The Magic seem to be finding what they have been lacking for the better part of the season, and that’s consistency. Since the loss to the Lakers on March 14, Orlando has reeled off 4 straight victories capped by the 111-99 washout of the New York Knicks this evening. Dwight Howard bullied the “little” big men of New York, scoring 33 points and snatching 11 rebounds. He even hit 11-13 from the free throw line. It is almost mundane to talk about his dominance, especially over a team like the Knicks who are cascading down the Eastern Conference standings.
The bigger and much brighter picture here is the play of Howard’s supporting cast. Here are a few quick keys to the team’s recent success:
- Hedo Turkgolu has remembered how to score..I would say shoot but his percentages are still below 50%. Nevertheless his play has been key to the recent Orlando run. Turkgolu is averaging 14.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 6 rebounds over the last 4 Orlando wins. He seems to look for Howard first which was not something he was doing often enough during his struggles and that is paying big dividends for him and Orlando.
- Jameer Nelson has regained confidence as the team’s point guard. Nelson would never say it, but the arrival of Gilbert Arenas shook his confidence somewhat. He now knows/believes he is head and shoulders better than Arenas and has Stan Van Gundy believing the same. Nelson has played about 35 minutes in each of the last 4 games, while Arenas plays more shooting guard in his time on the floor. Nelson’s swagger is back to that of the beginning of the season when he was averaging career best numbers.
- Defense! The rotations are so much crisper as of late and the team is buying in fully to the philosophy of “5 guys on a string”. Only the Knicks have broken the 90 point plateau over the last 4 games and they are 2nd highest scoring team in the league. Orlando was still able to hold them to 40% shooting on the evening.
There is no telling if Orlando will keep this mentality to finish out the season. They are almost assuredly the number 4 seed with no real chance of moving up or down and would face the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs, who also are pretty much locked into their slot. Orlando has a finger nail slim chance of getting to the 3rd seed if Miami/Boston decide to mail in the rest of their games but that is far from realistic. So complacency knowing that they are theoretically stuck at 4 could easily seep into the Magic’s mindset. However, a team that has been to the Eastern Conference finals 3 straight seasons should know the importance of playing their best and most consistent basketball going into the playoffs. New Jersey is next on Friday night.
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