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Game 17 Preview: Magic vs. Blazers

A Look at the Magic

The magic are great best
in the east along with my
jazz the only way they could
be better is if they got noah or
oden but the blazers will get
one of them so I don't know
what my jazz and magic will
do maybe they should become
one team the "mazzic" that
would be great kirilenko and
howard nobody else would win
a single game from them until
the blazers get noah or oden
then it would be on so take
heart blazer fans the new
era begins june 10th 2007!

Sorry, I just couldn't resist.

Ahem.  Where was I now?  Oh yes.

As Fatty would no doubt proclaim were he here typing on this very keyboard, the Magic ARE off to a great start.  The whole league is abuzz over one Dwight Howard, the next man-child.  The most amazing thing about him to me is that he's a legitimate rebounder.  He's averaging 13.6 so far.  4 of those are offensive rebounds, which is incredible.  But that still leaves 9.6 defensive rebounds which if that was all he got would still tie him for 14th in the league.  That's nasty.  With about five "s"es in there.  (What the heck IS the plural of "s" anyway?)  And we're not done.  He gets 2 blocks a game.  He also shoots 57.5%.  Some would look at his 17 ppg average and say, "Why so low?" but that combined with his stellar percentage leads me to believe that this is a guy who, even at a tender age, knows how to fit into an offense rather than overshadowing it.  This guy is the and will be a near impossible matchup for us.  Grant Hill is healthy again and while not the triple-double threat of old, he too is shooting over 50% and contributing 15 per game.  He can also move the ball and has always been an asset to whatever offense he found himself in.  Jameer Nelson shoots over 50% (it's going to be easier just to list the guys who don't) and is developing into quite a nice point guard.  He plays a little defense and understands the little things.  His assists are only at 3.9 a game but I'd suggest that in addition to his youth, in the Orlando offense the ball is not dominated by a single player.  All of these guys (save perhaps Howard) can pass very well and the wealth is spread accordingly.  Hedo Turkoglu makes his presence felt from range, and it seems like all of the guys they bring in after that are either sweet shooters, monster rebounders, freaky athletes, or some combination thereof.  You've heard almost all their names:  Arroyo, Battie, Dooling, Ariza, Milicic (improved somewhat), Bogans.  You look at the Eastern Conference these days and go, "Meh.  These guys wouldn't last five minutes in the West."  These guys would not only last five minutes, they'd be up by a dozen on much of the conference.  Their record isn't an accident and the only way they're ripe for an upset is if they totally don't pay attention.

Things I'd like to see:

  1.  In case you haven't figured it out, Orlando shoots an amazingly high percentage.  They burn you inside, they burn you outside.  But that isn't wholly attributable to their individual talent.  They threaten from every position and are not shy about getting the ball to people in places they like to score.  That means to beat them you have to try and play havoc with their passing lanes.  Don't let people cut.  Don't let passes go easy.  Picking somebody (probably besides Howard) and turning them into an individual scorer is probably a better plan than letting seven people score in double digits.  In other words, in addition to being solid our defense has got to be a little rough and a lot opportunistic.
  2.  Orlando doesn't put up a ton of shots per game.  They're not really a running team.  If your defense can be opportunistic you should be able to force some turnovers and run it.  For the Blazers this will be a near necessity.  One quibble with Howard is that he will turn the ball over if you bother him.
  3.  Unless Zach just goes freaky out of his mind or something we are going to lose the rebounding battle tonight.  That's almost a foregone conclusion.  We're also going to be hard pressed to keep up in shooting.  The best way to combat that is to win the in-between game.  We've already talked about forcing turnovers but the flip side is that we must take care of the ball very well ourselves.  We've been doing decent, but it will take more than decent to prevail here.
  4.  Another area in which Orlando excels is drawing fouls...not surprising with their multi-valent attack.  Avoiding putting them on the line would be a great first step.  Maybe some home cooking will help but simple foot moving would also go a long way.  Surprisingly they are not very good at making those free throws.  Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Hedo Turkoglu have started off pretty poorly and most of their bench is the pits in this area.  If you can save some fouls for the second half, this could become a legitimate strategy for containing Howard.
  5.  Predictably, Orlando is not that shabby at the defensive end.  They're holding opponents to 42.4%, best in the NBA.  They also have some shot-blocking skill.  However they do have some individuals who can be taken advantage of, especially by quickness.  I would guess that the issue tonight will not be whether our smalls can get by their defenders, but rather what they will do with it afterwards.  Taking it into the teeth of the defense probably will not work, but those little dishes to the sideline for a jumper or to the baseline for a dunk could.  Unless we create a ton of those easy buckets off turnovers every possession will be like gold to us.  That means we better move the ball and ourselves enough to create as many smart shots as Orlando is going to get.  I try to shy away from individual predictions because they're much more random, but this feels like the kind of game that could be big for Sergio.
If we won this game you could knock me over with a feather.  If it does happen it'll undoubtedly be a combination of us coming with a ton of energy and them taking us very lightly, perhaps with a little early foul trouble for Howard thrown in.  (Their inside-outside game really does become more outside without his presence.)  As such, I'm putting a lot more weight on the Atlanta game than this one.  Winning this one would be a nice boost, but probably doesn't signify much.  Nor would losing it.  Atlanta is an opponent that should be more in our measure and losing that one would mean more on the negative end.  So basically there's no pressure and we are free to root away.  Hey, if you buy a lottery ticket you might as well scratch it, right?  You never know...

--Dave (