Magic/Sixers Game 5 Recap
The elbows that came from a man.
Orlando Magic 91, Philadelphia 76ers 78. In a series where seeding has not mattered, this was the most decisive result. Three out of the previous four games were decided by three points or less.
Dwight Howard: 24 points and 24 rebounds…10 offensive. Another 24 from Rashard Lewis. A perfect combination of inside/outside domination.
The Sixers were caught doubling screen and rolls which resulted in either Dwight Howard man mugging the Sixers interior defense, or leaving Rashard Lewis open for dagger threes in clutch moments when Philadelphia needed stops.
There were also two elbows. After coming down from what seemed like Planet Krypton blocking a shot in the lane, Howard’s elbow smashed into the head of teammate Courtney Lee, putting him out the game. There was another blatant shiver to Samuel Dalembert’s dome—resulting in a technical—that could spell a Game 6 suspension. When the Sixers are throwing the Wachovia Center and the Spectrum at Dwight in terms of fouls, there will be frustration. This was the fifth game of a highly competitive series. Familiarity breeds contempt they say.
This was the mean I spoke of. Yes, Dwight Howard elbowed Dalembert, but like Barkley used to do, it set a tone—a tone that hollered the lane would be his on this night. Mad thing is, Dwight did it all with a smile.
Andre Iguodala had 26 points (the most he’s scored in a playoff road game), but when he drove the lane the Leviathan—as TSF reader the Last Poet calls Howard—was hell on the Sixers inside the lane from block to block. Dude’s shoulders are so big he could probably lock both car doors with both elbows in one motion. There’s no way anyone in the League can stop him when he gets physical early. His inside presence opens up the Magic air game like a power back does for an NFL quarterback.
I spoke to NBA legend Spencer Haywood during the game, and Wood said Howard would be a superstar in any era—just that it wouldn’t be this easy. The center position changed from brute inside power to centers in power forward clothing.
After the game, the Sixers complained of Howard camping out in the lane. From Sixers head coach Tony DiLeo: “I’m just saying he’s standing in the three-second lane on offense and defense. And he’s a great player, and he doesn’t need any advantages. When he can stay in there on defense or stay in there on offense and catch the ball right at the basket, it’s just too tough to guard. I’m just saying he stayed in the three-second lane on offense and defense. You can interpret that any way you want.”
“I guess that’s the only reason why Dwight’s having success in the series. It has nothing to do with the fact that he’s good.” Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy shot back.
The Sixers need to man up and take care of business instead of filing League complaints in true pink socks and flip flops fashion. Look, it’s as simple as this, when the Sixers had a chance to go up 2-0 in Orlando and failed to take advantage of Dwight Howard fouling out, it opened the door for what went down last night. The Magic went to Dwight early and often and before you knew it, Sixers bigs were heading to the bench after picking up fouls in bunches.
Thad Young (9 points) played a little tentative after also getting in early foul trouble defensing Rashard Lewis. Result? Lewis went down to the post and shot over the young fella with an assortment of baby hooks and teardrops.
Andre Miler ripped Dwight whenever the Magic center dropped the ball below his waste. He had 17 and 6, but Philadelphia got no closer than four late.
Skip had 14 in support on 14 shots. Hedo Turkoglu scored 9 on 3-14 shooting. Lou Lightening went scoreless but dropped 5 dimes. The Sixers got a combined 8 points and 13 rebounds from Samuel Dalembert and Theo Ratliff. Not good when the opposing center goes 20/20 thunder vision. The Magic bench outscored their Sixers counterparts 20-6. The Magic out rebounded the Sixers by 12 and made four more threes. Iguodala (10-13) and Miller (4-5) had all but 2 of the Sixers charity strike attempts and makes.
In three of the four games, the Sixers have looked at 10-point deficits by coming out sluggish after the half. They found themselves down 11 with 4:38 in the 3rd and never recovered.
J.J. Redick got some burn after Lee’s injury and dude was firing every time the ball touched his hands, especially mad early in the shot clock. I bet the Sixers were hoping he kept shooting.
The play picked up in Game 5. When the pressure is on, teams begin to realize it’s time to fight for playoff survival. Willie Green had 16 points—one off a playoff career high. When Green scores 17 or more, the Sixers win at a .750 clip.
For the second year in a row, the Sixers gave away a 2-1 series which now is a 3-2 series deficit. Howard had a double double in the first half and has 18 double doubles in 19 career playoff games. The Sixers made sure he didn’t get many easy opportunities. He’s shooting 67 percent from the line in the Playoffs, up from 59 percent for the season.
I thought the Sixers were the more physical team…that is until last night. Van Gundy verbally gave it to Mickael Pietrus for not blocking out with his team up 12 in the final minute. What was up with that? Pietrus simply tuned him out.
Game 6 is 7:30 ET Wednesday night in Philly. If the Magic shoot like they did last night in critical moments, the Sixers only chance to take this to a Game 7 is if Dwight Howard is back home in Orlando sitting out a suspension.