Cohen Courtside: Magic at Spurs (3/14/12)
By Josh Cohen
March 14, 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.
It was only fitting that on a day universally described as an emotional rollercoaster ride, Wednesday’s game in San Antonio resembled all of the off-the-court drama and ambiguity in many ways.
Rather than the “will he opt in or not” indecision, however, which took all sorts of peculiar twists and turns throughout the day, the Orlando Magic’s defeat to the Spurs, which featured 22 lead changes, was packed with mind-blowing momentum shifts.
On the eve of arguably the franchise’s most important decision in team history, the Magic couldn’t dig up the same degree of inspiration down the stretch that had propelled them to an unforgettable win over the Miami Heat at Amway Center on Tuesday.
The effort was indeed present and the execution was well orchestrated, but too much Tony Parker, too much Manu Ginobili and too much savvy Spurs for the Magic to overcome.
And now, Thursday’s 3 p.m. NBA trade deadline is the Magic’s next “opponent” so to speak and the most hyped league-wide interest is front and “center.”
In less than half-a-day, the future of Dwight Howard for this season and possibly beyond will be decided – one way or another.
We’ve read all the speculation, the myriad of possibilities and yet we may be more baffled than ever about what will ultimately happen.
The inescapable spotlight, which is at its highest beam since training camp, is on the Magic. But one thing is for sure; irrespective of all the unavoidable distractions, Orlando handled all of the uncertainty extraordinarily well.
Most teams tend to struggle when pressure mounts, but the Magic showed for the past several weeks that amid all the commotion they remained a championship caliber team.
Most recently, Orlando defeated three of the best teams in the NBA consecutively, including Chicago, Indiana and Miami. And on Wednesday, it gave San Antonio all it could handle before the Spurs’ defense intensified and their biggest stars rose to the occasion.
For so long there was a ton of concern about Jameer Nelson and whether he was buried in a pool of doubt. But lately, Nelson has been spectacular. After almost single-handedly catapulting the Magic to a stirring victory over the Heat, he delivered another splendid performance in southern Texas with 25 points.
And as for Dwight: If this was his last game in a Magic uniform, it was another dandy. Howard registered 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks and again didn’t seem at all preoccupied by his off-the-court desires and decisions.
Orlando is still in a very good position. It sits in third place in the Eastern Conference and it would be reasonable to suggest the Magic are one of only a handful of teams that has a realistic chance of winning the title this year.
They have already beaten the Heat twice this season, they have knocked off the Bulls and Lakers, they have defeated the Pacers three times, etc. etc.
On Thursday, nonetheless, the Magic will do what’s in the best interest of the franchise. And we all know the goal of this team and that is to capture the NBA championship. That will certainly not change – regardless of what happens tomorrow.
For the weeks leading up until the trade deadline, how do you think the Magic did?
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