NBA Playoffs: Don't Forget the Orlando Magic

Steve ResnickCorrespondent IApril 18, 2008


That is one worst most commonly used when describing the annual "Underdog of the Conference" during the playoffs.

Is it just a coincidence that that same word was used many times during the regular season to describe the Orlando Magic? I think not.

On Sunday, The Orlando Magic will continue their hunt for the Larry O'Brien trophy by beginning their best-of-7 series against the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Magic went 2-1 against the Raptors in the regular season and many people, myself included, are counting on them to come out on top. Why?

Jameer Nelson, Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling are all decent point guards, but will really have to step up their games to get to Jose Calderon and T.J. Ford's levels. Rashard Lewis should do an average job defending Chris Bosh on defense, but should destroy him on offense since he is a natural small forward.

Each team's bench will be a vital role in how far their teams go in the off-season. The Orlando Magic's bench consists of defensive-minded players such as Keith Bogans, Keyon Dooling and Adonal Foyle. They also have offensive threats in J.J. Redick and Brian Cook. Also coming off the bench for the Magic are Arroyo and some little used players like Pat Garrity, Marcin Gortat and James Augustine.

The Toronto Raptor's bench consists of Ford, Andrea Bargnani, 3-point Specialist Jason Kapono and Slam Dunk Contest participant Jamario Moon in addition to Maceo Baston, Primoz Brezec, Carlos Delfino, Jorge Garbajosa, Joey Graham and Kris Humphries.

The Magic also have a better coach in Stan Van Gundy than the Raptors do with Sam Mitchell. SVG's career regular season winning percentage is 61.4% compared to that of 45.1% (Mitchell's). The post season also proves more successful for Mr. Van Gundy, whose record of 17-11 (60.7%) looks much better than Mitchell's 2-4 (33.3%).

There are many factors which will determine who wins this match up: Dwight Howard vs. Chris Bosh, Toronto's PGs vs. Orlando's PGs and the Coaches success in getting the players to perform at their highest level. 

Which team will come out victorious? If the Magic players can play to their full potential, then they should sweep the Raptors, winning the series in four games. However, if they struggle, this match up could easily go to the maximum seven games.