Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Magic Striving for Respect

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Magic Striving for Respect

Article excerpt

ORLANDO -- For 30 minutes of yesterday's Orlando Magic-Detroit

Pistons playoff game, the hare let the tortoise stay close. The

O-Rena crowd of 17,248 grew restless, wondering if Team Cruise

Control might fall asleep at the postseason wheel like it did

last year in the first round against the inferior Boston


But in a two-minute drill as devastating as anything Joe

Montana ever orchestrated, the Magic buried Detroit under a

12-point avalanche. It started with a Shaquille O'Neal jump hook

and ended with a Dennis Scott 3-pointer.

Just like that, the most explosive team in the NBA put the

Pistons out of commission. By the time this 92-77 conquest was

done, O'Neal had 29 points and six assists despite sitting out

eight minutes with foul trouble. For the second time in three

days, Detroit had no answer for Shaq or the Magic's other four


Which begs the question: How much longer before people stop

thinking of Orlando as just a bump in the road toward the

Chicago Bulls' seemingly preordained title coronation?

"You've almost got to play a perfect game to beat the Magic,"

said Pistons forward Otis Thorpe, a member of the Houston

Rockets 1994 championship team. "They have individuals

throughout their lineup who can dominate when they want to.

"The only difference between them and the Bulls is Chicago's

chemistry is more mature. Orlando has the most talent. The only

thing that can hurt Orlando is not staying focused."

There's that word again. Focus. It's a nagging term that has

stuck to the Magic like gum on a shoe. The underlying perception

of this team is that it is destined for greatness, but isn't

mentally strong enough to be put in that category.

Getting swept out of the playoffs by the lowerseeded Indiana

Pacers two years ago set that reputation in motion. A 4-0 broom

job by the Houston Rockets in the 1995 NBA Finals only

reinforced the Magic's underachieving image, as if eliminating

Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the Eastern Conference

semifinals was a jaded achievement. …

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