04/29/09 12:54 pm EST
Heading into Game 5, a Sixers victory appeared quite possible, especially after the team was merely a Hedo Turkoglu miss away from having an opportunity to take a two game series lead after an overly exciting game 4. But, Hedo did his thing, and the teams headed to Orlando with the score card reading two wins apiece. The Sixers entered the game with great confidence, knowing that if they could continue the style of play that had suited them so well for the past few games, a style which worked well to frustrate the Magic, they would have a great chance to take a commanding 3-2 series lead back to the wild fans in Wachovia. However, such an opportunity must be captured, and thanks to another enormous night from Dwight Howard and the emergence of Rashard Lewis, it was the Magic who were able to obtain the opportunity to close out the series in Game 6.
The Sixers busted out of the gate behind a barrage of Willie Green baskets, whose nine first quarter points helped to set the tone offensively. Willie’s 16 points provided one of the lone bright spots for the Sixers in the game, as it was refreshing for Sixers fans to see him in attack mode after a subpar season.
After a successful first quarter, the Sixers offense struggled to find a rhythm, settling far too often for contested jumpers. Andre Iguodala finished with an appealing 26 points, a step above his usual output, but a majority of these points came later in the second half, and his offense would have been extremely useful earlier in the game when the team was struggling to score. Andre Miller added 17, but it was far from his most effective or efficient game, as he shot a poor 6-15 from the floor, 1-4 from three and tossed in five turnovers against only six dimes. The rest of the team was virtually nonexistent on the offensive end as the bench totaled a whopping six points, and the two remaining starters (Young and Dalembert) combined for only 11 points. If the Sixers are going to continue to contend in the series, their offensive output must be improved dramatically, and more players must step up to take some of the pressure of Iggy and Andre.
Luckily for the Sixers, their defense has been playing well, allowing them to remain in games despite the lack of legitimate offensive output. With that being said, the Sixers continued to struggle guarding Dwight Howard, and another supersized game from Orlando’s Superman, was to be expected, as it has been demonstrated that no one on the Sixers body with the big man. He finished with 24 and 24, and it seems as though the Sixers’ frontcourt has taken the attitude, “we can’t stop him, we can only hope to get out of his way.”
Andre Igoudala’s hounding defense on Turkoglu limited the Game 4 hero to only nine points on 3-14 from the field, as Andre continues to demonstrate that he is one of the better defenders in this league. However Andre could not guard everyone, as the rest of the team picked up Hedo’s slack. It was only a matter of time before the Magic began lighting it up from beyond the arc, and in Game 5 they provided a glimpse as to why they were one of the most potent three-point shooting teams in the League during the regular season, knocking down eight long balls, including three from Rashard Lewis on his way to a series-high 24 points. With Dwight and Rashard leading the charge, the rest of the Magic team chipped in, providing enough offensive output to overpower and outscore the struggling Sixers.
Heading into a potentially decisive Game 6, it does not appear that any enormous adjustments need to be made by either team. Defensively, the Sixers must continue to try to limit Dwight’s impact, along with limiting the number of long balls attempted by the Magic’s potentially potent perimeter players. On the other side of the ball, Iggy needs to continue to attack for all four quarters, and the others (especially Young, Dalembert, and Williams) need to increase their output. Also, the team should look to push the ball as much as possible, which is where they have proven to be most effective. The Sixers have the parts and the potential to win in Wachovia and force a Game 7; it is now just a matter of seizing the opportunity.