Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Sixers (2/15/12)

By Josh Cohen
February 15, 2012

In Cohen Courtside, Josh Cohen examines the state of the Orlando Magic after games this season. He will tackle sidebar storylines and focus on topics that stretch far beyond the box score. There will also be some analysis on league-wide subjects.


ORLANDO -- Amid all the Dwight Howard drama and distractions and despite some who believe they are no longer among the league’s elite, the Orlando Magic have looked just as good, if not better, than any team in the NBA over the last few games.

Sure, it’s a small sample and yes, as we’ve seen throughout this truncated NBA season, success and failure come in recurrent spurts.

On a Tuesday, for instance, the Magic may appear stale, frozen, lethargic and out of rhythm. On the Thursday of the same week, on the other hand, the Magic may look motivated, energetic, cohesive and proficient.

It was just over two weeks ago when Orlando finished up a brutal stretch, which included collapses, meltdowns and indolent performances. The Magic had lost a game in Philadelphia and all the critics concluded it was time to trade Dwight and for all intensive purposes, throw in the towel on this season.

But lately, as demonstrated in the Magic’s rematch against their familiar foes on Wednesday, the threes have been dropping, the pick-and-rolls have been precise and generally the defensive commitment has been dependable. Orlando has won three straight and four of five.

Even more evident, though, is that both Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson look revitalized after a harsh stretch, Howard has been more adept around the rim, Ryan Anderson remains the most daunting 3-point shooter in the NBA and the bench, particularly J.J. Redick and Quentin Richardson, has been reliable.

Wednesday's box score against the Sixers doesn’t lie: Anderson is still scorching hot (27 points, 7-of-10 from downtown), Jason Richardson continues to be automatic (14 points, 4-of-5 from 3-point distance), Redick is a fireplug off the bench (12 points), Nelson was a dynamic playmaker (14 assists) and the Magic continue to deny any opposing player from having a breakout performance.

"We have so many weapons on this team," said Anderson, who was officially named to the Foot Locker Three Point Shootout on Wednesday. "The eyes are focused on Dwight, so even just having him on the court and having him draw double teams really helps us in a lot of ways."

It was imperative for Orlando to triumph against Philadelphia, a much-improved squad that could be a potential First Round opponent for the Magic.

And after every victory, the mood regarding Dwight and any looming decisions Otis Smith and his staff will make will seem less immediate.

There is exactly one month until the trade deadline and while there has been no indication either way what decisions will be made, it’s, by and large, better for Orlando if it is racking up win after win to alleviate the pressure and expectations.

It’s extraordinary in so many ways that the Magic’s supporting cast has weathered the storm, so to speak, with all the commotion encircling Orlando and its prime attraction.

Sure, there have been times this season where tired legs and a challenging schedule have hindered individual progress. But overall and certainly over the past week, the Magic have played with excellent chemistry and a defining purpose to win an NBA championship.

After their home contest against the Bucks on Friday, the Magic will have to endure one of their more exigent stretches of the season – four games in five nights all on the road.

Only time will tell if Orlando is up for this intimidating challenge.

What seed do you think the Magic will ultimately end up with?

What seed do you think the Magic will ultimately end up with?

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