Scouting Update: 76ers-Magic, Game 2
There are Game 1 upsets that serve to wake up, motivate, or otherwise inspire the favorites to get back to being themselves. Then there are games like the one Sunday, when Philadelphia might have grabbed all the spirit it needs to win three of the next six games. Orlando completely collapsed in the fourth quarter and got crushed by a few players who rarely made a difference this season. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has to regroup his team from perhaps its most devastating loss of the season. Luckily for him, he has three days before Game 2.
• Courtney Lee was nervous feeding the post, struggling with his own defender's pressure.
• Rashard Lewis scored easily in the post -- no help offered.
• The best Magic action was high ball-screens at the angle featuring Dwight Howard, with Lewis on ball side. They forced Lewis' man to help on Howard, then race to recover on Lewis. So Lewis had a shot, or he looked inside to Howard, who sealed his recovering defender. But late in the game, we saw this only once or twice.
• It seemed the Magic were surprised when Philly ran a pick-and-pop with Donyell Marshall for a 3-pointer (he made it). They will be ready for him this time, but what will they do? Considering that Marshall is not much of a rebounding threat, maybe they will switch it, unless it's a screen involving Rafer Alston.
• Philly went with Royal Ivey down the stretch for defense (though he did make a 3). If the Sixers do that again, his man is a likely designated helper.
• Lewis had switched off Marshall on the game's second-to-last possession, then forgot about him after the Sixers grabbed the offensive rebound. He has to be thinking, "Where is he?" and go find him if that happens again, rather than waiting for Marshall to have caught the ball first.
• The side pick-and-roll Orlando ran late in the game just didn't produce much. The Magic were better attacking the middle, forcing the Sixers to help and risk the easy 3-pointer or stay home and allow the driving Magic player an easy path to the basket. Howard's man didn't offer much help, but if he does, Howard can ram home a missed shot or a lob.
• Last year, after winning Game 1 against Detroit, the Sixers could not have believed they were likely to win the series. This year, their confidence should be much higher. If it's not, Sixers coach Tony DiLeo will work to make that point the next few days.
• Philly elected to stay home on shooters when the Magic ran ball-screen actions up top or pinch-post handoff plays. This opened up driving lanes for Lee and Alston, with Lee being the more athletic finisher. Philly might decide to help more on Lee but still stay home on Alston, considering Lee scored 13 second-quarter points.
• Philly decided not to double Howard very often, which led to his 31 points, a playoff high for his career. The Sixers cannot expect to make up 18-point deficits again, and one way to avoid them is to make things tougher on Howard. He has become very good with the long lefty hook in the lane, but he often releases it past the midline, which means the Sixers could send someone down there on a dig and still recover out to the shooter.
• In the second half, Philly spread the floor for Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala, with Howard being the chaser on defense inside. This forced the Magic to leave their perimeter man to help Howard's guy, who was in the paint, then race back out. It was an effective way to get 3-point looks. Orlando could elect to leave Howard home and help directly with the nearest weakside defender, but it's an easier read for the ball handler.
• Sixers guard Lou Williams doubled on Howard in the third, and he almost got a steal. He has quick hands and feet and might be a pest to Howard.
• The Magic were much better in second half with weakside defenders getting into the ball-side box. It stagnated the Sixers, who need more ball reversals.
• Philly was 11-of-20 from the free throw line, and Iggy missed two late that could have cost the Sixers the game.
• The Magic did not have a good team vibe going, even when they were rolling. How will they react to the meltdown?
• Orlando is a great shooting team, with many confident shooters. The Magic could easily bust out with 12-15 made 3s in Game 2.
• Miller and Iguodala are able to create more than expected, and this can really open things up for other guys to make shots or attack the helpers. The Sixers will be even harder to pull away from now.
I'm definitely noticing a negative feeling among the Magic players. Lots of barking and curled-up faces when a play did not work out to their liking. And Philly has a chance at doing what it failed to do last year, which is pull the road sweep to start a series. But Orlando built the huge lead because it is the superior team, and the Magic should be able to re-establish that, at least for one game.
Prediction: Orlando wins Game 2
David Thorpe is an NBA analyst for Scouts Inc. and the executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., where he oversees the player development program for more than 40 NBA, European and D-League players. Those players include Kevin Martin, Rob Kurz, Luol Deng, Courtney Lee and Tyrus Thomas. To e-mail him, click here.
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