NBA Playoffs 2012: Why Orlando Magic Are in Trouble Heading into Playoffs
The Magic are currently in a three-team race for the fourth seed and home court advantage.
If Orlando was able to capture that spot, they would face either the Boston Celtics or Atlanta Hawks in the first round. Both teams have had the Magic's number this year, with a combined 5-0 record against Orlando.
Seemingly, the best case scenario for the Magic is to continue their recent skid (3-7 in the last 10 games). Doing so would mean falling to the sixth seed and earning a face-off with the Indiana Pacers in the first round.
But while Orlando is built on the steamroller that is Dwight Howard, the Pacers are built around eight different players.
Any way you look at it, the Magic have a tough road to a ring in this year's postseason.
Start with the Obvious: Dwight Howard Drama
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Less a match-up problem than a mixed-message problem, Dwight Howard made the 2012 NBA season a playground where he could swing back and forth.
The trade situation is well-documented.
First the buzz was all about how Howard would be gone by the trade deadline, with teams lining up to try to acquire him. Eventually, he signed to opt-in to his final year with Orlando, though reportedly just to avoid going to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Then there was all the controversy over whether he wanted coach Stan Van Gundy fired.
In any case, the head games conflict with the court games.
The centerpiece of the team has been a distraction all season, which doesn't bode well for team chemistry headed into the playoffs.
Against Boston Celtics: Produce Points
A potential match-up with the Boston Celtics reminds any Orlando Magic fan of the nightmare contest between the two on January 23.
With only Dwight Howard reaching double digits in points, the Magic scored a franchise-low 56 points in the game. Though Boston played without Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and three other players, Orlando had trouble putting the ball in the basket (doing so just 16 times).
The Magic have the NBA's fourth-best defense in points allowed per game, but they couldn't handle the Celtics' third-best defense.
At the time, Orlando was six games above .500, while Boston was below that mark.
In the rematch three days later, the Magic started with a bang (32 points in the first quarter) but petered out in the fourth quarter (8 points).
Orlando needs to find a way to up its offensive production, whether it be from point man Jameer Nelson, veteran Jason Richardson or former spark plug Hedo Turkoglu.
Against Atlanta Hawks: Forget the Past
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Speaking of first round exits, the Atlanta Hawks forced one by the Orlando Magic last year and could do it again.
Atlanta has won six straight regular season match-ups against Orlando and pulled a 4-2 upset in the 2011 playoffs.
For the Hawks, the recent run over the Magic meant more than just a regular win.
"They dominated us for so many years," Hawks forward Josh Smith said after the February 23 contest. "We wanted to try to be able to return the favor."
This season, Orlando only came close to beating Atlanta in a February overtime game. Including that end-of-regulation tally, the Magic haven't surpassed 81 points in four quarters against the Hawks this year.
The problem permeates beyond Dwight Howard, as the center missed the most recent face-off. Howard also was quiet in the other non-overtime loss, shooting just seven times.
Ryan Anderson, Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick will have to step up to overthrow the recent past.
Against Indiana Pacers: Find Some Depth
The Orlando Magic didn't have as much trouble with the Indiana Pacers this year, but they will struggle when it comes to the tiring playoffs.
The Pacers have eight players who averaged nine points or more, an incredible depth that will give the Magic fits.
While Dwight Howard is Orlando's Superman, Indiana can sick three different big men against him.
Roy Hibbert, David West and Tyler Hansbrough can each defend Dwight Howard, and though only West has the experience to do so well, the other two can play Hack-a-Howard.
Besides the inside depth, Indiana is much more equipped on the outside as well.
The Magic rely on the three-point shooting of Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick and others, but the Pacers have a solid rotation of five players on the wings who score at a more efficient rate.
Indiana only won one of four games against the Magic this season, so this match-up would give the Magic the best chance to win—but it requires the Magic to continue their downward spiral as the season closes.