Van Gundy says now is no time to relax
NEW YORK — The Orlando Magic began their only back-to-back-to-back games of the season Monday with an impressive come-from-behind victory over the New York Knicks — the Magic's fourth straight victory and ninth in 12 games to start the season.
Now the question is whether they can keep it up for two more nights, with Charlotte and San Antonio visiting the Amway Center on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
But the team's compact schedule — and, namely, the challenge of playing three games in three nights — isn't something that has coach Stan Van Gundy too concerned.
"It's all about your frame of mind," Van Gundy said after Orlando's 102-93 victory over the Knicks. "We would have no legitimate excuse in this back-to-back-to-back because, obviously, (Monday) is just one game. Then (Tuesday), Charlotte's coming in on a back-to-back also. And then on the third night, at least you've got San Antonio playing on a back-to-back. . . . So in my mind, there's no excuse."
In fact, Van Gundy is more concerned with a potential mental drop-off than he is with the physical toll three games in as many nights may take on his team.
"I think our biggest thing going into (Tuesday) . . . is going home against a team that we beat on the road and relaxing and not playing as well," he said. "That's our challenge right now. It's not a matter of rest."
Instead of complaining about his team's undesirable situation, Van Gundy would rather argue that the league's rigorous schedule — cramming 66 games into a four-month window — is equally tough on everyone.
"You're going to play a third of your games this year — well almost — 21 out of 66 games we will have played the day before," Van Gundy said. "So if you're going to make that an excuse, there's not much way to have a good season."
Van Gundy would rather focus his efforts on making the most of the limited practice time his team has going forward. Despite Orlando's hot start to the season, Van Gundy still sees plenty his team can improve on, particularly on the defensive end.
"I'm still not happy with our defense," Van Gundy said. "If it doesn't improve, we're not good enough with the defense we're playing now. And it's going to be tough. Starting with today, 39 days from today to the All-Star break, we play 24 games and we practice five times, so I don't know how we're going to make it a whole lot better."
For now, the Magic will have to be content working out their issues during games — even if they come in sets of two and three.
"After the break, we'll get a little bit more of a chance," Van Gundy said. "But for right now, we're still going to need more focus from guys and a better commitment on the defensive end if we want to be really good."
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