This 2009-10 season finale of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent the playoff bound Orlando Magic, who as we all remember ended the 2008-09 season for the Sixers as well.
We’re going to keep this one very brief because while this game is going on we’re simply going to open up a beer and toast to the fact that this train wreck of a season is finally over and that the Eddie Jordan era has come to a close. To be honest that’s all we can muster for you today.
So for a little more insight into the Magic team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Philip Rossman-Reich from orlandomagicdaily.com to answer two questions on this Orlando squad from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on the Magic from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : The Magic are looking to secure home court advantage in the NBA Playoffs, but have also done a nice job or resting their starters over the last week. So what kind of starting lineup, minutes distribution and effort can we expect to see out of the Magic tonight?
Philip Rossman-Reich @ orlandomagicdaily.com :Expect Orlando to come out and play hard and expect to see the starters play when needed. Stan Van Gundy and the entire team has made no secret the Magic are after the second best record in the league and want home court advantage if they can make it to the Finals. A win tonight guarantees that happens.
The past week, Orlando has been able to blow out its opponents so the starters have not played “normal” minutes, certainly not what they will be playing in the postseason. But they will play and play hard.
Whether that focus stays consistent and sharp throughout the entire game is another issue. Against Indiana on Monday, the Magic blew open the doors and ran past the Pacers in the first quarter with a 40-plus point quarter. Indiana then turned the tables and cut the lead to nine in the second quarter. The third quarter came and Orlando pressed down on the pedal and re-established a lead that was never threatened. This has been the pattern the last week and a half of the season.
The Magic are definitely focusing more on fine tuning things and you will see players coasting at times, but if the game is close — like Sunday’s game against the Cavaliers — expect to see Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and the other “stars” to be playing the crunch time minutes.
Philadunkia : JJ Redick has had a monster year when compared to the season he had in 2008-09. Does all the credit go to improved shooting stats or is there more to JJ’s “big” season then just those numbers?
Philip Rossman-Reich @ orlandomagicdaily.com : More than anything for JJ Redick this year is that he has finally gotten the opportunity to play. His first three seasons in the NBA, his playing time was sporadic. He would go weeks at a time without playing and if he did it would be in garbage time.
Redick finally gained the confidence of the coaches when he stepped in for Courtney Lee during last year’s playoff series with Boston and played well. That confidence carried over into this year and it has shown in his fearlessness to shoot jumpers — what Orlando drafted him to do — and his ability to stay comfortably in Van Gundy’s rotation.
But Redick has developed into much more than a shooter. He has turned himself into one of the toughest guys on the team. He won the team’s Iron Man award for overall endurance and fitness — yes, he beat Dwight Howard for that. Not only that, he has turned himself into a solid defensive player. Not great, but solid. Van Gundy harps on defense a lot and Redick does not get burnt that much.
He has also expanded his offensive game. He is really adept at pump faking and taking two steps in for a mid-range jumper or drawing the foul. He is also good at keeping the ball moving, something very important in Orlando’s offense. And then, yes, there is always the 3-point shots everyone knows he can hit.
The only disappointment from Redick so far is that he and Ryan Anderson have not released their rap album yet.
Two Points of Analysisfrom Philip Rossman-Reich @ orlandomagicdaily.com :
1) A lot is being made right now in the Orlando (and Cleveland and other contender media) about Dwight Howard not being included in the MVP race. I am obviously biased, but I think he really should be in the discussion as the second or third leading candidate. There should be no discussion on MVP (it is LeBron James) and there should be no discussion for Defensive Player of the Year.
Howard changes the game on defense like nobody else can. He is getting ready to be the first player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounds and blocked shots in back-to-back years and if he shoots well tonight could be the first player in league history to lead the league in those two categories and field goal percentage. That is not elite company, that is a class all by itself.
More than anything, he has turned a team of mediocre defenders — are Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson known around the league for their elite defense? — into the best defensive team in the league based on defensive efficiency. And he has done that in back to back years.
2) For the playoffs, Orlando will go as Chester-native Jameer Nelson goes. The Magic obviously did not have him during last year’s playoff run because of the torn labrum he suffered in February. And it took a while for Nelson to regain his All Star form this season after tearing the meniscus in his knee. But since the All Star Break, Nelson has significantly upgraded his play and Orlando has benefited.
The Magic have one of the top records in the league since the All Star break and are on pace to be the only team at the top of the standings to match last year’s record. Orlando won 59 games last season and looked far off that pace back in February as Carter was struggling and the team seemed a little out of sync. Now, they are one win away from doing that having won 19 of their last 23 games.
Point guard play has always been important for Orlando. Nelson has provided a nice offensive push to get the Magic back to playing at an elite level.