Sunday, January 8, 2012

Magic Must Find Identity on the Road

The Magic finally lost their first home game of the season at Amway Center. Unfortunately, it was on national television (0-for-2 so far after OKC beating) against a Chicago Bulls team that continues to have Orlando's number. Dwight Howard didn't get nearly the support he needed. After having phenomenal outings the first 7 games of this '11-'12 campaign, Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick put up diddly squat when they were expected to produce. Not only that, but each allowed Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver to annihilate them as if they had no one guarding them. Orlando is now 5-3 after an embarrassing 97-83 loss Friday night, and now head out West for their first challenging 4-game road trip.

It's excursions like this, away from Orlando, that determine what type of character and mental strength a coaching staff and roster has. On great days, Orlando is a top defensive team that attacks the rim and loves to run in transition. Don't forget that superb ball movement. On bad days however, the Magic struggle once that Spalding stops getting passed around. Effort hasn't been an issue for this SVG team up to this point, but it's all about being willing to not settle for low percentage shots and getting to the rack.

There is some good news I guess. As long as Glen Davis' leg didn't fall off Friday night, he may be back on track to being the player SVG wants him to be. Jumper is still off. However, setting clean, ground-shaking screens and rebounding well will keep Big Baby out of the doghouse. I will give Redick and Ryno a pass for one bad game. Their mental maturity will show starting today in Sacramento, whether they are ready to accept increased responsibilities or not. 

Also, let's not ignore the fact that Jason Richardson took a giant step forward to getting out of his slump. J-Rich and Jameer Nelson are currently putting up career-worst numbers. That's not what any team wants from a starting backcourt. With Nelson, it's clear he still hasn't recovered from his neck spasms. If these sub-par performances continue, Mighty Mite will need to sit down. Chris DuhonLarry Hughes, and Von Wafer are adequate enough to get the job done for us. No one should ever question Jameer's grit and toughness, but that has hurt this franchise in years past (see the '09 Finals) when he's not 100%. 

I'm still waiting on Stan Van Gundy to dig deeper into his bench. No one in the league is averaging 40 minutes per game this season as coaches know to pace their players in preparation for playoff runs. There's a lot more on the line this week for Orlando than probably any other team in the NBA. It could determine how the front office treats the Dwight situation and whether or not to deal him if they see this team can't contend, or whether or not to bring players to surround Howard with. 

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