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Orlando Magic Winning With Attitude, Not Just Talent

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 18:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives against Matt Barnes #22 of the Orlando Magic in the first quarter during the game on January 18, 2010 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images
Alex VaroneContributor IMarch 10, 2010

After the Orlando Magic beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, much was made of the Lakers struggles in suffering their third straight defeat.

Yes, it was the first time in a long time that the Lakers have lost three in a row. But the story of Sunday's game wasn't just about the Lakers.

It was about the Magic.

All of a sudden, Orlando is one of the hottest teams in the NBA, having won their sixth straight after beating the Clippers on Tuesday. For a talented team like Orlando, winning six in a row is not newsworthy, but the way they are now winning games certainly is.

Against the Lakers, the Magic played with an attitude, the type of attitude that has never been commonly associated with the Orlando Magic franchise.

The Magic were already a very good team. A year ago, Orlando rode a very talented group all the way to the NBA Finals.

In the Finals, however, Orlando played with a we're-just-happy-to-be-here mentality and promptly lost in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Coming into this season, the Magic were as talented as ever. But the top teams in the NBA seemed to decide to try and beat the Magic mentally, not just physically.

Just ask Shaquille O'Neal. Since joining Cleveland, Shaq has taken his "Who's the real Superman?" feud with Dwight Howard increasingly public. Shaq knows exactly what he's doing.

He knows basketball is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Shaq may not be able to match Dwight Howard's physical talents anymore, but he thinks he can get in Howard's head and get him off his game.

Even ask the Lakers. According to Howard, some Lakers mockingly called the Orlando Magic "puppies" prior to Sunday's game.

Enter Matt Barnes.

Picking up the scrappy swingman may have been the best thing to happen to the Magic this past offseason. Barnes went on the offensive against the Lakers and hounded the unflinching (literally) Kobe Bryant all day.

Barnes' attitude rubbed off on his teammates too. Howard played with an edge that is not always seen from him, and Vince Carter seemingly made it a point to get to the basket early and often and ended up with 14 free throw attempts.

"We can't be the hunted any more. We got to be the hunters," Barnes said. "We got to go at people and take it at people, no matter who it is."

If that's the case, the rest of the NBA better watch out for the Magic.

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