Orlando Magic Continue to Overcome Adversity

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Orlando Magic Continue to Overcome Adversity
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

In this year's NBA playoffs, perhaps no team has been through more adversity than the Orlando Magic. Fans of Boston, L.A., or Atlanta might argue this point, but when you look at the combination of injuries and suspensions the Magic have had to overcome, especially in the past four games, no one can argue that Orlando has had quite a mountain to climb.

The true testament to a championship caliber team is the way it handles trials and tribulations. So far, the Magic have passed most of their tests with flying colors.

Go back to Game Five of the first-round series with Philadelphia, when Dwight Howard made his presence felt in all the wrong ways.

In the first quarter, he delivered an elbow to the head of Philly center Samuel Dalembert (and somehow didn't get ejected). Later in the game, Howard accidentally elbowed teammate Courtney Lee in the face, fracturing the rookie's sinus (doesn't that just sound painful?) in the process. Lee ended up missing more than a week recovering from the injury, while Howard was suspended for the following game.

Game Six was supposed to be a foregone conclusion. The 76ers would mop the court with Orlando at home and force a game seven. Apparently, no one told J.J. Redick and Marcin Gortat.

Redick started for Lee and did an admirable job, scoring 15 points (on five 3-pointers, of course) in 31 minutes. Gortat was just as impressive. He posted a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds, and also got four steals. The duo were crucial in the 114-89 Orlando win in Game Six that closed out the series and gave the team some rest heading into the series with Boston.

In the first game of the Boston series, Redick didn't shine as brightly as he did in his playoff debut, but he did score 12 points and help Orlando to a 95-90 win. He also shot lights out early in Game Two, but struggled with foul trouble.

The Magic were blown out in the second game, but the Duke grad kept his team in it early. He scored 15 points, 11 of which came in the first quarter, before he fouled out. No matter what Redick did on the offensive end, no one could have anticipated Eddie House's 31-point outburst.

Perhaps House's biggest impact on the game was getting in the head of Orlando point guard Rafer Alston. After hitting yet another three-pointer, he bumped into Alston, who responded by slapping House upside his head. Even though Alston wasn't thrown out of the game (which has to make you wonder what the referees were looking at), the NBA took appropriate action and suspended Alston for Game Three.

Much like Game Six against the 76ers, Game Three was supposed to be a gimme for the Celtics. There was no way that 34-year-old Anthony Johnson could hold his own against the younger, more athletic Rajon Rondo.

Once again, Orlando proved the doubters wrong. In 28 minutes, Johnson scored 13 points and handed out three assists. He also helped hold Rondo to 15 points and six assists, which is well below his playoff average.

What really struck me about Johnson's performance was the cagey, veteran plays he made. Here is a sample of some of the stellar plays made by the 11-year-vet.

* In the first half, he drove on Stephon Marbury and put up a shot. The shot fell short, but Johnson had the presence of mind to get his own rebound (which, for some inexplicable reason, no Boston player picked up), take a fade-away and hit the shot.
* In the third quarter, Johnson drew contact on a 18-foot jumper, a la Reggie Miller. He proceeded to make both of his free throws.
* Johnson made some outstanding passes. On one play in particular, he drove the lane and got Kendrick Perkins to come out and guard him. He made a no-look bounce pass to Dwight Howard, who got an easy slam dunk out of the play.
The only blemish on Johnson's night was a verbal altercation with Coach Stan Van Gundy at the end of the third quarter. Johnson sat on the bench for the rest of the night, and it will be interesting to see if he gets off the bench in Game Four.
Regardless, if the Magic players can keep picking each other up, the team should have a great chance of making its first NBA Finals appearance since 1995.
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