Are you kidding me? How are people and the national media not seeing this? All we keep hearing about as far as title contention is Kobe in Los Angeles, Lebron’s elbow and how healthy he is, and the Celtics and the experience they have.
You don’t hear a thing about the Orlando Magic yet. And it’s an absolute joke. Even tonight when they destroyed Atlanta, 114-71, it was because Atlanta was tired and Orlando had rest. Yes that is a reason, but it is also because Orlando is the vastly superior team.
The NBA is an individual driven sport, I think we all realize that. From Wilt to Kareem, from Jordan to Kobe, the NBA markets individual athletes as their main attraction. But how are the Orlando Magic not amongst the favorites to win the ‘Ship this year?
Because Dwight Howard couldn’t stay out of foul trouble in the first round? Because they don’t have Lebron? Because they don’t have Kobe?
You need a team to win a championship, and they’re the best team in the league. Yeah, I said it, and they are. They’re the best team, but they don’t have the best player. I have been saying since March that the Orlando magic were probably going to be one of the toughest teams to beat in the playoffs. Perhaps people will now take note.
The playoffs are all about matchups and Orlando provides a tough matchup for any style of team playing against them.
They’re better than Boston. They’re better than Los Angeles, and yes—better than Lebron and Cleveland.
The Beauty of Inside-Outside Basketball
The inside-outside game that Orlando runs on offense with their dribble-drive and three-point shooting, combined with the most physically dominating center in the league, is impossible to defend when executed properly.
It’s really simplistic basketball when you watch them play. Throw a beast in Dwight Howard down low who commands a double team, surround him with shooters and space the floor, and watch the offense play pick-your-poison and exploit mismatches. Then you have their versatile players that bring unique components to the game, and you have an extremely dangerous team.
Do I have to mention their pick-and-roll/pop game?
During tonight’s game with Atlanta, the game was tied in the second quarter before Orlando went on a 64-20 run and broke the game wide-open. You read that correctly—a 64-20 run. It’s what they do, and they do it well. You pick what you want to take away on offense, and with the amount of playmakers they have, they take what you give them, and allow everyone else to beat you.
They swept the Charlotte Bobcats with their best player playing 26 minutes per night, and Vince Carter playing like he was a rookie again.
Versatile Players Create Mismatches
Rashard Lewis gives teams fits as if you play him small, he has enough of a post game and rebounding presence to do work down low, but where he really shines is his ability to stretch the floor and rain treys, therefore opening up things for Howard underneath.
Lewis was the X-Factor last year in the Cleveland series, and they had no answer for him. You must respect his shot, yet he is still athletic enough to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket.
Jameer Nelson is one of the best scoring point guards in the league, and is playing with the utmost confidence right now. But he is also an underrated passer who can make the right decision regarding shoot or pass and will find the open man. Vince Carter has the athletic ability to create shots and offense for other teammates, and plays the role of closer in tight games.
Matt Barnes and Mickael Peitrius are good perimeter defenders who are scrappy energy players. Peitrius is also more than capable of stepping out and hitting shots from deep, although does not offer much when trying to create his own shot.
Ryan Anderson, Marcin Gortat, Jason Williams, and J.J. Reddick give the Magic a quality bench, and both Williams and Reddick can hit the trey along with the rest of the team. Ryan Anderson is the absolute perfect fit for the Magic, as he was thrown into the trade from New Jersey that sent VC to Orlando this past offseason. Orlando did not look at him as throw-in at all. They saw yet another big man who was able to step out and hit the three ball to offer matchup problems to fit their gamestyle.
Gortat is a perfect backup to Howard, as he provides energy and hustle, while also providing great effort on the boards and in the low post.
Howard may not be the best offensive center in the game, but he is the most dominant. He is too strong to be bodied up down low by anyone his size or smaller, yet when you put a big body on him, he has quick enough feet to face the basket and make a move. It is why the signing of Shaq didn’t make as much sense to me as it did everyone else.
Cleveland lost the playoff series last season to the Magic because they had no answer for Rashard Lewis, or Dwight Howard. Rashard was stepping out and draining threes and Dwight was doing work against Cleveland’s bigs, especially against Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was not fleet-footed enough to stay with Dwight.
Shaq is not going to be able to stay with Dwight Howard either when he faces the basket, and Hickson and Anderson Varejao are not strong enough to stop him down low. The only thing that changed was getting Antawn Jamison to match up against Rashard Lewis, but he is hardly known for his defense.
Last but certainly not least, is they have a great coach in Stan Van Gundy, who is looking for gritty defensive effort first and foremost, and unselfish basketball on the offensive end. On defense, the Magic play terrific help defense, and funnel everything to Howard, the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, who led the league in blocks.
Howard is usually waiting in the paint to defend the basket and swat the shot into the stands. When you combine the demanding nature of Van Gundy as a coach and what he wants his team to do, the personnel the Magic have, and the style of game they play, you have a recipe for an extremely dangerous team that can play different styles of basketball.
The Magic have the defensive ability to play a slow-it-down style, they can definitely get out and run, and they can play guard oriented ball, post oriented ball, or always fall back on the pick and roll to Dwight.
Yes, Cleveland has Lebron and Los Angeles has Kobe, who are able to singlehandedly take over games and series, but they are going to need plenty of help from their teammates to stop the diverse and potent offensive attack, and try to score against the a tough defense, which includes the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year.