Coach Stan Van Gundy has been restrained in his belief that the Magic have regressed defensively in recent weeks. It was tough to be too critical of a team that was 10 games above .500.
On Thursday, though, he made it clear what he thought: His team doesn't care enough.
"We just don't play hard enough consistently," Van Gundy said after losing, 83-78, to the Atlanta Hawks. "We won't be anywhere near contenders if we don't play harder consistently. It's not physical. It's mental."
The Magic (22-13) were playing their fourth game in five days, but the Hawks also were tired after a five-game road trip. It was the last game before the All-Star break, and neither team played particularly well.
The Magic were awful in the first half when they trailed by as many as 17 points. They scored a season-low 30 points in the first two minutes. They were better in the second half, closing to within one point in the fourth quarter, but they faded at the end.
"Our offense was mindless, just absolutely mindless out there," he said. "We just didn't want to put forth the effort. There are no excuses."
The Magic had hoped to go into All-Star Weekend on a high, particularly after beating Milwaukee and New Jersey in the previous two games. But the loss to Atlanta, which had beaten the Magic earlier this month in Atlanta, was a reminder of how far away they were from being serious contenders.
The first half of the season has been dominated by talk about the future of Dwight Howard, who requested a trade before the season began. Howard has played well much of the season, but he was as uninspired as everyone else Thursday.
He had 12 points and 12 rebounds in 40 minutes. J.J. Redick, who moved back to a reserve role Thursday, led the Magic with 13 points in 25 minutes. He was one of the few who played with a spark.
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