Magic Not Ready for Prime Time

Following an amazing western road trip in which the Orlando Magic went 4-0, including victories over both San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Magic had an opportunity to solidify their standing as the best team in the NBA with a victory over the Boston Celtics.

Orlando seemingly had Boston in the best possible circumstance, as the Celtics played a night earlier at Miami and Orlando was resting since their 106-88 victory over Denver on January 17th. With a sold-out crowd and a national television audience, Orlando fell flat on their face as the three-point shot which has been such a weapon for the team all year long, simply wasn't falling.

Orlando shot just 7-22 from behind the arc, most of the seven makes coming late in the game when the outcome was not in much question. Leading All-Star game vote getter Dwight Howard scored just 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds before fouling out, and was thoroughly outplayed by the Celtics lunch-pail combination of Glenn "Big Baby" Davis and Kendrick Perkins, who combined for 23 points and 10 rebounds of their own.

Defensively, Orlando was solid but not great, as they allowed less than 47% shooting by Boston and held them without a three point make. Whenever Orlando went on a mini-run, Boston's Paul Pierce showed why he is one of the top players in the league by ending the run with a big play. Pierce finished with 27 points, and managed to get to the free throw line 14 times.

The Orlando high-powered offense looked like anything but on Thursday night, as the team seemed hesitant for much of the night to take seemingly open shots, and Dwight Howard was a non-factor and couldn't create good outside looks for the guards. Orlando's largest run was just five points, and it was just the ninth time in 10 seasons that Orlando has failed to put together a run of six points or better.

"I'm pretty big on holding players accountable," Van Gundy said. "On this one, it's me. I've got to find a way for us to get some ball movement and freedom of movement where we can get some shots. So I'm frustrated in myself."

Boston held Orlando to just 38% shooting from the field as nearly every shot was contested, and the Magic committed 14 turnovers and had just 11 assists.

"Defense is our staple," Paul Pierce said. "All year long, regardless of what the offense does, we're going to depend on our defense night in and night out."

With a victory, the Magic could've opened up a little breathing room as the Eastern Conference's top seed, but now have fallen all the way to third, behind both Boston and Cleveland. Orlando doesn't have long to regroup, as they travel to Miami Saturday night to play a much improved Heat team who is desperate for a win against their in-state rivals. Orlando has defeated Miami 10 consecutive times.