The Orlando Magic dropped their third straight game last night, 108-103, to a resurgent Toronto Raptors team that could wind up being their opponent in the first round of the playoffs. The losing skid has Magic players, coaches, and fans scratching their heads. Orlando certainly doesn't look the part of a championship contender, which is what every reasonable NBA observer would have labeled them before the season started. Let's take a look to see what everyone is saying.
Magic Struggle to Re-Discover Chemistry
Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse makes the locker-room situation sound pretty dire.
When the Orlando Magic revamped their roster last summer, changing five of their top 11 players, they became deeper and more talented, but they lost the delicate chemistry that led to the finest season in franchise history.
"We're out of sync and unsure of ourselves right now,'' said point guard Jameer Nelson after a 108-103 loss to Toronto. "The effort, intensity, the focus, just isn't there.''
Povtak contends that Courtney Lee and Hedo Turkoglu were positive forces in Orlando's locker room, and that replacing them with Vince Carter and Matt Barnes has harmed the team's once well-regarded chemistry.
Orlando Magic wake up too late, lose to Toronto Raptors
Brian Schmitz passes along this quote from Magic GM Otis Smith, always one to keep an even keel.
"We'll figure it out," he said. "The sky's not falling."
We've got more questions than answers after Orlando Magic drop third straight
The team's current losing streak prompted Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily to ask a few questions. His response to "What is this team's biggest problem?" definitely merits consideration on our part. He also notes that Vince Carter's 7-of-37 shooting during the slump is the worst stretch of his career.
Denton: Magic-Raptors Postgame Analysis
John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com says coach Stan Van Gundy had this message for his team.
"We’re not playing very well and for most of the game we’re not playing very hard," Van Gundy said. "Until that changes, it’ll probably keep going like this. We’re just not putting enough into it for long periods of time.
"My point is this isn’t happening to us. Some things happen to you and it’s out of your control. But we’re the ones doing this," Van Gundy continued. "We’ve got to change that around and it’s not going to just miraculously happen one night. It will happen because we go out and make it happen."
Do the Magic need an energetic, vocal leader among players?
Tania Ganguli wants to know if Orlando needs a locker-room leader--apart from Van Gundy--in order to curb the recent trend of getting off to poor starts:
But there’s a difference between a coach yelling at his players and a player yelling at his teammates. Think Drew Brees screaming in the pregame huddle. Or a guy like Kevin Garnett, for an NBA example. I can’t help but wonder if that would help solve this intangible problem they’re having. It’s a matter of intensity and effort at the beginnings of games. Every guy in there acknowledges that, they just don’t know how to fix it.
For north-of-the-border reaction, make the jump.
Raptors hold off Magic for 108-103 win - thestar.com
Dave Feshcuk of the Toronto Star attributes some of Orlando's fourth-quarter run to lopsided officiating.
And the referees, who called 10 fourth-quarter fouls on the visitors before they called one on the home team, aided the charge (although Toronto certainly didn't help matters by refusing to attack the basket in the final frame).
Efficient Raptors solve Magic mystery
Raptors Republic also thinks the officiating was a little fishy late in the game.
[Andrea] Bargnani did as well a job as you can on [Dwight Howard] in single-coverage and came up on the short end of the stick on the fouls yet again. Three of his six fouls was rubbish calls made only because defenders usually foul Howard in those situations, the officials need to actually see the play and not make judgments based on how things "usually" go.
Raptors Rapid Recap: Toronto 108 Orlando 103
Raptors fans like Defensive Stance took no end of pleasure in seeing Carter shoot poorly.
It was also very satisfying to see Vince Carter’s shooting woes continue. VC shot a miserable 2-7 from the field and was never a factor.
Is Chris Bosh officially a Top 10 Player?
Prior to last night's game, Scott Carefoot wanted to know where Chris Bosh stood among the NBA's elite players. Carefoot's conclusion? That Bosh must be better than three of the following players to make the cut: Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Brandon Roy, and Josh Smith. It's interesting to me that Carefoot lists Howard as a second-tier player.