Appropriately Named Magic; Not Done Pulling Theirs

Appropriately Named Magic; Not Done Pulling Theirs
By David A. Lane of

Collectively, had you polled most people before the 2009 NBA Playoffs the consensus outside the Orlando area would pretty much have agreed that the Orlando Magic would be an afterthought at this point in the post-season. Although they’ve certainly put together one seriously talented and young team, no one thought they’d really make it all the way up to being an elite team and they are quickly showing us that it was our collective bad. Although it was so much easier to ‘go fishing’ as it were and walk away with one of those patented NBA ‘cute seasons’- ones that look nice on paper- Dwight Howard and his squad have set about to rule the Lebron and Kobe league; as a spectator and bettor, you gotta love it!

Ok, so if picking the underdog is the American way, how can we not be into watching the Magic pick apart such complete teams as the Boston Celtics, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and coming to a screen near you the Los Angeles Lakers. The team with the smallest following is making the biggest impact in this edition of the playoffs with rebounding, defense, athleticism that is just off the charts, 3 point shooting, and character that is beyond their years. One has to point also to the Ron Jeremy look-alike Stan Van Gundy’s work with this group which has been incredible because it’s just not an easy task to convince a group of exceptional athletes to buy into your program and excel at it.
If it sounds as though I’m crowning them champs already, so be it- I did pick the Lakers to win it all in a column before. In the beginning, each prediction made was sweated and scrutinized because, well, who wants to be wrong about anything in print? However, I’ve come to accept that it’s ok to be wrong on some things as long as you write an apology later and though it may be a bit premature, I was wrong on the Orlando Magic. Sure, writing that they’d get past the first round and would taste ‘some’ playoff success was along the right lines, them possibly winning the whole friggin’ thing just wasn’t on my radar.
Downing last year’s champion Celtics in six games, the conclusive game coming on the parquet floor in Boston just wasn’t enough for us because everyone say it, ‘They Were Missing Kevin Garnett’, and it should have been a wake-up call. Lots of times a gambler needs to play his hunch and game 6 proved to me they were here and ready to win it all. Get aboard! The Magic have been the underdog in four of the five games thus far against the Cleveland Cavaliers yet their play has in no way deserved for them to be as they’ve covered the number each and every time out the last six tries.

Beating LeBron James and the Cavaliers seven times out of the last nine should also be very telling, however, Vegas continues to see them as the underdog time and time again. Capitalizing on this discrepancy is every player’s opportunity to win some of those long lost wages back, and I’m proud to say I have been. Hitting a long-shot winner is always good but when the team is a nine point underdog and it pays more than 4 to 1 on the money line, you have to love it!

The numbers before the series said both the Cavs and Magic were two of the best ATS teams in the league, leading the way in both margin of victory (Cle 1st at 8.9, Orl 4th at 6.7) and having almost identical records versus the number (Cle 50-32, Orl 49-31-1), and giving us not much to choose from here. Both had identical road records of 27-14 as well- usually a great indicator of playoff success to come. Head-to-head was practically the only spot one could find any discrepancy between the teams and thus far it has proved to be the one that really mattered in the series.

Now the Magic have King James and his men down 3-1 and only need one more win to get to the NBA Finals; a place the organization hasn’t been since being swept by Hakeem Olajuwan’s Rockets in 1995 when they had both Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O’neal playing for them. Although they beat Michael Jordan’s Bulls to get to the Finals then, beating LeBron to get there now seemed equally as daunting a task- at least at first. One can’t say the Magic have had an easy trip either time; however, this one- despite having to very possibly beat the Lakers, Cavaliers, and Celtics- really seems to be the year for them.

Players that have also shined: Hedo Turkoglu (14.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 5.3 APG) is one of the most versatile and complete players in the world and he once again shown his value by making clutch shots while also filling up statistical categories and playing tough defense, usually against the best the other team has to offer. Rashard Lewis (19.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 2.8 APG) has also had a memorable experience in these playoffs. His big time 3-point shooting, pressure on defense, and consistent scoring, keeps teams honest when they try to double team Howard or Turkoglu, often nailing down wide open shots that are left to him. Rafer Alston’s play (14.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 4.6 APG) has been a key to the offense; he keeps things moving by driving the point effectively and freeing Turkoglu to do other things. This has freed Hedo to do more to help the team win, which it definitely has.

Honorable mention to Mickael Pietrus, Courtney Lee, and even J.J. Reddick, who have all three contributed as well and have outplayed both Cleveland’s and Boston’s benches.

What Orlando is doing on the court is what the entertainment business is all about- stealing the show. While watching the Kobe’s and LeBron’s of the NBA world, the league, its fans, and the media, in essence overlooked and disrespected one of its biggest and most marketable stars and teams. Take advantage of the situation not only because Vegas undervalued them but also because there is a chip that Dwight Howard and company is playing with on their shoulders that you can use to your benefit (while you can). Through their play between the baselines they are telling us to get ready and be prepared for something no one really saw coming- The Magic Era!