Today we embark upon an ever-so-lovely 5-game, 8-day road trip with 4 of those 5 teams having at least some mild claim to playoff potential. In other words the schedule is saying, “You’ve had enough of the right hand uppercuts for a while. Let’s try some left crosses.” Despite that, I’d do just about anything to keep us from playing more Western Conference contenders right now. Beasts from the East actually look pretty good. That said,
A Look at the Magic
The very first thing to know about the Magic is that Dwight Howard is destroying everything in his path like a tornado full of bazookas stuffed with pop rocks and diet coke. I could tell you he’s averaging 22 points on 65% shooting with 14 rebounds and an absolutely disgusting 4 blocks per game (and he could add a few more points if he could hit a darn free throw to save his life) but that doesn’t fully describe it. Against the Wizards 31 points and 16 rebounds. Against the Kings 29 points and 14 rebounds. 22 and 15 twice against
Howard’s wingmen are forwards Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. Both have range, both can rebound a little, and both are stinking up the court with their shooting right now, inside and out. That would be an area for the Blazers to exploit if we could actually manage to defend any shooters.
Point guard Jameer Nelson is also off to a shaky start from the field and a disastrous one (21%) from the three-point arc. He had a great game against the Sixers, scoring 16 and dishing 9, but he’s not yet looking like the bankable commodity he’s been in years past.
The guy who has taken to the Magic like a duck to water is Mickael Pietrus. He was begging for playing time in
The Magic bench relies on solid veterans Anthony Johnson, Tony Battie, and Keith Bogans. They also have youngsters Courtney Lee and J.J. Reddick. It’s safe to say that getting past
Keys to the Game
1. I’m not sure we have any chance of slowing down the Behemoth, so I’d elect to stay home on everybody else and make sure
2. This team can be attacked, especially at the forward positions. Lewis is an awful defender and Turkoglu ain’t great. However if you grind it slow against them and allow Howard to swoop in and help you deserve exactly what you get, which is the ball stuffed back in your face so hard it makes a “Spalding” imprint in your liver. The ball has got to keep moving even when we’re trying to exploit their weak links. If Lamarcus or Travis have a one-on-one opportunity and can prosecute it quickly, all to the good. But if they draw attention they need to be able to pass it. Better yet their looks should be on the move so that neither their primary defenders nor the help have time to recover. Do you think Lewis and Turkoglu will be happy being run all over the court? Might their offensive production suffer if they are forced to defend hard?
3. This might be a night to flood the floor with offense ourselves. If Joel Przybilla can’t demonstrate an ability to contain Howard early (or if, as seems more likely, Joel gets in foul trouble) I would not hesitate to slide Frye, Outlaw, and Aldridge into those 4-5 spots. They can stick outside shots. They can score the ball if it’s passed to them. They can move the defenders around.
4. I don’t think offensive rebounds are going to be as plentiful tonight as they have been in past games unless Lamarcus gathers a ton. The better option is just to stick the open shot when you have it.
5. I like our guard options tonight with Roy and Fernandez (together or separately) and even the point guards. Spreading the floor with the three-pointer is a legitimate option tonight. Cutting and driving are even better as they have a chance to get the big guy in foul difficulty. On the sets when you’re not trying to get Aldridge and Outlaw their designated shots I would call an all-out blitz on the backcourt offensive attack. Roy and Rudy with 20 each would look plenty good tonight.
6. It’s easier said than done, but even if you could keep Howard off of the offensive boards (forget the defensive) it would be a help.
7. If it’s close in the fourth, Hack-a-Dwight is a viable strategy!
Storylines to Watch
1. Over-Under on Przybilla’s Fouls: 19.
Joel is going to body up and do his best against Howard. But Dwight is drawing 11 foul shots a game as it is. How long Przybilla can stay in there will determine our game plan as much as anything.
2. What Defense(s) Do the Blazers Rely On?
I would guess we’ll see some zone at first until the Magic perimeter men prove they can hit or cut. Otherwise you have to be careful who you throw down against Howard to help the centers. Watching who rotates down there early will show you who the Blazers want the Magic to try and win the game with.
3. Second Unit Scoring
We need extra points from somewhere. The second unit has been one of our saving graces so far. This would be a GREAT game for a bench bust-out. Double that greatness if they’re running. If we’re going to win, they’ll make the difference.
4. Chins Up?
The Blazers are due for another game where they put it all together. I just don’t know if it’s going to be this game or Wednesday against
Check out the Magic point of view at ThirdQuarterCollapse.