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 ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -For the Orlando Magic, losing their top three guards to injury has been a blessing in disguise.
Without their starting backcourt of Mickael Pietrus and Jameer Nelson, and top sub Keith Bogans, for more than a week, the Magic have not only survived, but prospered.
Rookie Courtney Lee has emerged as a potential go-to player, and 12th-year veteran Anthony Johnson has proven to be a dependable custodian at point guard.
``Everybody said we were overstacked at the shooting guard position, but it was exactly what we needed,'' Bogans said. ``If they didn't have confidence in us, they would have traded some of us.''
The Magic have a strong front line, with All-Star center Dwight Howard, sharpshooter Rashard Lewis and point forward Hedo Turkoglu each scoring at least 22 points in a mid-week win over Minnesota that improved the Southeast Division-leading Magic's record to 14-5.
Their backcourt, though hobbled, has filled in the gaps.
ohnson have taken over the point responsibilities for the Magic, who've won two of three games with their depleted lineup and look to feast on Oklahoma City, last in the Northwest Division, on Friday.
The injuries have allowed the Magic to see how players like Lee will perform given playing time.
Lee, their first-round pick out of Western Kentucky, scored a season-high 19 points in the win against the Timberwolves and showed signs that - in time - he could be a dependable option in a deep backcourt
``He's hardheaded and it's a long season,'' Johnson said ``I try to teach patience. I told him sometimes you're going to be the eighth-, ninth-best guy on the court. Just be patient and take advantage of it when you can.''
Said Lee: ``The guys tell me something different every day. But (patience) is what they keep stressing.''
Lee, who played sparingly early in the season, showed his shooting range and his ability to drive against Minnesota.
``It's good to see him play with confidence,'' general manager Otis Smith said. ``Those are the things he can do. There are gonna be up moments and down moments.''
Coach Stan Van Gundy said that Lee, ``a humble guy,'' is ``gaining confidence that he can play at this level. That means he'll be aggressive, and when he's aggressive he's really good.''
nt. J.J. Redick has started in his place, but has struggled.
In his last three games as a starter, Redick has shot six of 18 from the field, including three of 13 from 3-point range, and has only averaged just five points a game.
``We're not going to those guys a lot,'' Van Gundy said in explaining Reddick's offensive stats. ``They're getting the ball to the other guys, and that's their job.''
Despite the solid backcourt play, Smith said the Magic haven't ruled out making a roster move. Guard Mike Wilks is still on the roster even though he's out for the season with torn knee ligaments.
Orlando's backcourt lacks size. Pietrus, at 6-6, is the only guard taller than 6-5.
``We didn't have a lot of injuries in the past few years, so we didn't get to see what our young guys can do,'' Smith said. ``If you're going to have injuries in this league, it's best to have them early.''
The good news for the Magic is that Nelson, who missed four games with a strained hip flexor, said he expects to return to the lineup Friday against Oklahoma City. Bogans was cleared to play Wednesday against Minnesota, but did not see action.
Van Gundy said he would use Thursday's practice and Friday's shootaround to see how effective Bogans could be against the Thunder.

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