Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images
“We all we got.”
Glen Davis came up with the slogan in response to the Orlando Magic’s whirlwind regular season that has been decimated by injuries, punctuated with Dwight Howard needing season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disk.
With Dwight done for the year, Hedo Turkoglu still recovering from facial fracture surgery (he donned a mask for Thursday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies), and Davis — himself — trying to heal a sprained right ankle as fast as possible, it’s no surprise the Magic have taken on a bunker-like mentality. And for Orlando, in a season which has featured a lot of drama and controversy, it’s only fitting that they will be playing with their backs against the wall in their first round playoff series with the Indiana Pacers.
The Magic have been playing with their backs against the all practically all year, what with Dwight’s saga dominating the headlines. But will any of that matter? Does Orlando, with the odds heavily stacked against them, stand a chance against the Indiana Pacers?
The crew at Magic Basketball, with the help from our friends over at Eight Points, Nine Seconds, attempt to find that out.
What is the greatest matchup advantage for the Magic?
Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: There are few teams capable of truly guarding Ryan Anderson when he’s stretched out. Certainly Indiana has the advantage inside, but if Anderson can stretch things out and catch fire it might create some problems for the Pacers. Then again, with Dwight out and Anderson on the three-point line I have to wonder who is going to rebound the ball.
Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: Ryan Anderson. “The Grenade Launcher” should be able to draw some of Indiana’s considerable brawn out of the paint and free some things up for a hopefully dialed-in Jameer Nelson. It’s really the Magic’s only hope, as I see things.
Matt Scribbins, Magic Basketball: With the current roster, Ryan Anderson is the greatest matchup advantage no matter who the Magic play. Other teams, including the Pacers, do not have players who can defend a stretch four that knocks down shots consistently from beyond the arc.
Tim Donahue, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Ryan Anderson vs. the Pacer starting bigs. Neither David West nor Roy Hibbert are fleet of foot, and a stretch big like Anderson can pull either of them far out of their comfort zone defensively. A big series by Anderson will not only weaken the Pacer D by spreading them out, but could force the Pacers to go small.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Ummm … hmmm … let me see if … got nothing. Would perhaps say the coach if I didn’t presume a few of the players hate Stan now and Frank Vogel hadn’t been so good this season. But, otherwise, just not seeing a single advantage for the Magic without Dwight.
What is the greatest matchup advantage for the Pacers?
Drexler: Roy Hibbert will not be contained by any of the “bigs” left in Orlando. We cannot forget that Hibbert is an All-Star center and an extreme talent, especially when he’s not restricted by the best center in the league. Look for Indiana to pound the ball in and let Hibbert go to work.
Nowell: Defensive length. I was going to write “post depth,” since the Magic have precisely none right now and will likely get feasted on by Hibbert and West. But this applies across the board; at almost every position, the Pacers have an athlete who can disrupt Orlando’s already limited ability to create shots.
Scribbins: Once again, with the current roster, almost every team is going to have an advantage inside against Orlando. It’s a tough task to lose the most dominant center in the game and still compete inside. David West and Roy Hibbert will dominate.
Donahue: The Pacer starting bigs vs. Orlando’s bigs. With no Dwight Howard, both Hibbert and West should have an advantage in the post over whoever is guarding them. If the Pacers are able to get these two consistent touches on the block, I can’t see the Magic being able to make stops.
Wade: Roy Hibbert. I thought it was a little silly when the Magic gave so much money to Marcin Gortat to back up Howard. They could really use him back right now though, eh? There isn’t a player on Orlando’s roster who can even consider stopping Hibbert. Fortunately for Magic fans, sometimes the Pacers do that themselves by simply ignoring him. But I think at least one 27-12 game can be expected from the big fella.
Who is the x-factor in this series for the Magic?
Drexler: I’m not going to say Daniel Orton, so deal with it. How about Glen Davis? Call me crazy, but Big Baby had a pretty big game against the Celtics a week or so ago, proving that he has the ability to post a big double-double, possibly even a 20-10 for the Magic. It might sound nuts, but just imagine if Davis was able to do this a couple games in a row?
Nowell: Jameer Nelson. A vintage Jameer can spiritually motivate Orlando and create problems for a defense with his cannonball runs to the rim. If he’s anything less than spectacular, though, Magic fans are going to want this over with pretty quick.
Scribbins: I thought about making him the greatest matchup advantage, but instead I’ll just make SVG the x-factor. He is better at his job than any other person involved in this series. It’s as simple as that.
Donahue: Stan Van Gundy. Ultimately, the Pacers should overwhelm the shorthanded Magic, but if Van Gundy can get his guys to play defense and hit shots, then stealing a win in Indy will put pressure on a team unused to the role of favorite. His style gives the Pacers problems.
Wade: Three-point shooting. They still have snipers in Ryan Anderson, Redick, Hedo, and even J-Rich. So while they may be facing a better team, they could certainly win this series with two weeks of hot shooting from the outside.
Who is the x-factor in this series for the Pacers?
Drexler: Paul George. In this particular series you can’t do much about Hibbert and a lot of perimeter attention will go to Granger. But without Dwight in the middle, the painted area is now open and vulnerable to those who like to attack the rim. I know George is shooting 38.5 percent from deep this year, but it’s going to be in his best interest to attack the rim, exploit Orlando, and wait to take that longer shot. If he can do that, Indiana will be tough to beat.
Nowell: George Hill. If Nelson is the key for Orlando, Hill is the means by which this likely win for Indiana turns into a blowout series. If Hill can bottle the Magic at the point of attack, Orlando is a one trick pony with a lame leg.
Scribbins: I can’t wait to see Tyler Hansbrough in playoffs again. He might actually be able to put up some numbers against the diminished frontline for Orlando.
Donahue: Leandro Barbosa. The Pacers have largely been horrible against Orlando this season, particularly offensively. In the three losses, Indy’s offensive efficiency was less than 95 points per 100 possessions. However, all four games were pre-Barbosa, and Indy is averaging over 111 points per 100 possessions in games where he plays.
Wade: The bench. Nobody in Indiana is worried about the starters playing well. They have done that all year. But as Darren Collison transitions to lead a reserve unit that depends very heavily on scoring from an inconsistent Tyler Hansbrough and a sometimes-shot happy Leandro Barbosa, the team could go on long scoring droughts when the first team rests.
Who wins the series — Magic or Pacers?
Drexler: Pacers in 5 games. Orlando will get one at home, but as the pundits have noted, Indiana would have given the Magic a tough series even if Dwight Howard was healthy and ready to play. Without Dwight, the odds are stacked too high in Indiana’s favor.
Nowell: Pacers in 5 games. Look, I just can’t put enough stock in intangibles to call this any other way. Indiana is way, way better right now, and the Magic have looked like a team playing to get to the offseason as quickly as possible.
Scribbins: Pacers in 5 games. The players on Orlando’s roster just aren’t good enough to beat the No. 3 seed four times in a maximum of seven games without Dwight Howard. However, I think the Magic may be able to grind out a victory at home.
Donahue: Pacers in 5 games. I just don’t think Orlando has the horses. If the Pacers can jump out to a 2-0 series lead, then I can’t imagine the Magic having overwhelming motivation to try to extend what has to have been an incredibly stressful season for all involved.
Wade: Pacers in 5 games. One team is deep, talented, and coming into the playoffs on a tear. The other team is the Magic.