Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday Recap: Orlando Magic vs. Toronto Raptors

This is why I bought NBA League Pass: Last night’s game between the Orlando Magic and the Toronto Raptors did not attract national television coverage (er, U.S. national television – it was broadcast nationwide in Canada), but it pitted two of the Eastern Conference’s most promising young teams against each other.

It is striking just how similar the teams are. First, the Raptors and the Magic each possess one bona fide superstar in the form of a young, charismatic power forward. It has become increasingly clear this season that the torch has been passed from Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan to Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard. Second, in Rashard Lewis and Jermaine O’Neal, each team carries on its roster an overpaid former all-star who knows he’s overpaid. Both the Magic and Raptors know that neither Lewis nor O’Neal is worth max money, but these young teams and their fans are just so impatient to join the NBA’s elite that they’ll dole out superstar money to merely solid players. Third, each team has an underappreciated, foreign-born, borderline all-star in Hedo Turkoglu and Jose Calderon. Fourth, although both teams have impressive starting line-ups, they are wafer-thin once you get past the starting five.

Despite the final score, last night’s game was deceptively close. More importantly, Toronto was playing without Calderon (and displayed a shocking lack of depth at the PG position). Also significant is the fact that for much of the game, the Magic was playing 6 on 4 basketball against the Raptors. (I count Will Solomon, the Raptors’ starting point guard, as an Orlando player – that’s how bad he was. The 3 turnovers don’t tell half the story – there should be a stat for “wasted possessions,” i.e., when the PG dribbles the ball going nowhere for 20 seconds and then makes the post entry pass so that Chris Bosh receives the ball outside the three point line with 4 seconds to shoot.)

And if Toronto fans needed another reason not to be discouraged, Chris Bosh’s play was off the charts. Not only did he put up huge numbers (44 pts, 18 reb, 14-19 FG), but he was diving for loose balls and seemed eager to take the team on his shoulders (something he hasn’t looked comfortable doing in years past). Additionally, it seems that Toronto’s twin towers experiment with J.O. and CB4 is paying early dividends. The two looked comfortable playing together, although I’d like to see them utilize the high-low post pass even more. Jermaine was also a beast against Howard, holding the Superman to mere mortal numbers. (The box score shows just one block for O’Neal – I swear I saw at least four not counting the number of bad/changed shots he forced the Magic players to make.)

While Toronto fans could take solace in a number of positives from yesterday’s game, at the end of the day, a loss is still a loss. Nevertheless, it has to be encouraging to have shut down Howard who made the Raptors defense look downright JV in the first round of last year’s playoffs.


Bhel Atlantic said...
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Bhel Atlantic said...

Isn't Dwight Howard a center? I guess considering that Orlando doesn't really have a power forward, Howard is both the 4 and the 5 for his team!

Agree that Bosh was monstrous last night. But wouldn't they rather have Rudy Gay or Brandon Roy about now, instead of Il Mago? Colangelo must be held accountable for that one...

H.O.S.S. said...

BA: The line between the 4 and the 5 in the NBA is a blurry one: depending on who you ask, Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan could each be considered either a 4 or a 5. It used to be that you were a center if 1) you were one of two post men in your starting line-up, and 2) you were the less athletic of the two. But now that most teams start only one post-up player, it's harder to tell if/when a center exists.

Agree on Il Mago. Disastrous pick. Worst #1 draft pick bust in history (And yes, I'm aware of Pervis Ellison, Michael Olowakandi, and Kwame Brown).

Bhel Atlantic said...

Guys like Duncan, Nowitzki, Garnett, Webber, Amaré have more of a face-up game. Guys like Yao, Shaq, Bynum, Chandler play offense by establishing position with their back to the basket. Isn't this the difference? I haven't seen Dwight Howard play enough to determine which category he falls into.

Then you have high-post centers like Divac, Brad Miller, Ilgauskas who are content to roam around the perimeter. Seems to me that they are useful only in a motion offense with lots of shooters.