Sunday, April 12, 2009

Backing In

Having just returned from the Izod Center in New Jersey after watching the Orlando Magic put in a second-straight disappointing performance to a New York-area team, it seems more than appropriate to talk about a handful of teams who are using the last week of the season to play their worst basketball of the year. Rounding out this less-than-estimable list: Orlando, Utah, New Orleans, Detroit.


All of a sudden, the Magic Kingdom youngsters can't shoot straight, and can't defend. Tonight I was in the house to watch the Nets -- minus lead playmaker Devin Harris -- pick apart the Magic time and time again. Keyon Dooling had a double-double with 10 assists for the love of Mars. Keyon Dooling! The Magic shooting has been awful lately -- somewhere in the neighbourhood of 28% shooting from 3-pt range, so tonight (7-18, 39%). Of course, they did manage to miss 13 free throws in a game they lost by 10, so now they're just inventing new and original ways to lose games.

But the bigger story would be the lack of defense and energy from the team. Seems they've hit either a rut or a wall, but 54% FGs/55% 3pts from the field is enough to make Stan Van Gundy go crazy and ballistic. And go crazy he certainly did. About midway thru the 3rd quarter, I found myself looking immediately for Coach Stan after every blown assignment and wide-open 3-pointer, and I was never disappointed. Van Gundy has the most dazzling array of slums-into-chair, head-rolls, throw-hands-up-high, throws-self-against-seat-back, walks-down-bench-to-talk-to-Dwights than any coach in the league. If Stan were an offense, he'd be unpredicatedly good and impossible to defend. In any case, for this night, his histrionics were certainly warranted.

As for that 55% (11-20) from downtown, when was the last time the Magic allowed an opponent to take, and make, more 3 pointers in a game?

In the trenches, somehow the Magic got the rebounding job done by committee -- the teams ran basically even in that stat -- but I'm sure Dwight Howard isn't proud of being outrebounded by Brook Lopez, or being outscored Josh Boone.

But back to the shooting: this is always the danger of a team built on so many good shooters. If they go cold, it's going to be a long long night. And lately -- 4 losses in 7 games, coming on the heels of a 6-game winning streak -- they've been frigid. Then to add insult, the injury bug has begun to surface, claiming Rashard Lewis with knee tendinitis (started a 2-game rest) and Hedo Turkoglu with a sprained ankle.

Coach Stan can only hope, as a friend of mine would say, that they're getting all the losing out of their system before the playoffs start.


Now, if you've been following the league, you'll know what a horrid road team the Jazz have been, both lately and for the most of the year. You'll also know how virtually indestructible they've been at home -- until now at least. Losing to a short-handed Golden State team fielding only seven warm bodies? At home? By a lot?? Yes, 10 points is a healthy margin of defeat, especially considering they needed a 32-25 4th-quarter advantage just to make the game look like something less than a blowout. Especially considering you are finally sporting a shiny new healthy roster?

We happily blamed their Dallas blowout and Spurs loss on the as-yet-unexplainable road woes, but tonight defies even that weak explanation. Winning only 3 of their past 10 games makes that 12-game win streak seem like a figment of imagination. Or some other season of yesteryear.

New Orleans

4 losses in your last 5 games automatically qualifies you for this post. Losing to the Warriors, then getting pasted by the Mavs and Jazz makes you a unanimous selection.


Doing their best Jekyl & Hyde impersonation, the Pistons have been swinging between 3-game winning and losing streaks for the past 4 weeks. They're still trying to figure out who plays and who rides the bench, and Will has been the most-talked-about Bynum in Michigan. Not exactly what thany coach would dream up

Honorable mentions

The Sixers (4-game losing streak) and Heat (4 wins in last 10) are certainly making their coaches' playoff preparation a blood-pressure rising hell, but really, we're not expecting too much of these teams in the playoffs anyways -- are we?

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