Three essentials for the Magic:
1. Make them double-team. If Dwight Howard can prove that he can destroy one-on-one defense in the post, forcing the Sixers to bring a second defender, it’s going to be a short series. Orlando’s shooters are going to be more focused in this game than they have the last couple weeks (I don’t know about NBA players, but focus generally has a lot to do with how well I shoot in intramural basketball games). I wouldn’t expect any 5-for-26 performances from deep for the Magic. So if the Sixers are forced to bring the double-team, it’s going to leave a shooter open on almost every possession.
2. Protect the ball. You can say this about just about any game, but it holds true even more in this series. Really, there’s only one way the Sixers can beat the Magic — by forcing an inordinate amount of turnovers and counter-attacking in the transition game. The Sixers are No. 3 in the NBA in forcing turnovers, and a few of the Magic players (Howard, Turk) are known to turn the ball over a time or two. The Magic need to play smart and not force anything that isn’t there.
3. Punish them. In playoff games, the referees tend to allow more contact and keep the star players in the game. That makes Dwight Howard even scarier. At times, Howard is stoppable because he shies away from contact, especially on rebounds, fearing the refs will call him for a foul and he’ll be relegated to the bench. He gets a lot of ticky-tack calls during the regular season, anyone will tell you that. Hopefully, those calls won’t come in the playoffs and we’ll see the big guy let loose and really show what he can do.
Philadelphia: Marreese Speights. On a per-minute basis, Speights is one of the better young power forwards in the league. He averaged 7.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in 16 minutes per games. Some people wonder why the Sixers don’t play him more. Well, it’s because they can’t. His conditioning was always a problem at Florida (where he started last year but played only 20 minutes a game), and he’s not yet capable of playing significant minutes in the NBA. But in short spurts, he can really do some damage.
Orlando: Courtney Lee. Howard, Lewis, Turkoglu and even Alston get all of the pub, but Lee could really have an impact on this series, especially with Lewis and Turkoglu banged up. I think other teams are smart enough to not leave him open, because he’ll kill them from deep. He’s the Magic’s best 3-point shooter at 40.4 percent. I could see a coming-out game for Lee in this series — a game where he asserts himself on offense and goes for 20+ points.