Season Series: Magic 3-1
This is one of the semi-final match-ups: click below to see a preview/prediction for all
The Orlando Magic have everything it takes to win the NBA Championship this year and the way they made it through the first round rather easily by sending the inexperienced Bobcats packing in four games (as I predicted) is proof of how good they truly are.
The Bobcats knew they were going to have to stop Dwight Howard, and next they wanted to have none of Vinsanity so halting Carter was their 2nd priority. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they totally forgot about Jameer Nelson who gave Charlotte headaches in the entire first round.
In the regular season, Nelson was averaging 12.6 points per game and mainly distributed the ball to Howard, Carter and Rashard Lewis but early in the playoffs, Nelson put up a staggering 32 points in each games one and three. In somewhat surprising fashion, it hasn't been Howard and Carter leading the way like many Orlando fans have come to be familiar with but Rashard Lewis has put himself behind Nelson on the stat sheet.
It may just be the reason you see the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals and this year win it. Everyone knows you can count on 'Superman' every night to dominate defensively while putting up great numbers offensively.
The Magic picked up Vince Carter to be the extra punch they needed to beat a team like the Los Angeles Lakers (who they lost in last year in the Finals) and even through they have the exact same record in the regular season this year as they did last, I know they are a better team... and so should you. If Howard and Carter have the luxury of knowing that other players on their team can take control of the game and put the Magic in a position to win, the Orlando is possible the most dangerous team in the NBA at the moment.
In my opinion, this is going to be a way better series than the Magic-Bucks would have been but the Magic are head and shoulders above Atlanta. The main difference will be how Orlando can travel on the road and win basketball games. When I took the Magic in four games against the Bobcats, people thought I was crazy to underestimate the Bobcats but it was either Charlotte fan's still upset they lost the Hornets years ago, or someone who was simply underestimating the capability of the Magic.
This Magic team is for real. No question about it. They are 34-7 on their home court while going 25-16 on the road and the only other teams in the East who have better road-records are the Cavaliers and Celtics (they are playing in the other series). Atlanta may have matched Orlando's home-court record of 34-7 but one of their losses came against the Magic and their only win against Orlando was by two points.
The problem is, they are 19-22 on the road and because of that the series won't go past six games. You heard it hear first. The Hawks are a talented squad and will take a game or two but if you've got Nelson and Lewis lighting it up, knowing that behind them are two actual superstars Howard and Carter, the Magic are possible the best team in the NBA and their size will hurt Atlanta. Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus also do a great job sharing time at the small forward position and J.J. Redick can always come off the bench to give the Magic an extra spark.
Atlanta fans won't like it, but the Magic have been their before, and they'll be there again. They are experienced, know what it takes to win the East, and the bitter taste left in their mouth after last years NBA Finals loss to the Lakers, has only made them want it that much more.
The Magic have been to the Finals twice (in 94-95' and 08-09') and this year want nothing more than the 'NBA Champions' banner hanging in the rafters instead of 'Eastern Conference Champions'. They've been there done that... and literally got the t-shirt.
There is something about the Atlanta Hawks that love to play in game seven. In 2007, they went to game seven against the Boston Celtics almost pulling through on what would have been a huge upset but fell short. In 2008, they took Miami to game seven, knocked them out and then got swept by Cleveland in the second round.
This year, the Hawks have yet again done it for the third straight year taking the Milwaukee Bucks to game seven. The Hawks-Bucks series was certainly not what everyone expected it would be, as many people knew Milwaukee has a shot but with how much Atlanta improved over the last couple years, most thought getting past the first round would be a cake-walk for the top four teams in the East.
For Cleveland, Orlando and Boston it was but for Atlanta, not so much and that should concern Hawks fans going into round two against the Magic. The Magic are not only the defending Eastern Conference Champions but want nothing more than to go back to the Finals and bring home the hardware.
Atlanta will have to play much better than they did against Milwaukee in they want to stand a chance. In games one and two, Atlanta played much like they had all season with back-to-back ten points victories on their home court. As one would expect, Joe Johnson lead the way with a combined 49 points in the two games while Josh Smith averaged 12 rebounds and dished in on the scoreboard as well.
When games three and four rolled around, and the home-court advantage shifted to Milwaukee, so did every other advantage as John Salmons and Brandon Jennings dominated both games. Game five, the Hawks blew it as the Bucks stormed back and took the lead late in the game and stole a 3-2 advantage in the series.
The Hawks weren't happy and it showed in game six. It started off a close battle and looked as if the game would be down to the wire, but Atlanta ran away with the game in the last 24 minutes knotting up the series with a 83-69 win. Back on their home-court, the Hawks pulled it off and all that matters is they won... not how many games it took but that they are moving on to round two.
The Hawks are without a doubt a great team and if they play their style of basketball they have a chance to beat the Magic. Alright, who am I kidding... they have no chance folks. Atlanta is skilled but way to small and don't have enough depth.
If the Magic can control the ball down low and force Atlanta to take unwanted shots, the series could end quick, real quick. Joe Johnson is phenomenal and has shown all season he is a top ten player in the league and has continued through out the playoffs with over 20.0 points per game. Behind Johnson, the Hawks have a steady cast with skill that includes Horford, Crawford, Smith, Bibby and Williams.
Crawford is the teams 6th man and can come off the bench to give players much needed rest while the Hawks don't loose any offensive punch. Down low in the paint, it's Al Horford and Josh Smith and against 90-95% of the league can put up great numbers as well as stop the other teams big men on their end of the court. They have no chance (even together) of stopping Dwight Howard.
The dude is a freak, he is a beast, he is Superman and will dominate the Hawks every time he steps onto the court.
Mike Bibby and Marvin Williams put up approximately twenty points per night but don't have the skills of Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter over in Orlando. Stop them, and you still have to worry about Rashard Lewis. There is no way around it... the Hawks are screwed. The only way they can win this series is if they play great basketball and the Magic play horribly but it won't happen.
The Magic want this bad. Luckily for Atlanta, they have the experience from making the playoffs in previous year but they're not as experienced as the Magic... or as good for that matter. The Magic's three wins in the season series were all by approximately twenty points and the Hawks win was only by two points later in the season.
You can't argue the fact Orlando on paper should win in four or five.
TheCoach's Pick: MAGIC in FIVE