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Magic Roadblock: Is There a Cause for Concern in Orlando?

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 11:  Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Orlando Magic looks on during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 11, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Magic 106-103.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Ryan M. ReidContributor IJanuary 8, 2010

After a win at Minnesota on New Year’s Day, the Magic have dropped three in a row.

The New Year has not been kind to Orlando thus far.

Magic center Dwight Howard began the year in a slump, averaging just 9.7 points per game in the first three games of the year, until erupting for 20 points in Wednesday’s loss to the Raptors.

The leading scorer for the Magic, Vince Carter, has also been in a major slump, averaging just 8.3 points in the last four games. Carter has just not been able to find the basket. His shooting percentage has also plummeted. He is 10-for-47 thus far, which is only 21 percent from the field.

The Magic hoped that the insertion of Matt Barnes into the starting lineup would have given the team a shot in the arm. Thus far, his numbers have gotten better, but the team is still slumping.

Orlando’s woes can be pinned on a few things.

First, one could look at the style of play that the team employs. The Magic attempt the most threes a game in the NBA right now. This style works when the team is shooting a good percentage, but when a team is not shooting well, this idea will definitely lose the game.

For example, in their last game against Toronto, the Magic were 9-for-31 from behind the arc, which is only 29%. In contrast, the Raptors shot 54.9% from the field, which tells the story of why the Raptors won this game.

One could blame the team defense as the reason for the losing streak. The Magic have given up an average of 102 points per game, which, especially in the world of Stan Van Gundy, is not winning basketball.

“Just a struggle right but eventually we will figure out that we are the one that have to change it,” said Van Gundy after the loss to the Raptors. “This isn’t happening to us, it is happening because of us and we’ll get it changed. So I think right now we are feeling sorry for ourselves a little bit and that is going to have to change.”

The Magic’s recent woes have dropped the team down to third in the East, allowing Cleveland to jump into the second slot behind the Boston Celtics.

One would wonder how a team so talented could struggle this much.

“We’ve lost a couple games and we’re not playing as well as we wanted to play, as well as we expected to play,” said Howard after Wednesday’s loss. “But I think for our team we’ve got to forget about the expectations, we’ve got to forget about what everyone saying about us, and what we need to do and how we are going to overcome it. We’ve just got to continue to stick together and not allow nobody to separate us get and make us get track off our mission to win an NBA Championship.”

Orlando travels to Washington tonight, then hosts Atlanta at Amway Arena on Saturday before heading to Sacramento to begin a four game west coast swing, which ends with a January 18th date with the Los Angeles Lakers.    

If Orlando does not figure out the problem soon, it will be a very long crawl back to the top for the team.

“We’ve got to continue to fight,” said Howard. “We’re going to overcome this situation.”

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