O Holy Night, Orlando could very well make the playoffs. I've been hesitant for several reasons to post something about them, but I can't help it now. I didn't want to jinx them, and I didn't want to look entirely foolish when they returned back to old form. But my oh my, 5 in a row, 9 of their last 10, 13 of their last 17, 10 straight at home (after Monday Night's win over Atlanta). Are you kidding me? They were 20-40 just 17 games ago, that after going 2-18 through a 1 month stretch (Jan 27th-Mar 6th) where they wallowed in losing streaks of 4, 8, and 6 games respectively. Yes, that's correct; they won 2 games in the month of February. I was pulling for all losses the rest of the season (kinda crappy I know), so we could land a money lottery pick (you know to make up for the one who disappeared in the middle of summer to the middle of Spain for 4 years and $10 million). Then they won a couple and aggravated me because they were screwing up their draft ranking potential. Then a few more wins and I started to think good things for next year. Then they talked of needing to win 10 in a row to close out the season to have a shot at making the playoffs (including games against Dallas, Miami, Detroit, and San Antonio). When Jameer Nelson said, "Who says we can't win our last nine games [10 overall]? That's not unrealistic at all. I tell people all the time, I played on a team in college that won 27 straight. 9 is only a fraction of that." Then I believed.
It's like the old days. I actually got to see them play the Hawks Monday on Fox Sports South (thankfully Turner South or something carried the Braves), and it was beautiful. I mean beautiful. I haven't been that excited watching and cheering an Orlando Magic team, let alone an Orlando Magic game, since 1997 or so when Penny Hardaway scored 40+ every game of the playoffs. Wow it was magical. They are a team again. No prima donnas (sp?), no ball hogs, no fuss. And apparently I'm not the only one believing. The Orlando Sentinel is believing, and I think maybe even the actual people of Orlando. They need help from a few teams though, and New Jersey already isn't. They win 14 in a row and can't beat a 9th seeded Chicago Bulls team. Ouch. Washington didn't beat Philadelphia. They (Chi and Phi) both need to be losing if Orlando is going to gain ground. Indiana and Milwaukee are thankfully nose-diving. The question is whether they have enough losses in them to completely sabotage their playoff chances.
It's a completely different team now without Steve Francis, or heck Kelvin Cato. Ode to Otis. He's proving to be the best GM the Magic have had since John Gabriel brought Penny Hardaway to Orlando (the first time). Darko blocked Josh Smith the other night and was called for a foul. It wasn't. It was Mutumbo-like. All ball. Arroyo is a great complement to a young and quick team, and as invaluable an asset to the community as Grant Hill. Grant who? I do hope he gets well soon. Hedo is the X-factor in my mind, well he and DeShawn. They're both key to this team's success. Of course Howard and Jameer are critical, but these two fellas have stepped up and played consistently through this current streak. And this Trevor Ariza, he may be something special. These boys are playing like a team, with role players and all. Detroit showed you can do it that way, and we showed Detroit (for one game at least) how it's done.
The Magic are 3rd in field goal percentage on the year, 1st since the All-Star Break. They're this year's Denver Nuggets, streaking to the very end. They've been giving up some spurts to their opponents because they get inpatient on offense. But Brian Hill can be a real coach again for the first time since Shaq left Orlando. He has guys who want to win, however that needs to happen. 4 point guards? Perfect example. Dooling, Arroyo, Diener, and Nelson are competing in a healthy way for playing time. Orlando was down 9 early to Atlanta, so Brian Hill benched some folks and made some changes. He can put in guys who want to hustle and win.
So they play the (Chris Bosh-less) Raptors tonight at home and the Spurs tomorrow in el San Anton. They can afford a loss in San Antonio if they get some help from some Eastern Conference teams. The Nets could start playing like they had the past two weeks and spank Philly. Boston could knock another loss to Indiana. Washington could start playing like they deserve to be in the playoffs and beat Milwaukee. And Atlanta can play like the Hawks who beat us twice this season, and hand a loss to Chicago. Yet most importantly, the wins against Dallas, Detroit, Miami, and hopefully San Antonio are most meaningless if the Magic lose tonight against Toronto. They haven't beaten them yet this year. Now's a better time than any. Come on fellas. You can do this. I believe in Magic.