The Orlando Magic are on a roll. After starting the season with losses in Indiana and Minnesota last week, they returned to Orlando for what looked like a tough homestand. Friday brought the New Orleans Pelicans, Sunday the Brooklyn Nets and Wednesday the Los Angeles Clippers. The Magic beat them all.
More impressive than the wins at the Amway Center was how they got them. The first two were blowouts, 110-90 against the improved Pelicans and 107-86 against a Brooklyn team with title aspirations. The third came against a legitimate contender, a Clippers team with perhaps the league's scariest offense. Chris Paul and company were coming off a 137-118 win over the Houston Rockets, then the Magic held them to 90 points, 38 percent field goal shooting and 3-19 shooting from behind the three-point line. Head coach Jacque Vaughn doesn't have a superstar, but he does have a group who appear to be disciplined on defense and get scoring from a variety of sources.
Against the Clippers, big man Nikola Vucevic erupted for 30 points and 21 rebounds, upping his averages to 18 and 13 on the season. He's not the only one stuffing stats sheets, though. Shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who expended most of his energy guarding Paul on Wednesday, had his huge night against the Pelicans – 30 points, four assists, four rebounds and 10-14 shooting. Sophomore swingman Moe Harkless added 20 points, eight rebounds and four steals against New Orleans. Six Orlando players finished in double figures against the Nets, including rookie Victor Oladipo's 19 points on 8-13 shooting in just 21 minutes.
While Oladipo is clearly capable of contributing immediately, the Magic have the luxury of bringing the 2013 draft's No. 2 overall pick off the bench. It's inevitable that he will take over the starting job at some point, but for now Orlando can experiment with him as a playmaker and give him the responsibility of leading the second unit. At the same time, it has removed the pressure of having him hounded by the opposition's best starting wing defender.
Some projected the Magic to be in the East's cellar, but on this homestand, the team is showing signs it can compete with upper echelon teams. It has a solid coach, a balanced roster and a collection of young players who are getting better by the minute. If Orlando doesn't dismantle the roster by the trade deadline, this could very well be a playoff team. Bad news for the winless Celtics, who will be in town on Friday.