Orlando Magic Squander Early Lead: Caron Butler Proves Too Tough To Stop

Kevin StanleyContributor IFebruary 6, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 22:  Vince Carter #15 of the Orlando Magic drives during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Amway Arena on January 22, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. 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 Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

A rather inconsistent season is continuing for the Magic after an inexcusable loss to the Wizards Friday night.

Despite a valiant effort from Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis, the team could just not stop Caron Butler down the stretch.

Butler, whose name has been all over the trade market lately, has me wondering how he would fit into an Orlando starting lineup instead of Vince Carter.

While it may not be realistic, maybe it's something Otis Smith takes a look into after this game. Smith is never afraid to pull the trigger on something if he thinks it will improve the Magic.

Butler poured in 31 points and 9 rebounds Friday night in Orlando. The most impressive part of Butler's performance was the bulk he scored in the second half and of course the dynamite shot he poured in with .4 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Matt Barnes did all he could to defend the final shot against Butler, but Caron showed a jab step, then created a little space to get off a shot. The small amount of space was all he needed to put in a game winning jumper from the baseline.

Defense in the second half was the downfall of the Magic tonight. Orlando held leads as high as 19 points against the Wizards. The spot on shooting from Butler and Randy Foye brought the Wizards back into the game pretty easily.

On the other side of the ball, Vince Carter led the Magic with 19 points, but continues to command more negative comments about his game. While he was the leading scorer for the Magic, he missed countless important shots down the stretch that would've put the team in a better position.

The chorus of boos and outpouring of displeasure from fans at Amway directed towards Carter is starting to become a nightly occurrence. With the halfway point of the season approaching, Carter is simply not playing up to par at this point. He is sitting on jump shots and not being as aggressive towards the basket as he could be.

On a positive note for the Magic, Rashard Lewis continued to show that he is the team's best clutch shooter. Lewis knocked down a corner three to give the Magic a one point lead with four seconds remaining against the Wizards. He has been a consistent, late game shooter for the team, hitting two crucial shots against the Cavaliers in last years playoffs and a game winner last week against the Celtics at home.

Although Carter has struggled recently and the team has looked inconsistent, I feel there is no need to panic in Orlando. A win against the Celtics this weekend could have fans forgetting about this loss as quickly as possible.

Looking forward to this Sunday, the Magic will travel up to Boston to write another chapter in one of the league's budding rivalries. The Celtics dropped three important games last weekend, struggling with injuries and adjusting to Kevin Garnett's arrival back into the starting lineup. You can probably bet on Boston coming to play hard on Sunday.

Starting Sunday, the Magic will face a tough stretch against four 2009 playoff teams leading up to the All Star break next weekend. After the game against Boston, the Magic will take on New Orleans and Chicago during the week. Then on Friday, Orlando will face it's next "measuring-stick" game against the team with league's best record, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Winning three or four games this week would be huge for this Orlando team who has been plagued by inconsistency the entire season. The All Star game next weekend will also provide some time for players like Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter to heel some nagging injuries that have hampered them the whole season. 

On a side note this weekend, JJ Redick missed out on the list of players invited to take part in the three point shootout next Saturday. If JJ continues to play well and improve throughout the rest of the 2010, someone should start to take notice and give him an invite to next year's competition.