Van Gundy: Starters might return

Updated: April 16, 2009, 3:35 PM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said injured starters Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu might be able to play in the Magic's first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers beginning Sunday.

Those injuries combined with spotty play during the regular season's final weeks raised concern for a franchise with a history of early playoff exits.

"I don't know how ready we are," Magic guard Rafer Alston said. "We have some days in-between here and hopefully we can refocus."

Turkoglu missed the last two games with a sprained left ankle, and Lewis missed the last three with right knee tendinitis. Van Gundy said Lewis wanted to play in the regular-season finale Wednesday night but told him during warm-ups his knees weren't ready.

"I think he will be ready, and I hope he will be, but I just don't know at this point," Van Gundy said. "I think they'll be out there, I do. But until it's game time and they're out there, I don't know for sure."

The Magic (59-23) finished with the second-best record in franchise history, one win shy of the 1995-96 team led by Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway. But there are plenty of questions surrounding Orlando heading into the postseason.

Until last year, Orlando hadn't been past the first round of the playoffs since 1996. The franchise still hasn't made it past the second round since that year, when they were swept in four games by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the conference finals.

"It's up to us to bring it in the playoffs," forward Tony Battie said. "With everything on the line, with the intensity up, it's up to us to get it done this year."

Orlando was having problems before the injuries surfaced.

The Magic lost to New York, Toronto, New Jersey and Milwaukee -- all teams that missed the playoffs -- in the final two weeks, costing them the East's No. 2 seed. Poor defensive play, turnovers and lack of effort made Orlando look anything but the team with the league's best record back in January.

"The past few weeks, we've been turning the ball over too much," guard Anthony Johnson said. "That's a concern. We have to take care of the ball and play some solid defense if we want to be successful in the playoffs."

The Magic's funk led to a season-high, three-game losing streak before beating Charlotte in the finale Wednesday night. Even if the Magic get Lewis and Turkoglu back, it may take some time before Orlando can find its groove.

"The biggest thing is we have to just play. We don't need to be out there thinking too much about what we need to do and what we should do," center Dwight Howard said.

The Magic have proven they can adjust when necessary.

All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson had season-ending shoulder surgery after tearing his labrum in early February, and Orlando started to collapse before acquiring Alston from Houston in a trade-deadline deal that saved the season.

The Magic regrouped to beat Boston and hand first-place Cleveland its most-lopsided loss of the season, and it looked like they were again serious championship contenders. Then they began their late-season swoon, losing the East's No. 2 spot to Boston before Van Gundy decided to rest some starters in the final three games.

"We've have some great moments since I've been here, but then again we've had some down times," Alston said. "We just need to find that consistency and we'll be fine."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press