Scouting Update: 76ers-Magic, Game 6
Throw out the scouting reports. Forget what happened in the first five games. Game 6 will look completely different with Dwight Howard (suspension) and Courtney Lee (fractured sinus) out of Orlando's lineup.
• No need to reconfigure (again) how to cover Howard, who was a destructive force in Game 5. Instead, Philly has to come up with a game plan for a team they haven't seen before.
The Sixers may prepare for an Orlando team that goes really small with Rashard Lewis at the 5, or one that shoots even more 3s than usual. So Philly's bench players who have not played much thus far need to be ready at a moment's notice.
Whatever Orlando does, Philadelphia has to get Andre Iguodala involved early and often. When he's engaged, he can practically score at will. And without Howard patrolling the paint, Iguodala will have more room to create inside. If his shot is falling and Orlando has to extend its defense even more, Iggy will be a perfect set-up guy. But that should come after he's scored a lot and earned multiple trips to the free-throw line.
• Getting on the same page defensively is a priority, because all of the rules that have applied thus far will be thrown out with Howard not in the middle -- except for helping off the shooters. Indecision here can mean a lot more open 3s for the Magic.
• Howard killed the Sixers inside on the offensive glass in Game 5. Marcin Gortat, who is also an excellent offensive rebounder, will try to do the same.
• It's human nature to relax and get overconfident when the opposing team is without its best player and one of its most productive ones. That's what Philly has to guard against.
• It can be expected that the Magic players will come to the arena Thursday feeling cheated and angry after losing their star. It would be a mistake to let that translate into emotional play at the expense of execution.
• Gortat is a very capable shot-blocker and inside scorer, so the Magic should plan on getting him into the flow.
• Orlando had some success getting Lewis to post up, mostly when he got one foot in the paint before firing his turnaround jumper.
• The Magic have to be much sharper on their rotations and build a wall, instead of a funnel, around the paint. Losing Howard is not just about the loss of their best player; it also cuts their effective shot-blockers down in half. So channeling players into the block area for Howard or Gortat to contest must be changed. If the Magic go smaller, look for a lot more switches on screens.
• Stan Van Gundy may decide to alleviate some of the pressure on his guys by giving his shooters the green light from 3. One of their best chances to win is to outscore the Sixers by 20-plus points from the 3-point line.
• We could see the Magic play two point guards in the same lineup to make up for the loss of Lee on offense. He has the fourth-lowest turnover rate of all shooting guards in the playoffs, second-lowest of all starters.
• Iguodala has the potential to go for 50 points in this game -- Orlando has been mostly helpless defending him.
• As stated before Game 5, 3-point shooting is always an X factor, but especially so for this team and in this series.
Conventional wisdom suggests Philly is the easy pick here. Clearly the Sixers have a good chance to force a Game 7 with Howard suspended. But being such a prohibitive favorite can cause a tight feeling, as the Magic can attest. Philly will feel what that's like for the first time in this series, while Orlando's players will enjoy a game of relative freedom.
Prediction: Orlando wins Game 6
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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