Time is of the essence in Orlando. The Magic head into the break with a record of 36-21 good for 4th place in the Eastern Conference. The excuse of not having enough time to gel has since passed and this Orlando Magic team needs to realize its full potential. The schedule in terms of competition is a little more favorable with only 11 of the 25 remaining games against opponents with records currently at 500 or better after the break. Couple that with a few more days off for practice in the last 3rd of the season and the Magic should be at their peak going into the playoffs.
The Bright Spots:
- Dwight Howard is a legitimate MVP candidate. With averages of 22.6pts, 13.9rebs, and 2.1blks Howard has been the lone consistent option on the team both offensively and defensively. The Magic would be somewhere between the Charlotte Bobcats and Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference or perhaps worse without Howard. His M.V.P. type season must continue in order for the Magic to stay in the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Check out some of Dwight’s highlights as compiled on NBA.Com.
- Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass are having career seasons. Ok, maybe that’s not saying a whole lot as their spike in production is solely the result of playing time but both players are keys in the Magic rotation.
- The Magic team defense ranks 4th in the Eastern Conference in opponents field goal percentage against (.442) and 6th in opponents points per game (94.2). There has been a slight increase since the December trades but the Magic still play pretty good team defense buoyed by Howard.
- The team has enjoyed quality wins over L.A., Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, San Antonio, Boston, and Dallas. These types of wins prove that the Magic can truly play with anybody in the league. The win over the Lakers on February 13th might have been the best game the team played all year, especially defensively.
- The Magic are 4th in the Eastern Conference which is probably only one spot from where they thought they would be going into the break. However the lack of defensive consistency needs to cease to keep them in the 4th position and to gain home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
- The trade that brought Richardson, Turkgolu and Arenas to the team has left the Magic thin in the front court. Things could get easier if the team acquired another big to help Howard gain more rest. Troy Murphy anyone? Even if its not someone with the name value of Murphy, Orlando needs to add size for a deep playoff run.
- Currently the team lacks a reliable 2nd scoring option behind Howard. Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkgolu are the most likely candidates for the role and both have shown flashes with Richardson being the most consistent as of late. One of these two needs to step up because I think all hope is lost for Gilbert Arenas to return to “Hibachi” form.
- Orlando has suffered a few head scratching defeats that include “L’s” to Toronto, Philly, Detroit, Memphis, and Utah (the Magic led by 20 but lost). Orlando needs to feast on these types of teams (Utah excluded) in order to pringle up the wins going towards the playoffs.
- The Magic continue to implement a live by the three die by three strategy. The Magic got hot and stayed hot in 2009 from beyond the arc to reach the NBA Finals, but the chances of them repeating such a feat is not in their favor given the talent of the perimeter defenders amongst the Eastern Conference elite this year.
Orlando has a chance to have one of the better records after the All-Star break and finish strong. I am talking like 20-5 strong! Tempering expectations slightly a record of 17-8 is probably more realistic. That sort of finish would put the team at 53-29 going into the playoffs and more than likely finishing exactly where they are currently, 4th in the Eastern Conference. They would ideally have home court advantage against their pseudo rivals, the Atlanta Hawks, in the first round. The Hawks would prove troublesome but Orlando should be able to best them in 6 games. Beyond that, barring a trade to bring Howard help or lights out shooting from 3 point range, the Magic would be hard pressed to survive a 2nd round match-up with either Boston or Miami. The Magic are saying all the right things in terms of talking about championship aspirations and all that but this team has a lot more gelling to do before those aspirations can become reality.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com