Orlando Magic don’t deal well with high expectations


The NBA, where anything happens. Against all common logic, the Magic banded together without their starting point guard and dismantled the Boston Celtics on Friday night. “I can’t explain it,” Stan Van Gundy said after the game. It comes down to one thing: expectations. The Magic don’t deal well with high expectations. Nobody thought they would beat Boston two times late in the regular season, but they did. Then the Magic dropkicked the Cavaliers by more than 30 points — after the national media discredited Orlando’s wins against Boston because of KG’s injury — to supposedly earn some respect around the league. The Magic got that respect, and most people started to consider Orlando a legit title contender. So how did the Magic respond to that positive feedback? They ended the regular season in a complete funk, losing games to the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks and dropping down to the Eastern Conference’s third seed. And in the playoffs? Going into the first round as complete favorites, the Magic struggled to put away the Philadelphia 76ers. That is, until Dwight Howard got suspended and the national consensus was that Orlando couldn’t win Game 6 without Howard. Naturally, the Magic cruised to a blowout victory in Game 6. Everybody cries out for national respect, but who needs it? Recognition and expectations are this team’s Kryptonite. Anyways, here are the keys to Orlando’s dominating victory on Friday night: The return of Courtney Lee. I was a little disappointed his mask wasn’t black (we could call him Zorro), but that’s where the disappointments end. Lee had no trouble adjusting to the mask, locking down Ray Allen (8 points, 3-of-13 shooting) and playing his role on offense (11 points, 3-of-4 shooting). The return of Lee couldn’t have come at a better time, and the Magic are going to need strong play from Lee the rest of the series. With Lee chasing Allen around, the Celtics had a lot of trouble getting their second option involved. The forwards played a nearly flawless offensive game. I can’t remember Hedo Turkoglu playing a better offensive game than that by not forcing anything, making smart passes and hitting 66 percent of his field goals. He was Orlando’s engine that made the team go. And Rashard Lewis was the radiator, scoring 28 points including six two-point field goals and seven free throws. It wasn’t all 3-point bombs for Lewis tonight. Turkoglu and Lewis combined for 23 points in the fourth quarter, holding off a Celtics team that cut the lead to seven at one point. A rebounding performance from Dwight Howard. After a disappointing Game 2, Howard came back in Game 3 and played almost flawlessly for the 27 minutes he was on the floor. Despite battling foul trouble, Howard posted 17 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks, and had arch-nemesis Kendrick Perkins in foul trouble all game. And Howard’s again-dominating presence in the paint helped neutralize Rajon Rondo, who struggled after an unreal showing in Game 2. Boston didn’t shoot well. Besides the little gnat Eddie House (15 points, 6-of-7 shooting), the Magic did a fantastic job on Boston’s outside shooters and an even better job of keeping the Celtics out of the paint. I don’t know why the Magic pick and choose when they’d like to play sound defense, but that’s up to Van Gundy to figure out. The Celtics’ top three players combined to shoot 35 percent. Orlando attacked the basket. 48 points in the paint is more than what we usually see from the Magic, and so is 30 free throws. The Magic continually penetrated and drew plenty of fouls, getting to the line 36 times. Instead of gambling on the 3-point shot, the Magic took matters into their own hands and got inside the Celtics defense.