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The short end of it: by beating the Charlotte Bobcats in their final home game of the regular season, the Orlando Magic clinched the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and are slated to face off against the Indiana Pacers in a first round playoff series.
The long end of it: it remains to be seen whether or not the Magic, without Dwight Howard, have a shot at pulling off the upset versus the Pacers.
If Dwight was healthy, it wouldn’t have been ridiculous to suggest that Orlando would stand a good chance of beating Indiana in the first round. With Dwight in the middle, he would have put a lot of strain on the Pacers on offense and defense. Not only would Dwight have given Roy Hibbert trouble on both ends of the floor, but his presence would have trickled down to the rest of the players for Indiana in every facet of the game. For example, with Hibbert being defended by Dwight, that would have forced players like Danny Granger to really pick up the slack offensively in the event Hibbert just couldn’t get things going.
That’s not to say Granger couldn’t do it but with Dwight being able to defend Hibbert (or, on the flipside, knock him out of the game due to foul trouble) while also being a presence in the paint, the likes of Granger would face some resistance on offense. And that’s all the Magic would need.
Because Orlando showed little trouble scoring against Indiana during the regular season. With Dwight in the post, Ryan Anderson on the perimeter, and an array of shooters for the Magic ready to snipe away from behind the three-point line at a moment’s notice, points wouldn’t have been hard to come by. With Orlando being able to do what they do best whenever they want (run post-ups for Dwight, execute pick-and-rolls with Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, and Hedo Turkoglu, while simultaneously building off both play types to fuel their perimeter attack), they wouldn’t need to pitch a perfect game defensively.
Likewise, if Dwight was having trouble generating points in the post, the Magic could try compensating by relying more on pick-and-roll sets. Or vice-versa. In essence, Orlando had a “Plan B” on offense.
But without Dwight, not only do the Magic need to pitch a perfect game on defense now that Hibbert and company won’t be negatively impacted by Dwight’s presence but there is no “Plan B” offensively. Orlando is going to live and die with a pick-and-roll heavy offense. For the Magic, there is no Dwight to fall back on.
The Pacers are a different and better team, too, since Orlando’s last encounter with them.
Needless to say, head coach Stan Van Gundy will have his hands full developing a gameplan (sans Dwight) to beat Indiana in a seven-game series.
If anyone is up to the challenge, though, it’s Van Gundy.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
With Glen Davis spraining his right ankle late in the first quarter, other players for the Magic had to step it up offensively. Redick did his part, setting a career-high with 31 points on 9-for-19 shooting from the floor.
With a win against the Bobcats, who will own the NBA’s worst winning percentage ever if they don’t beat the Knicks on Thursday, Orlando officially clinched the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. What’s next? A date with the Pacers in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
If Redick was the “MVP” of this game, then Ryan Anderson was the runner-up. His work primarily on the offensive glass fueled another double-double effort (24 points and 13 rebounds), which the Magic needed from Anderson.