Answers to a handful of questions about the Orlando Magic, who feature the Eastern Conference's best record at 13-5. A 116-91 loss Sunday to the Clippers snapped a six-game win streak:
Shining star in a dim East
Sum up the Magic's season so far in 11 words.
Orlando is looking as good as the East has looked bad.
What do you say about a roadtrip that begins with three straight wins?
A sign of a good team. Utah, Seattle and Portland are not easy places to win -- those teams have all beaten big-time teams at home. The more I watch Orlando, the more impressed I am.
What will it take for the Magic to unseat the Heat in the Southeast?
Grant Hill will be the real key. He's the glue. For the first time in a long time he's happy and healthy out there. Having him solidifies everything they do, and they'll look strong as long as he stays healthy. From what I've heard about Shaq, he might not be back till after the All-Star Game. So even if the Heat play .500 till then, that might not be enough.
Time to play oddsmaker. What are the chances Grant Hill will play more than 60 games this season?
Purely objectively, it's 50/50. My heart says 70/30. But if you're setting odds, you have to look back on the injury history and take it into consideration.
Describe the essential content of the text messages and emails you get from your friends in Orlando these days.
"Why aren't you giving the Magic any love?" You people -- and you know who you are. Enough! Here's an early Christmas card, OK?
Because you thought the Magic would show this kind of success next season, didn't you?
Yes. They have great character. General manager Otis Smith and the front office have done a good job of assembling quality people on this team -- that's an important thing when trying to develop young talent -- their maturation has been expedited.
Would making the conference finals be a shocker?
It wouldn't surprise me looking at things today. But I qualify that by looking at teams right now that are struggling -- New Jersey, Miami, Cleveland -- we don't know how good they're going to be. We'll know more when the Magic face that adversity -- it could come in playoff time. I do believe that this team has a chance. We saw last season what happened with the Clippers and Cavs when they finally got the opportunity.
But Dwight Howard talked about going "all the way" in the preseason.
The belief in himself and his team speaks volumes. That's the key to greatness -- belief in yourself when doubted. I credit his family and upbringing for helping shape his character. I'm a fan of Dwight the person.
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While Elton Brand hits the deck, Dwight Howard dunks. But Brand stood tall in the end, scoring 31 points to help the LA Clippers beat Orlando 116-91 on Sunday night, snapping the Magic's six-game winning streak. It was the Clips' biggest victory margin of the season, and the Magic's worst losing margin.
While Ben Wallace's rebounding and defense remain above average, it won't advance the Bulls' cause much if his rebounding and defense is merely "pretty good" rather than extraordinary.
That's because Tyson Chandler, the guy they had in the middle a season ago, already gave them that.
In fact, he's having a better season for the Hornets than Wallace is having with the Bulls. Chandler's rebound rate of 21.0 is among the league's best, while the high foul rate that plagued him in Chicago has been cut sharply this season, enabling him to play a career-best 31.2 minutes per game thus far. His PER of 15.0 is better than Wallace's, and considering that Chandler is eight years younger, it's possible this equation could turn further against the Bulls.
Meanwhile, it's Chandler's Hornets who are experiencing the effect Wallace was supposed to provide in Chicago. New Orleans/Oklahoma City ranks sixth in the NBA in defensive efficiency, a major improvement on its 20th-place finish last season.
• Pistons C Dale Davis rejoined the team and didn't score in 12 minutes, two days after he was acquitted of assault charges stemming from an incident with Miami Beach police.
• Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff called the team's four-game homestand this week against Detroit, San Antonio, Houston and Phoenix the toughest stretch of games in the team's three-year history.
• Philadelphia F Kyle Korver sat out his second straight game with a sprained left ankle.
• Former Villanova star Randy Foye, now with the Timberwolves, scored eight points in his first game back in Philadelphia. The Wildcats and coach Jay Wright watched the game from the upper deck, and Foye left several tickets for other friends and family.
• Portland rookie Brandon Roy has shown improvement and will begin low-impact rehabilitation of his heel injury. He will not make the team's upcoming road trip and will be reevaluated upon the team's return.
• The Blazers open a season-high six-game road trip with a matchup against Detroit on Tuesday.
• Detroit G Chauncey Billups scored his 9,000th career point.
-- The Associated Press
Clippers reach .500; Tim Thomas on 3 spree
Kent Smith/Getty Images
Nazr Mohammed and the Detroit Pistons (11-6) saw their eight-game win streak fall to the Charlotte Bobcats (5-12) and Emeka Okafor (18 points, eight rebounds), 97-89.
Quotes of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
• There's a saying in Dallas that the Mavericks are a different team as long as they get something from Erick Dampier. The substance behind that saying: The Mavs are 42-7 in the regular season when Dampier scores 10 points or better.
• It's not my thing, but I suspect this is bad news for fantasy players: Utah's Andrei Kirilenko has scored more than 12 points only once this season and has reached double figures only five times in 13 games.
The Cavaliers became the first NBA team this season to score 65 or fewer points in a game, losing Saturday 81-63 at Houston. The number of teams scoring 65 or less has been dwindling in recent seasons. There were 19 in 2003-04 (the most of any season in the shot clock era), six in 2004-05 and four last season.
Gilbert Arenas is a different player at home than on the road this season. He's averaging 33.1 points at the Verizon Center this season 15.5 points more than his average away from Washington.
If he finishes on that pace, it would be the highest single season scoring differential between home and road in NBA history. The difference of 124 points is the second biggest in NBA history by a player in his first eight home versus his first eight road games of a season. Quintin Dailey of the 1988-89 Clippers scored 189 points (23.6 per game) in his first eight home games and 58 (7.3 per game) in his first eight road games.
-- Michael Jackson, ESPN Research and Elias Sports Bureau