ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 21: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic bows his head during the National Anthem before taking on the Charlotte Bobcats in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on April 21, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic stormed Philips Arena last night, finishing off the host Atlanta Hawks, who went 34-7 there during the regular season, fairly easily in Game 3, thus taking a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Counting the last 6 games of the regular season, Orlando has won 13 straight games and 26 of its last 29. In short, it's on a roll. Brian Schmitz takes note of the team's attitude and mindset:
Talk to Jameer Nelson, who mentions "maturity," and Rashard Lewis, who brings up "killer instinct," and Dwight Howard, who admits his career won’t ever be whole without a title….and you come away thinking nothing is about to stop this team, this time, this season.
Last season was different. The Magic didn’t know, didn’t have that sense of the possibilities.
Let’s face it: They won’t say it, but they had to be as surprised as everyone that they beat Boston and Cleveland to appear in the Finals against the Lakers.
You usually have to get your heart broken before winning big and winning it all. The Magic had their tickers shattered last June, and that feeling of getting close ate at them all offseason and drives them today.
It's showing up in the way they play, too, this professional approach. Yes, they still get upset with the officials every so often. And they certainly laugh and enjoy themselves on the bench when comfortably ahead. No one disputes those points.
But in terms of actual play? Executing, on both ends of the floor, with a purpose? Keeping a cool head and playing through pressure? This is as good a Magic team as I've ever seen.