Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sixers vs. Magic: Series Breakdown

After making my NBA Playoff Predictions yesterday, it's time to take a closer look at the Sixers series with the Magic, which gets under way today. While Philly has a slim shot of getting past the Magic, you can bet their running style will help them win a game or two in the series. The Magic are an elite team in the league, but they don't have a ton of playoff experience, so they aren't unbeatable. Here is my breakdown of the series.

Backcourt: This is the one place the Sixers have a decided advantage. Ever since Jameer Nelson went down, the Magic backcourt has been nothing but average. They did go out and acquire Rafer Alston to run the point and he has done a solid job but is still prone to turning the ball over. The Magic also start Courtney Lee at shooting guard, and he is basically in there for his defense and to hit an open shot now and then. Neither of those players scare you. The Sixers, on the other hand, have one of the better point guards in the league in Andre Miller. Somehow, Miller seems to get better and better every year and his 16.3 points per game and 6.5 assists per game demonstrate just how good he was this year. The other Sixers starter is Willie Green, who isn't anything special but can make shots and is smart with the ball. EDGE: SIXERS

This is where you really see the glaring differences between the Magic and the Sixers. Dwight Howard is easily the best player in this series and the Sixers have absolutely no one that can guard him. Samuel Dalembert has had some success in the past at slowing Howard down but I can see him getting shut down for more than a game or so. Besides Howard, the Magic also have one of the best forward combos in the league in Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. Both players averaged over 16 points a game this season and can knock down threes at will. The Sixers have some talent of their own at forward but they don't have anyone that quite matches up with Orlando. Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young are both quicker and more athletic than the Magic forwards and they will really thrive when the pace quickens. They will struggle when things slow down to playoff basketball pace, meaning more half court action and slower developing plays. At center, Dalembert has had a bit of a disappointing season for the Sixers, but he still alters shots on the inside and can grab boards. EDGE: MAGIC

Bench: The Sixers bench is made up of a lot of guys who do one or two things well but have big holes in their games. Marreese Speights is probably the best player off the Sixer bench and can fill up the stat sheet no matter how many minutes he plays. For a defensive presence, the Sixers turn to the bruising Reggie Evans and Royal Ivey. Evans will likely spend part of the series beating up Dwight Howard, trying to frustrate him out of his game. For offense off the bench, the Sixers turn to Lou Williams who can fill it up but is adverse to playing D.

The Magic bench isn't anything special but they have several guys who can step up in a pinch. Mickael Pietrus has shown that he can score in bunches and D up hard when he gets extended minutes so he is easily the best player off the Magic bench. Orlando also has three point ace J.J. Redick who can do nothing but shoot. Marcin Gortat is probably the best Magic player you have never heard of, he is mostly a defensive player who can bang inside and block shots. The Magic also have a veteran presence off the bench in guard Anthony Johnson. EDGE: MAGIC

The best the Sixers can probably hope for in this series is what they did in the playoffs last year: steal a couple of games and make the favored team sweat it out. The Magic simply aren't a great matchup for the Sixers, especially considering Orlando has won 8 of the last 9 times these two teams have played. The Sixers can steal a playoff game here or there if they are allowed to get out and run, so that is why I like the MAGIC IN SIX. One has to wonder if the Sixers might have been better off losing to the Cavs in the last game of the season and facing off against the K.G.-less Celtics. One also has to wonder what impact having a healthy Elton Brand would have in this series.

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