How Good Are The Magic?
By Fanspeak contributing writer Geoff Nelowet
A lot of people are pretty high on the Orlando Magic right now – and rightfully so. The Magic are 8-0 in the playoffs after crushing the Atlanta Hawks in four embarrassing games in which the Magic won by 43, 14, 30 and 14. This was not a close series by any stretch, and many people expected it to go six or seven games, so what can we make of this? Can we expect the Magic to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers (assuming they win) to make it back to the NBA Finals? At this point, probably. Should we pencil them in to beat the LA Lakers in the finals? No, and here’s why:
For starters, the Atlanta Hawks looked atrocious in the playoffs. They barely knocked off the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that lost its best player days before the playoffs began, after trailing the series 3-2. After watching Atlanta lose game five at home, you could tell this team was not ready to make a serious run in the playoffs. If the Bucks had Andrew Bogut, they probably would have won – and they should have won without him considering that they out-hustled the Hawks at every opportunity.
We also cannot ignore the match-ups that Orlando has greatly benefited from. Both Charlotte and Atlanta rely on tough defense to win games, but Orlando is a superior defensive team with Dwight Howard in the middle. Imagine a playoff series between the Phoenix Suns and say the Toronto Raptors – two below average defensive teams that rely on their scoring. The Suns would barely have to show up to sweep the Raptors because they are two teams that rely on the same strengths, but Phoenix happens to be substantially better at the same game. There is no doubt that if Orlando faced Boston, it would be a highly competitive series, and let’s not pretend that Orlando will have a walk in the park with LeBron James and Co. in Eastern Conference Finals.
If Orlando makes it to the NBA Finals, expect a similar result as last year. The Lakers (again assuming they win) are one of the few teams that can match Orlando’s physicality, which essentially nullifies the edge that the Magic have found in the playoffs. Whether its Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol, the Lakers have an answer for Dwight Howard that the Hawks and Bobcats (and Cleveland) have not had. Vince Carter is not the difference-maker for this club, nor is Jameer Nelson. If the NBA Finals end up being a rematch of last year’s, expect a long and competitive series, but the playoffs have not proven anything new about the Magic other than that they benefited from an excellent draw.