Milwaukee had defeated Atlanta in either Game 6 or 7 in its First Round series, it would have advanced to clash with Orlando.
Tune in to FS Florida starting with the pregame show at 6:30 p.m.
After an atrocious start to their 2010-11 campaign, the Rockets have started to find their groove.
Houston (16-17) has won eight of its last 11 contests and put itself back in playoff contention in the Western Conference.
Kevin Martin has been an instrumental factor in the Rockets’ success during that span, scoring at least 20 points in every Houston victory.
“From where we started, we should feel good about our road back to (near) .500,” Martin said. “It's not actually being at .500, because for the season, we have better goals than that. Our road back to .500, the way everybody is playing, that's what we should feel relieved about.”
With Yao Ming’s devastating season-ending injury and Chuck Hayes’ sprained left ankle, Houston’s interior has been challenged recently.
And with superstar center Dwight Howard licking his chops at this matchup, the Rockets will need several of their young big men to step up, including Patrick Patterson.
The No. 14 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft has shined in Hayes’ absence and made the most of his additional playing time.
He delivered the best performance of his professional career last Friday, notching 15 points and 10 rebounds in Houston’s victory over Toronto.
The tenacious 6’9” forward out of Kentucky has recorded at 10 boards in each game since Hayes went down with an injury.
“The coaches just kept saying, 'rebound, rebound. Keep doing as much as you can. Provide a lot of energy,'" Patterson explained.
And the Rockets will need him to do just that against Orlando’s frontline on Friday.
Orlando will be looking for a little revenge, after the Mavericks took advantage of the Magic’s lack of chemistry and grabbed a 105-99 road victory when the two teams went head-to-head on Dec. 21.
That contest took place just one day after Orlando’s first game together, following the team’s blockbuster trades.
With Ryan Anderson and Malik Allen sidelined for that matchup, the Magic had just two “big men” at their disposal and were forced to play Hedo Turkoglu at power forward and Brandon Bass at backup center.
Dallas capitalized on Orlando’s shuffled lineup and received 53 points from their starting forwards (Caron Butler and Dirk Nowitzki) and center (Tyson Chandler).
But courtesy of a monster performance from Dwight Howard – 26 points and 23 rebounds – and a few late triples from Jason Richardson, Orlando cut a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit down to three and had an opportunity to tie in the closing moments.
The Magic hope they can build on that effort in this upcoming meeting.
“We knocked down double figures and gave ourselves a chance to get back into the game,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy explained. “We didn’t turn the ball over a lot, and we out rebounded them. I thought that there were a lot of positives (in that game) to build on, so that’s the good part. I think that we’ve got some things that we can take from that game.”
With Anderson once again healthy and Orlando’s chemistry now improved, the Magic should be in much better shape to take down Dallas, owner of the third-best record in the NBA.
But we will find out if the new-look Magic are up for the challenge this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET.
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