Magic Nation has high expectations for this postseason.Orlando just completed its 2nd best regular season in their 20 years of existence. Against the top teams, Orlando compiled an impressive record of 6-2. Still, after such an impressive run, there is some doubt with this team. The Magic were an unimpressive 4-5 in the month of April, which included home losses to Toronto and New York. Although a few of the losses can be excused because the Magic did not play their best lineup, there still might be cause for concern. Hedo Turkoglu sat out the final two games of the season after twisting his ankle against the New Jersey Nets, while Rashard Lewis missed the final 3 games with tendinitis issues. Although Stan Van Gundy is being rather indecisive about the status of two of his stars, I’d bet a lot of money they will be ready for Sunday.
On paper, Orlando has every advantage in this series as they won all three matchups this season, which included two games in Philly. Dwight has a huge advantage in the post, as he should be able to get the 76ers bigs in foul trouble relatively quickly. As the regular season showed us, having to pay so much attention to Dwight will open up Orlando’s outside shooters. Good news for us.
Here is the schedule for Round One.
Game 1 – Sun April 19 Philadelphia at Orlando 5:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed April 22 Philadelphia at Orlando 7:00PM NBATV
Game 3 – Fri April 24 Orlando at Philadelphia 8:00PM ESPN2
Game 4 – Sun April 26 Orlando at Philadelphia 6:30PM TNT
Game 5 – Tue April 28 Philadelphia at Orlando TBD TBD
Game 6 – Thu April 30 Orlando at Philadelphia TBD TBD
Game 7 – Sat May 2 Philadelphia at Orlando TBD TNT
The experts expect Orlando to advance relatively easily. Take this from ESPN’s John Hollinger:
Cosmo (Anytown, USA): Is the best news for the Sixers right now that this series will be over quickly?
John Hollinger: Probably the best news for Rick Kamla and Fred Carter too. Only silver lining I see for Philly is that Orlando can be turnover-prone, and Philly can turn those mistakes into easy baskets as well as anyone.
Now let’s see what TPASTBM contributors think:
Magic in 5: I am spotting the Sixers one game because its really tough to sweep but I just do not see how the Sixers can compete in this series. They do not defend well, no one on their team is a consistent 3 point shooter and they struggle mightily in the half-court. They have to play up and down to let AI2, Thaddeus Young, and Lou Williams excel with their athleticism but that is tough to do when the game slows down in the playoffs. Though they have a variety of “big men” they are not equipped to handle Dwight and are typically foul prone against the Magic. I am expecting the Magic to put their late season doldrums behind them and come out with renewed spirit and energy. If the Magic are playing like they did 95% of this season they should be able to put the Sixers away fairly easily.
El Fantasma de Carlos:
Magic in 5: I expect the Magic to come out strong to prove all the naysayers wrong. I mean, even Avery Johnson predicted and offset. Seriously AJ, I mean, really, really, really…I mean come on man. I think Dwight wants this more than anything else in the season. I think that loosing Nelson has inspired them more. Also, Alston has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove he belongs too. It all comes down to the health of Hedo and Shard. But regardless, Magic win in 5. Philly steals a game at home, but Orlando finishes it up back in Orlando. Mark it.
Magic in 5: The Magic lost 3 straight against non-playoff teams before the season ended. They had already wrapped up the 3rd seed for months. The 76ers lost 6 in a row while battling for playoff position. What does this have to do with the playoffs? Absolutely nothing. Both teams are now at 0-0, and both need to win 4 games to advance. Despite their late season woes, I expect them to look like two rejuvenated ball clubs. I still see the Magic taking this series in 5, with Philly squeaking a win out at home by 3 late in the game.
Magic in 5: Stifling defense. End of story. Did you watch the defense against the Bobcats? The 76’ers lack of half court execution does not bode well for this series (as far as Philly is concerned). Their one hope is Orlando’s lack of focus at times and ability to cough up the ball. If Philly can capitalize on this, and it happens enough, they could steal a game.As far as Orlando injuries, well, don’t believe the hype.
The Big Train:
Magic in 5: Orlando will take game one by 7, and game two by 20 behind stellar shooting and defense. However, Dwight will get himself in some foul trouble, mainly due to two offensive foul calls, and Philly will take game 3. After that, Dwight gets serious and puts up 20-20 performances in game 4 and 5, and there is great rejoicing in Orlando.
The Nickel Steak:
Magic in 4: On paper, this looks like a terrible series for the Sixers. In reality, it looks worse. Philadelphia is a team that relies on transition baskets and interior penetration for their points. Their halfcourt offense is nauseating, their best half court player(Elton Brand) isn’t going to be there, no one on the team can shoot from beyond 20′ consistently, and their best interior defender besides Brand, Samuel Dalembert, has a career average of 4.3 fouls per 36 minutes, and he’ll be matched up against the player who lead the league in FTAs 2 years straight. Dalembert only played 24.8mpg this season, and he’ll struggle to meet that number in this series.If the series goes 5 games, I’ll be disappointed. If it goes 6, I’ll be flabbergasted.
Supply and Demand:
Magic in 4: Sweep baby! Philly is by far the easiest match-up for the Magic could have asked for. Philly is the WORST jump shooting team in the league as their league low 31% team three point shooting demonstrates. Attacking the paint is the best weapon and Orlando has the soon to be “NBA Defensive player of the Year” waiting to swat shots. Orlando swept the regular season, I see no reason this does not continue for a Philly team that limped into the playoffs with a 3-6 record in April.
Terry & The Pump Fakes:
Magic in 5: Unless David Stern comes out with a surprise announcement that dunks are now worth 5 pts each Philly will be out in 5. They are atheletic but like so many other teams out there they just don’t have the shooters that are needed in the playoffs when the game slows down to more of a half court style.As great as Andre Miller is, when he has been forced to play a half court style of ball he is not the same point guard. The Magic will go under picks and force him to shoot the ball. The Magic will pack the paint and make AI shoot the ball. Dwight will get Philly’s front line into quick foul trouble and the rest of the team will be parading to the foul line with Philly in the penalty early.Philly is an entertaining team that fights hard but when Dwight and company decide to play with energy there are not too many teams that are going to take them in a 7 game series.
Magic in 4: We have momentum, it has just been hiding, we never lost it. The last few losses, while heartbreaking to an extent, really did not matter. This team is ready. Thaddeus Young may be the only part of Philly that worries me and that worry is so minute it doesn’t even feel worthy of the concern. The added rest we get from a sweep may prove to be a deciding factor in the title run, for good or bad.
Survey says! Magic in 4.75.