The Orlando Magic managed to achieve something they had only done on two other occasions this season on Sunday. In defeating the Atlanta Hawks and the Detroit Pistons before them, the Magic won back-to-back games for the third time. Hardly a big deal given that it didn’t do much to change the Magic’s current position in the Eastern Conference. But quietly, Orlando seems to be turning a corner as a team.
Firstly the facts. The Hawks, the third seed in the Eastern Conference almost by default, which is no disrespect to them but merely highlights how bad the East has been, had seen their last three games go to overtime. So to say this was a tired group would be an understatement. Two-time All-Star Al Horford was also missing for Atlanta and will be for some time with a torn pectoral muscle. For Orlando though, stringing some a couple of Ws together, even against a depleted opponent like Atlanta and a Pistons club very much on the slide before that, breeds confidence, which is something this team really needs as they strive to continue to grow. It may be overstating the importance a little, but these wins were needed as well. Four of Orlando’s next five games come against the Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. The Magic will be lucky to snag even one victory during that spell, but a contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers to start 2014 represents a game that can be won. So taking all the positives from the last two games is a must, because things could get ugly pretty quickly stretching into the new year.
Speaking of positives, one thing has become quite clear over the past two games, even if it is impossible to see. The intangibles, so often a word used in the wrong context in the NBA, are something rookie Victor Oladipo is beginning to bring to this Magic outfit. Although having 15 points and eight assists off the bench is promising in itself, those who watched the game would have seen him do more than just add to the box score. He brings a certain energy, a fire, something that is as hard to contain as it is to describe. Players such as Kawhi Leonard and Luol Deng are also known for this type of play, elevating and improving those around them simply by being on the court. One person benefiting from this, not that he needs to, is Arron Afflalo. His 21 points and player of the game display against the Hawks once again demonstrating why he is an outside chance to make the All-Star team this year.
Yes these are little victories, but for the Magic they are needed ones as well. Every positive needs to be grabbed with both hands, for the standings don’t lie, this is still a team very much in rebuilding mode. The recent back-to-back victories serve only to remind us that this team can pla, and on their night actually be a pretty solid ball club. The continued success and longer win streaks are down the road, but for two games at least, the Orlando Magic have played competitive basketball and come out on the right side of the contest as well. Throw in the fact that Victor Oladipo is slowly becoming more settled and defined in what he does, not to mention the play of Arron Afflalo, and 2013 has at least ended in some sort of small high for this team. Hard to believe given what a bumpy 18 months it has been.