SI: Another possible title contender joins the mix.
Zach Lowe for Sports Illustrated " At the beginning of the season, there were three teams you could pencil in as certain title contenders: the Heat, Bulls and Thunder. Through all the drama and injuries and buzzer-beaters, ask yourself: Has that changed at all? Has any team invaded that group? I’d argue the answer is a resounding no, with one potential exception lurking: the Magic. I wrote two weeks ago that we’d learn a lot about Orlando’s legitimacy when we saw whether its offense — its undoing last season — could hold up against better competition. So far, so good. With the exception of a stinker against the Spurs on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back, Orlando’s motion-heavy system functioned well in tough games over the last 10 days against Portland, New York and the Lakers — each among the league’s top 10 in points allowed per possession. The Magic’s offense has jumped from sixth in points per possession to second over the last two weeks, and their defense, an early season problem, is creeping back toward the overall top 10. If the Magic can keep up this kind of two-way play, they are a legitimate threat — if an underdog, still — to the Bulls and Heat in the Eastern Conference. We’ll learn even more in the five-games-in-seven-days stretch that starts Monday and includes two games apiece against Boston and Indiana. "