By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage

By Josh Cohen

All it took was two blockbuster trades, a few practice sessions and a certain chemistry that is often rare in professional sports for the Orlando Magic to match their longest winning streak in franchise history.

After losing the first two games with their new cast of players in late December, the Magic have reeled off nine consecutive victories and will look to set a new club record when they visit the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Beyond Dwight Howard’s continued dominance inside, Brandon Bass’ unremitting progression and Hedo Turkoglu’s return to familiar form, Orlando has conquered the competition with its overall balance and cohesion.

In all nine of the victories during this impressive stretch, at least five players have scored in double figures and in three of them, at least seven have racked up double digit points.

“We got a lot of guys that when we were on other teams we were averaging 22-23 points per game,” Jason Richardson said. “So, collectively as a group we have a lot of guys that can score the ball.”

Much of their offensive success has evolved because of Turkoglu’s playmaking skills and effective distribution.

Against Dallas on Saturday, for example, the 11-year veteran dished out a career-best 17 assists – the most a Magic player has had since Penny Hardaway racked up 18 assists in 1995. He also recorded a triple-double in the Magic’s win over the Warriors.

Orlando, nonetheless, will face perhaps its toughest road test since the winning streak began when it tangles with New Orleans, While the Mavericks are one of the elite teams, they did not have their two best offensive players in Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler.

The Hornets, who started the season 8-0, have been relatively inconsistent lately but still pose a big threat to anyone because of the excellence of Chris Paul. The three-time NBA All-Star erupted for 20 points and six assists in New Orleans’ last victory over Denver on Sunday.

Tune in to FS Florida starting with the pregame show at 7:30 p.m.
By Josh Cohen

When NBA critics and observers began analyzing the Western Conference prior to the start of the season, there was one particular team that was frequently discussed as being the Lakers’ most threatening challenge: The Oklahoma City Thunder.

Highlighted by last season’s scoring champion and this season’s scoring leader, Kevin Durant, the Thunder believe they have blossomed into a championship contender.

The Orlando Magic will get their first look at Oklahoma City in 2010-11 when it clashes with the Thunder on Thursday at 8 p.m.

This game will also be the third time in the past four weeks that the Magic will be aired in front of a national audience on TNT.

On Dec. 23 at Amway Center, Orlando started its winning streak and simultaneously snapped the San Antonio Spurs’ 10-game winning stretch. One week later, the Magic edged the booming New York Knicks.

To earn respect from casual NBA fans and others who don’t get the opportunity to watch the Magic on a regular basis, performing well on nationally televised contests is always a bonus. It provides a confidence boost and a perception that Orlando should be one of the more feared teams in the NBA.

With the Magic playing the night before in New Orleans, it will be imperative for Orlando to be well prepared in advance for OKC since it won’t have much time to talk strategy in between the two games.

Heading into the start of the week, the Thunder had won two straight, including victories over the Mavericks and Grizzlies. Against Memphis, Durant erupted for 40 points. Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, who has enjoyed a splendid season, registered 22 points and 11 assists. The other member of OKC's big three, Jeff Green, contributed 15 points.

Tune in to FS Florida, of if you live outside of the central Florida region TNT, starting with the pregame show at 7:30 p.m.

By Josh Cohen

When examining this current stretch of five straight road contests, the Orlando Magic probably quickly zoomed over Saturday’s game.

Arguably the easiest of the five games, the Magic will visit the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves at 8 p.m.

Sometimes, however, it is imperative to not look past an opponent like the T-Wolves, especially with the Boston Celtics awaiting the Magic two nights later.

Rather than be unexcited and lacking motivation, the Magic want to flex their muscles and cruise past the Wolves so they are well rested and confident when they clash with the Celtics.

Heading into the start of the week, Minnesota had lost four straight and 12 of its last 15. Although their effort has not translated into victories, the Wolves are getting quality production out of some of their young and talented players.

Kevin Love, for instance, has been remarkable – leading the league in rebounds per game and also averaging 21.2 points per contest.

In one game this year, Love racked up 31 points and 31 rebounds. He has 24 double-doubles this season.

Minnesota’s other rising star, Michael Beasley, has transformed into one of the more explosive scorers in the league. However, the third-year pro aggravated his sprained left ankle and limped off the floor in the second quarter of the Wolves’ loss to the Spurs on Sunday.

The Magic won the first gathering against the T-Wolves this season and both meetings against Minnesota last season. Dwight Howard dominated inside -- combining for 51 points and 50 rebounds in the three victories.

Tune in to FS Florida starting with the pregame show at 7:30 p.m.
By Dan Savage

With all the big names involved in the Orlando Magic’s recent blockbuster deals, it’s no surprise that Earl Clark was overlooked at the time of the trades.

He was referred to as a toss-in and an extra piece. If it was baseball, he may have even been granted the dubious title of a “player to be named later.”

But after 10 games as a member of the Magic, Clark is starting to garnish some attention as a gifted offensive power forward and future quality defender.

With Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson in early foul trouble against the Rockets on Friday, the second-year player out of Louisville stepped up to the plate and delivered a spark.

Clark knocked down four of his eight attempts from the floor on his way to eight points in just under 18 minutes of action. He also managed to collect four rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal.

“I just try to stay ready,” Clark explained. “I know this can happen any game and that’s what your mindset has to be. Whenever I get called to play, I want to be ready.”

The Magic liked Clark enough prior to the 2009 NBA Draft that they considered finding a way to select him. Although that didn’t work out, the franchise is more than happy he’s now part of the team.

That’s because Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy sees a lot of future potential in the gifted forward.

“I think that Earl is going to be a really good player,” Van Gundy explained. “I think that offensively he is very talented. He’s quick, he can shoot the ball and he can put it on the floor.”

What’s also impressed the Magic’s head coach is Clark’s dedication.


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