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In a cackling Orlando Magic locker room that was still loose and free-flowing some 15 minutes after their 105-90 skate past Washington Thursday night, the old man of the crew sat alone playing it cool.

Even in an impromptu carnival, it's hard to get too much of a rise out of 34-year-old Magic point guard Anthony Johnson, it seems.

What's not so drab, however, is how the Magic have continued their encouraging effort -- three straight wins and six consecutive on the road -- with a motley crew of sorts at the point without injured starter Jameer Nelson.

Nelson missed his second straight game Thursday with a sore hip flexor and will be sidelined again tonight as the Magic host Indiana.

Playing 37 minutes for the second night in a row, Johnson was huge with 12 assists and seven points, while getting ball-handling support from 6-foot-10 Hedo Turkoglu and rookie Courtney Lee, who hasn't seen meaningful minutes at point guard since his sophomore year of college.

Smoke and mirrors aside, for a team that most couldn't really fathom playing 48 strong minutes of Basketball without a healthy Nelson, it's starting not to be such a fearful proposition.

"We're coming with energy is the biggest thing," Johnson said. "To have the kind of first quarter we did [against Washington] on back-to-back nights will help us not to panic I think. We didn't quite get it for a full 48 minutes, but at the same time it's a win on the road and that's huge for us right now."

After beginning the season dismayed by a lackluster injection from his bench, Coach Stan Van Gundy was more than pleased with how it stepped up during the recent road trip that started with Tony Battie's flawless shooting night in Philadelphia and ended another solid night from J.J. Redick at Washington.

Even with both Turkoglu and Johnson both on the court together, Turkoglu brought the ball up the court at times and got the Magic in their offensive sets. Johnson said that ability is a big relief at times with him being thrust into carrying Nelson's minutes.

"Turk looks to lessen the load and make things happen," Johnson said. "He's like me and tries to get the ball to the right guys in their favorite slots."

Van Gundy said it's by design that Turkoglu had the ball in his hands as opposed to Lee when Johnson is deferring.

"I just think he's more comfortable than Courtney is at the point," he said. "Some of it will depend on matchups, but in general he's more comfortable right now."

The Pacers come in just 6-9, but are a much different team than they were seven days ago when they took the Magic to overtime.

Before heading to Charlotte Friday, Indiana slipped past Houston 91-90, holding the Rockets scoreless the final six minutes and 27 seconds while getting 21 points from Troy Murphy. This was the same Houston team that handed Orlando its last loss, 100-95 on Nov. 22.

Much like Orlando has started to overcome third quarter lulls lately, the Pacers seem to be doing the same in regard to giving away fourth-quarter leads, which was a trademark during their recent skid.

Having just seen a struggling team in Philadelphia nearly get the best of them, Van Gundy knows exactly what his team needs to do to hang onto its newfound mojo.

"Absolutely," Van Gundy said. "It [the Wizards win] was a good feeling to leave with; we're trying to get to where we have more consistency throughout games and from night to night."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 30, 2008


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