The consensus around the internet regarding the Orlando Magic's stunning loss to the Philadelphia 76ers yesterday, in which they squandered an 18-point lead, seems to be that the Magic shouldn't panic. To wit:
Magic center Dwight Howard, in his blog:
There's no need to panic. It's just the first game. But we do need to come out with a better effort on the defensive end. We have to get back on defense and cut our turnovers down because Philly loves to run. And we have to keep both Andres out of the paint.
I hope Dwight wore glasses as he blogged, because nobody wants his eyes to be more sore than they already are after receiving an unintentional poke from Samuel Dalembert.
Sure, fans have reason to be after the Magic dropped Game 1 to the Sixers.
We live in-the-moment and in a world of instant gratification, of course, but don't forget this is a formidable basketball team.
Everyone is jumping on them, and after blowing a late 18-point third-quarter lead and an even later 14-point fourth-quarter lead, the Magic deserve the boo-birds.
But you don't win 59 games and 27 on the road and suddenly go soft.
A fair point--the Magic have not blown many double-digit leads this season, and were 52-1 in the regular season when leading with 5 minutes to play--but it's worth noting that Jameer Nelson was starting in most of those wins. The team has not been as clutch since Rafer Alston took over. (I'm still trying to forget Anthony Johnson's turn as a starter.)
Apologies for spending all this time on the Magic, but that's where the story is. The Sixers played a hell of a game, they should be commended for the comeback, and they should be commended for even making the playoffs without the services of their best player. Rip on Elton Brand all you want, but the cat can play, and the Sixers also overachieved to get where they're at.
I just don't see Philadelphia shooting 51 and 58 percent from the floor and three-point range again. Then again, I don't see the Magic finishing another game in this series with only 10 turnovers. Defense was the problem for Orlando on Sunday, but they are going to have to address the offense at some point, and there will be a byproduct (read: turnovers).
I tend to agree with KD here. Philly will regress to the mean shooting the ball, while Orlando's percentages will rise. Those two things are likely to mitigate the gains Philly will make when it forces more turnovers and is able to get out on the break. Think of it as Philly exchanging three-pointers for transition two-pointers.
Remember, this time a year ago we were marveling at the 76ers going into Detroit and winning Game 1. Remind me how that series played out. Orlando's got some things to clean up going into Tuesday night, but ultimately the Sixers came back almost entirely on the strength of their biggest weakness, long-range shooting. Louis Williams was perfect in three tries behind the arc and Philadelphia went 7-of-12 as a team. Don't count on a repeat performance in Game Two.
Detroit won 4 of the next 5 games to take the series from the Sixers. I have little doubt that Orlando can do the same. The problem is the Sixers' confidence might be at an all-time high. I can't be the only one hoping they'd go down without a fight, right?
The Sixers aren't going to shoot 3s this well the entire series, even if a heavier use of Donyell Marshall improves their percentages from their regular-season numbers. And the Magic are unlikely to shoot so poorly from distance, with the caveat that Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis (a combined 1-of-6 from distance) need to prove they're past their late-season injuries.
Not to take anything away from Philly, especially Iguodala's buzzer-beater. But their win over Orlando had an awful lot to do with the Magic's late collapse, an injury-related Dwight Howard absence, and poor shooting from Lewis and Turkoglu.
This sentiment really echoes what Dwyer, Pelton, and Hollinger said, and I merely include it for emphasis.
However, not everyone believes the Magic will be okay. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel sums up the dissenting view:
It was the first game of the playoffs, the sellout crowd was going nuts and the Magic - by their own admission - lacked focus, intensity and effort? For crying out loud, this is a team that has talked about winning a championship this season. Champions bring their intensity and focus onto the floor; they don't leave it in the locker room.
Did you see what the Lakers did to the Jazz Sunday? Did you see what the Cavs did to the Pistons Saturday? That's what real championship contenders do to overmatched opponents. They attack when they see blood; the Magic fainted at the sight of it Sunday.
Blue and White ... good night.
Regardless of which side of the optimism/pessimism scale you're on, you have to agree that the Magic need to make some adjustments before Game 2, which is Wednesday. Orlando Magic Daily--which tends toward optimism--offers its suggestions in this post.
Finally, reserve center Marcin Gortat told a Polish newspaper this week that coach Stan Van Gundy's sideline histrionics are harmful to the team, which Howard suggested in a blog post a few weeks ago.
Panicky or not, Van Gundy finished third in this year's Coach of the Year balloting. Cleveland's Mike Brown won the award, with Houston's Rick Adelman finishing in second.