I was lucky enough to get to talk some playoff basketball with Andrew Melnick of the Orlando Magic blog Howard the Dunk. We exchanged questions and I was able to get Andrew’s insight on the upcoming series.
1. The Magic have had a long layoff since sweeping Charlotte. How do you think that will affect them? Positively or Negatively? Why?
The issue of rust vs. rest has been a popular topic of conversation in Orlando. I think it works both ways for the Magic. It could hurt Dwight Howard. Howard already had his minutes limited by constant foul trouble in Orlando’s first round series with the Charlotte Bobcats and is itching to get back on the floor.
2. Compare this years team with Vince Carter to last year’s team with Hedo Turkoglu. Which team do you like better and why?
It’s tough to compare two different teams in two different seasons, but I think this year’s edition of the Magic has a few advantages over last year’s.
The Vince Carter-Hedo Turkoglu debate was heated for a while but I think Carter’s performance from February 1st through the end of the season (his true shooting percentage from then on was 60%) combined with Turkoglu’s performance this season should have put an end to that debate. Turkoglu certainly endeared himself to Magic fans during his five years in Orlando but Carter is simply a better all-around player.
This Magic team is deeper. They play 10 night in and night out and could potentially play 11 (Brandon Bass) or 12 (Anthony Johnson) if need be. Matt Barnes has brought a much-needed toughness. Jason Williams has done a very good job as the backup Point Guard. Guard J.J. Redick has shown great improve and Ryan Anderson, who was also acquired in the Vince Carter deal, is a good 3-point shooter and has proven to be a better rebounder than most thought.
Despite all of that, the biggest difference in this year’s playoff team and last year’s is Jameer Nelson. Nothing against Rafer Alston, who was Orlando’s starting Point Guard last postseason, filling in for the injured Nelson, but Nelson is a superior player. He proved as much with his opening round performance against the Bobcats – 23.8 points, 4.5 assists and 1.3 turnovers per game.
3. Dwight Howard was in foul trouble throughout the series against Charlotte. Is that a concern going forward?
This is Orlando’s biggest concern. They were able to sweep the Bobcats with Howard playing limited minutes, but the Magic know the competition is only going to get stronger and they will need Howard on the court to continue to advance. Howard has been called for some ticky-tack fouls and there have been some calls that probably shouldn’t have been made, but Howard’s biggest problem is that he lets these calls get into his head. He becomes frustrated and that frustration hurts other parts of his game.It also limits Howard’s aggressiveness on both ends of the floor.
4. In what area do you think the Magic cause the most problems for the Hawks?
The Magic have a lot of weapons offensively but the one player who has consistently killed the Hawks is Howard. Howard averaged 21.0 points, 16.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game in four meetings with the Hawks this season. For the most part, he has been able to stay out of foul trouble against the Hawks. He’s had his way scoring, on the glass and on the defensive end against the Hawks this season – they have had absolutely no answer for him.
5. What is your prediction?
The Hawks have a very good team but the Magic are a matchup nightmare for them. The Hawks were not a good road team during the regular season and although their game 6 win in Milwaukee most likely did them wonders confidence-wise, I can’t see the Hawks winning a game on Orlando’s home floor. My prediction is Magic in 5.
Many thanks to Andrew for the insight.