We caught up with Zach McCann from Orlando Magic Daily and exchanged some Q&A on the upcoming 76ers vs. Magic first round playoff series. Zach had some interesting insights about watching Dwight Howard play on a nightly basis and the role of Philadelphia’s own, Jameer Nelson in the Magic’s two early season wins over the 76ers. Additionally, OMD is as confident as we are that the Sixers will need a miracle to pull off the upset. Our thanks to Zach for his time and insights.
Here’s the quick Q&A with the architect of the O-Town loyal blog Orlando Magic Daily.com:
What is it like to watch Dwight Howard play on a nightly basis?
OMD: It’s really awesome to see his jaw-dropping dunks and blocks, but when you watch him every night you notice the flaws in his game that other people sometimes don’t see. Howard is amazing, don’t get me wrong – but in the post, he’s still a work in progress. Big, strong defenders (such as Kendrick Perkins or Antonio McDyess) can shut him down. At this point, with his back to the basket, he has a decent hook shot and an assortment of other moves that can’t be relied on. But his defense is as good as advertised. Guys like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have gained some steam as defensive player of the year candidates, and I think that’s ridiculous.
The Magic kept Andre Miller in check during our first two match ups this year, but then Miller dominated the third game. What did the Magic do to keep him under wraps initially and can they do it again in this series?
OMD: Jameer Nelson played in the first two games while RaferAlston played in the third game. Alston is probably a slightly better defender than Nelson, but not necessarily against Miller, who likes to use his strength to out muscle opposing guards. Alston is a bean-pole and can be pushed around more than Nelson, who is short and strong.
I don’t know that the Magic did anything differently in the first two meetings – Miller just seemed to be off. He went 7-of-24 from the field in the first meeting, marking the second-most shots he’s taken in a game this season. If he’s shooting that many shots – particularly from the outside – I think the Magic are OK with that.
Do you have any fear that Hedo and Lewis go ice cold and the Magic’s tendency to fall in love with the 3-ball comes back to haunt them?
OMD: The Magic are at their best when the offense is working through Dwight Howard, and when Rashard Lewis is taking more inside shots than outside shots. That doesn’t always happen, though. This team will occasionally get in the flow of the game and forget to feed Howard. The Magic’s reputation as a 3-point shooting team isn’t totally accurate. They can score in many different ways, and they hardly live or die by if their outside shots are falling or not.
But like you told me, even if Philly plays almost flawlessly, they aren’t going to pull away from the Magic if Dwight Howard is in the game. In last year’s first round against Toronto, Howard posted three 20-20 games and averaged 22.6 points, 18.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks. Howard’s game has developed a lot since then, and I don’t know that Philly’s trio of Dalembert, Speights and Evans is all that much better than Toronto’s guys. As long as Dwight’s on the floor, the game will be close no matter what happens with Orlando’s other guys.
Orlando has a rep as a terrible sports city is there any buzz at all about this series and the Magic in general?
OMD: This season is the closest Orlando has been to the Shaq days, when the Magic were really a part of the city and a common topic of conversation. There is a legitimate buzz this year. It’s nothing like Boston in October or Green Bay in January – no way – but you see plenty of Magic shirts and jerseys in public. I watched the Boston-Orlando game a couple weeks ago at a sports bar, and the place was packed and rooting for the Magic. In some ways, I think “terrible sports city” is a bit unfair because there’s only one major pro team here. It’s more of an inexperienced sports city, if anything. The Magic are only in their 20th season as the only show in town. People definitely care about the Magic, and there wasn’t very much public outcry when the city approved a $480 million arena set to open in 2010.
What is the perception of the Sixers amongst Orlando fans and does anyone living in the shadow of the Mouse worry that the 76ers might actually pull off the upset?
OMD: Honestly, there is very little worry down here in Orlando. The consensus seems to be that the Magic will dispose of the Sixers in four or five games.
What are keys for Orlando in this series and what’s your prediction?
OMD: I’m going with Magic in 5. If Turkoglu and Lewis stay healthy, there’s just not enough firepower on the Sixers to provide much resistance.