What have the Magic done wrong this year to deserve this series of unfortunate events? What deity did they anger? What superantural power have they wronged?
The series of events that seemed to conspire to end the Magic's bid for a win in Dallas on Wednesday were just too cruel not to be the work of some higher power.
Orlando trailed by 16 points in the first half after giving up 42 points in the first quarter. The team fought back and took a six-point lead heading in the fourth quarter. The Magic had a deflected pass that Jameer Nelson beat O.J. Mayo too. Nelson perhaps got a little too unselfish and dished it off to J.J. Redick for a transition layup.
That is when momentum changed.
O.J. Mayo had recovered and blocked the shot. The ball hung temptingly on the back iron before falling out, allowing Mayo the opportunity to recover and rebound. He started the fast break and found Vince Carter springing from the fountain of youth for an alley-oop. A potential eight-point lead was down to four.
Then a quick jumper from Nelson was no good and Carter answered with a 3-pointer. A four-point lead was down to one. And from there the Magic seemed to unravel in a 111-96 loss to the Mavericks at American Airlines Center on Wednesday.
No moment sucked the life out of the Magic more than Jameer Nelson's injury. Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Magic trailing by only four points, Jameer Nelson began to drive and his knee buckled beneath him. Darren Collison forced a jump ball. Nelson was slow to get up and limped slowly to the bench to get checked out. He could not return to the floor and his night was done early.
Nelson said he was feeling OK, but that he would need to be evaluated further tomorrow. There was no early prognosis.
In the game though, the Magic offense crumbled. A 94-90 deficit quickly ballooned as the Mavericks ran past this deflated team. Everything went Dallas' way down the stretch and a close game quickly got out of hand. Nothing Orlando could do could stop the bleeding.
The final score certainly did a lot to hide some very strong play from the Magic throughout the night.
Orlando struggled defensively early in the game giving up 42 points int he first quarter. But the Magic recovered once again behind an impassioned plea from Arron Afflalo between quarters and held the Mavericks to 17 points in the second. That brought the margin back to a reasonable amount.
Afflalo was a big part of that effort. He scored 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting and dished out a career-high seven assists. He was aggressive and looking for his shot throughout the night. He knifed easily into the lane and got his pet shots — that array of fade aways and lay ins he always seems to like.
Maurice Harkless added a lot of hustle to the Magic's offense too. He scored a career high 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He was active around the basket and comfortable taking shots, making 9 of his 15 attempts.
More importantly in that second-half comeback, the Magic forced the issue and got to the foul line. They made 13 of 19 free throw attempts in the first half. Those attempts in just one half were well above the team's average for the season. Orlando did only take three in the second half, but the offense was socring much more smoothly in the second half and they were not as needed.
Those are great positives. The team seemed upbeat with the effort even with the loss of Nelson and the loss on the scoreboard. But, again, it seems like the Magic were so close and tiny execution mistakes cost them a chance for a win. Winning may not be the end-all, be-all anymore, but it is still an important thing to work for each day.
Orlando had a definite chance to win. And the team let momentum and the game get away from it yet again. It has been an all too familiar theme throughout the season.
One day, the luck will turn.