Magic/Sixers Game 5 Preview
At 2-2, the magic returns to Orlando.
Ahh, the pivotal Game 5.
Who are ya rockin’ with? Who takes ownership of this ultra competitive series? Both teams have started strong, been stopped late and made runs but neither team has consistently put together a dominant performance all game long. The defense has been shoddy on both ends of the court in spurts, but locked rocked when teams have to get stops—that is, until the last shot. Three buzzer-beaters in four games. Crazy but beautiful. Almost classical.
Historically, the Game 5 winner has gone on to win the series 83 percent of the time.
The first two games the Sixers fought back from 18 down, winning one and barely losing the other, while the Magic almost pulled out a Game 3 win by shooting a 17-point deficit into Disney World pixie dust. Unfortunately for Magic fans, Thad Young’s left handed layup crushed all visions of Orlando spring time sugar plumbs.
There’s Andre Iguodala’s Game 1 fall away after Donyell Marshall’s fire—balanced out by Hedo Turkoglu’s bookend late-game magic in Game 4.
Orlando has averaged 93, the Sixers 91 with the Sixers shooting 47 percent and the Magic 45 percent. The difference can be found in three-point shooting. The Sixers have shot 57 and made 24; the Magic 25-81. Both teams have 26 steals, and the Sixers have a two-rebound edge 120-118. In a series that has had its physical moments; one player has been disqualified—Dwight Howard in a Game 2 Magic victory.
He’s been a monster with a kid’s heart that has been scratched, clawed, smacked and cracked by every Sixer except Moses Malone and Bobby Jones.
Has he been a factor in 4th quarters the way true superstars have to be? I’ve been mad critical of of the big guy, so I wanted to get it from his mind how the criticism personally affects him, and also if he wants the ball in crucial moments. It’s also hard to believe the Sixers are a mere one rebound behind the Magic on the offensive glass with Dwight patrolling the paint.
“A lot of times, I play the ball or come off screen and rolls. It gives Theo and Sammy a chance to get the rebound. We have to do a better job. I do want the ball. I do. Coach drew up a play for Hedo and trusted him with the ball. I closed my eyes and was praying that he made it. I’m glad it was good. We’ve had to fight for everything we’ve got. Philly won’t go away.”
Stan Van Gundy caught a lot of heat from former players, the media and also one of his own. To his credit, he drew up the Game 4 winner. I asked Dwight, who has averaged 24 points and 13.8 rebounds, if the scrutiny was real or imagined: “He thought about it (the last play). He thought about it and thought about it, but drew up a good play for Turk. We all had confidence in Turk. After Dalembert got the little tip in or whatever, our spirits didn’t get down.”
I had to ask him about the scrutiny shot his way as well—especially in a series where every game has been hotly contested.
“You know full well I’ve been scrutinized [smiles]. People say I just can dunk the ball or I’m not good in the fourth quarter. My whole thing is to do what it takes for my team to win…even if I don’t have the ball. Play defense, block shots—to be a presence. It’s not about scoring all the time. People look at numbers—I just care about the win.”
There’s something clutch about Andre Miller. He’s averaging a team-high 24 points, is second on the team in both rebounds (7) and assists (5), with Iguodala leading in both categories. Whether it’s making one of his line drive, set shot threes or getting a critical rebound among the trees, he seems to want it just a little more than most players on the floor. I wondered if Coach Van Gundy thought Andre Miller was underrated. “I’ve always thought so. I’ve said it before. I never could understand why he was a guy who bounced around the number of times that he did. I’ve always thought he was an upper level point guard in the league. It’s hard to understand the bouncing around. He’s a great, great player.”
The Magic cause match up problems for any team in the League. They have length all over the floor and can shoot it their style grand. It must be an advantage for a coach to draw up a play during clutch moments when he knows his players can get off a shot from the perimeter:
“I’ve said that one of the things we don’t have is an isolation type of team. They have three guys here who can get the ball and go one on one and get their shot on a pretty consistent basis. That’s not our game. Hedo is our best at that. We don’t do that a lot over the course of the game, but in that situation it just called for such. He did a very good job of getting an on balance shot over the top. He didn’t give them a lot of time. He did a good job.”
Checking out the box score in the post game press conference after Game 4, I noticed the Magic had just four bench points. Van Gundy relied on his starters to make sure he got the win they had to have:
“Yeah, we have been. Maybe too much. We didn’t get Courtney and Dwight out of there in the second half and it probably contributed to their comeback. Obviously, it was a very very big game and we needed them in there. I’m one of those guys that uh…never thought they left Pedro Martinez in to long (we all laugh). I’d rather be criticized for leaving Pedro in too long than taking him out too soon. That’s just a difference in perspective. It was similar tonight. At one point, I said to Brendan Malone (Magic assistant) that if they come back and win this, a large part was going to be because we didn’t rest these guys. I knew what was going on. At a certain point you haven’t subbed for them, then it’s too late. With five minutes to go, I’m looking out and saying we’re a little tired but it’s too late now. I should have gotten those two guys some rest earlier.”
The Magic have been led by Howard in scoring for the series. Courtney Lee has been huge with a shade under 16 points, with Rashard Lewis the same. Rafer Alston is 14 and 3.8 dimes. Hedo is 12.5 Pejas and 5 Brad Sellers.
The boss on the court in Game 4 was Hedo Turkoglu. He didn’t just hit a shot inside the arc to put the Magic up two with 1.8 seconds left, he hit a three over the outstretched hands of Thad Young. Straight bottom without the Sam I Am cojones mas grande mind burned vision.
Philly fans were crushed because they thought they had a win to go up 3-1, but sike nah. Iguodala’s desperation shot glanced off the left side of the rim.
84-81 final. Home cooking for the Magic comin’ up.
Turk has been in some epic playoff games. His dagger conjured images of the Sacramento/Los Angeles series. Did he want the ball at the end of the game because he’s been there?
“Definitely. I’ve been in the League nine years. The transition from Sacramento to Orlando is really big for me. Especially with them seeing what type of player I am and giving me an opportunity. I want to be that player. Especially in big moments. You get a lot of respect when you are successful in those situations. He played behind, so I knew I had to take a jumper. Today, I was feeling good from the beginning and I made the shot.”
In Game 2, Andre Iguodala, who has to score more early in Game 5, was that guy with his Philly brand of dagger. What was his thoughts on Hedo’s shiny silverish victory ish?
“He got a good look. He jumped on me before I let him go. Thad played good defense.”
Orlando limited 9′s dives to the rim in Game 4 by playing better pick and roll defense. If he got past his man, Howard (3 blocks) was there to provide help. Orlando did a great job of trapping in the middle so nothing was easy for Dre. As a result, he had 11 assists and 7 boards, but shot a mere 4-13. Thad Young followed up a game-winner of his own with 17, but on 6-17 shooting. For the series, Iguodala has been Scottie Pippen-like. Scoring 22.5, ripping 7.5 and dropping 7.5. Thad Young is putting up a shade under 14. He might be the key if the Sixers are to pull this out.
Philadelphia was in the same position this time last year. They were tied 2-2 with battle tested Detroit before the young Sixers dropped the last two and possibly learned a valuable lesson. I asked Andre Iguodala or Louis Williams if that was the case and the veteran deferred to Lou Lightening as I call him. He and Courtney Lee are the fire starters…the energy fighters.
“We have a little bit more experience this year. Last year, guys were a little shell shocked being 2-2. Now we realize we are in a 0-0 series heading down to Orlando…a team everybody said was better than us but we still have an opportunity to win the series like they do. We look forward to the challenge. We are a resilient basketball team, so we look forward to going down there to try to get it done.”
After taking over for Maurice Cheeks earlier in the year and finishing a not so different than last year 42-42, Tony DiLeo is getting a true taste was playoff basketball is with the reigns in his laid back palms. What’s his thoughts on who to guard late in games?
“Hedo has been their clutch player for two years now. [In Game 4], we thought he and Howard would be in a pick and roll situation or in iso (isolation). We have plans for both of them. They ran a little pick and roll, got the switch [Iguodala off Hedo], then the iso and he made a good shot.”
How about the Sixers penchant for getting down and fighting back, with the exception of Game 3?
“Well the last game were here ahead, up 17 points. They’re are such an explosive team, which leads to their spurts when we are out on the break we get ours.”
I’m going with the Magic to win tonight 104-96. At some point in the series, Magic three-point shooting has to show up, and what better time than a home court Game 5?
Since we are from the same town of Chester, PA, I always chat up Jameer Nelson. We spoke about the shoulder and sitting on the bench in such an exciting series. “It’s tough, but I’m here to cheer my teammates on to hopefully get a win. I’m seeing a different game over there. Hearing different sounds and seeing my teammates reactions. I can’t wait to get back next season and help my team have a successful year because it’s hard to sit and watch the team—especially in the 4th quarter. Both teams have been tough.”
Just like I said in the preview, this series seems to be headed for 7. Who gets lathered enough to wet the nets to their advantage and advance to the next round?