April 17, 2008
After 1,230 regular season games, the NBA Playoffs are finally here. (Adam Haluska hallelujah!) KD and I will deliver our first round thoughts and predictions tomorrow, but for now we turn to the bloggin' team experts. On tap: Ben Q. Rock from Third Quarter Collapse and Jeff Wong from The Score breakdown the Orlando-Toronto series.
Ben Q. Rock, Third Quarter Collapse: Orlando won the season series 2-1, but take that information with a huge grain of salt. Chris Bosh missed the third meeting between the Raptors and Magic, which we won, but barely. The game was tight until the fourth quarter, when T.J. Ford bone-headedly took it upon himself to end all of the Raptors' possessions in the first six minutes.
I'd be stating the obvious if I said we need to contain Chris Bosh and Toronto's pick-and-roll game. Dwight Howard is inarguably a better player than Bosh is, but Howard has difficulty guarding Bosh because he has the range to draw him away from the basket, but also the quickness to drive past him to the basket for an easy score. Instead, I offer this insight: The Magic have a point differential of just -8 in the two games versus Toronto in which Bosh played despite turning the ball over nearly twice as often. If they can find a way to force more turnovers — paging Rashard Lewis, Orlando's steals leader — or a way to reduce their own, they shouldn't have too much trouble putting Toronto away in six games. Lewis and Turkoglu should be able to shoot the Magic into the second round. The website 82games.com shows the Raptors won just 19% of their games against teams in the top-10 in effective field goal percentage; the Magic are second only to the Phoenix Suns in that category.
However, since I'm not sure that we'll be able to force Ford and Jose Calderon into making mistakes, and since I am sure these teams are equally talented, I predict the Magic will win the series in seven games, with home-court advantage being the deciding factor. What's that, you say? We have a better road record (27-14) than home record (24-16)? Chill. 10 of those 16 home were at the hands of Western teams, and they don't figure into the discussion at this point. The Magic are 8-3 this year at home against Eastern playoff teams. It won't be easy, but they'll manage.
Jeff Wong, Courtside at The Score: What to watch: how the Raptors will contain the Magical offense, headlined by Rashard Lewis' perimeter shot, Hedo Turkoglu's playmaking and Dwight Howard's inside stuff. In three games this season, Orlando averaged 105.7 points on 49% shooting. Mr. Obvious says, defend better.
What to hear: how commentators will pronounce Andrea "Bargnani." It's barn-YAH-nee. If you can say "Turkoglu," you can say "Bargnani."
A quick look at a few key players:
Chris Bosh — He struggled mightily in his first playoff experience last year against the Nets. How will he do this time, against his buddy Dwight?
Rasho Nesterovic — Our best defensive player has emerged offensively as a starter in the last month and a half. Will he be back to playing the 11 minutes that he averaged against Orlando this season?
TJ Ford — Will we see him play point guard or faux point guard, in the Mike James mold?
Jose Calderon — No questions here. He'll do his usual stellar job, which will be needed especially if TJ shoots more than he passes.
Andrea Bargnani — He tends to perform better in big games. Will he be on consistently during this series?
Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Carlos Delfino — Can they keep the Magic's shooters in check?
Final prediction: this goes the full seven, with the Magic winning it on a controversial call. That's the only way they can beat the Raptors, right?