The 2010-11 season is here. No, it is here. The season is underway and we can finally stop conjecturing and start making sense of this summer of upheaval. The new season will be much different than the old. So let's continue thinking and previewing 2011 and all the hope and promise that comes with it.
Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog.com has organized the NBA Blog Preview, consisting of all the best basketball blogs across the Internet, to help everyone get ready. I am trying to keep up and give a Magic-centered look at each team being previewed.
Last Year: 53-29, Lost in Western Conference Semifinals
Last Year vs. Magic: Lost 120-111 in Utah (12/10); Won 104-99 in Orlando (12/21)
This Year vs. Magic: Nov. 10 in Orlando (Lost 104-94); Dec. 10 in Utah (9 p.m.)
Magic Connection: None
We have already seen the Jazz come through Amway Center and lay a pretty humbling defeat on the Magic. But in that game we saw exactly what Utah can be -- both strengths and weaknesses.
Despite the emergence of Paul Millsap and the arrival of Al Jefferson, Utah got destroyed on the boards by the effort of Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass. That changed in the second half as Utah tightened up defensively and shut down Orlando's offensive attack.
This is a team that is built on wearing opponents out with relentless effort defensively and relentless motion on offense. And having a point guard like Deron Williams managing it all makes it that much easier. Jefferson is also an underrated post player, might be the best fundamental post player in the league, and should bolster the team after the loss of Carlos Boozer.
We have seen how this team can fight and that is really what Utah should be all about. This team is a reflection of their coach and plays the way Jerry Sloan wants them to. That effort in Orlando a few weeks ago -- and previously in Miami and then the next game against Atlanta -- were very very impressive. The second halves of those games are exactly the effort the Jazz will need to have a successful season.
The fact that it took a first half of listless play to get to that effort says something too. The Jazz have a boatload of talent and skill -- not to mention great coaching -- it will be a matter of putting it all together (and saying healthy).
How the Jazz will beat the Magic: We saw exactly how Utah is going to do this. They have to secure the boards and force Orlando to take outside shots. Even with Millsap, Jefferson and (eventually) Memo Okur, Howard had a very good game. But the Jazz did a really good job limiting the Magic perimeter attack and forcing them to rely on one-on-one play.
Sloan's teams are always very good defensively and do a good job reigning in shooters by rotating out to the perimeter and closing out on shooter. It certainly helped Orlando was in a shooting slump too. But that is no excuse. Howard even admitted the Magic went away from their game plan in that game and let Utah back in it.
Utah did a lot of that work too. Andrei Kirilenko proved to be too difficult a matchup for Ryan Anderson and Utah found mismatches to exploit.
How the Magic will beat the Jazz: But we also saw how Orlando can get a pretty sizeable lead on Utah. Rebounding, forcing turnovers and getting out on the break all helped the Magic get the lead.
But the big thing in breaking down the zone is to keep passing the ball and get the ball inside. That means Howard needed to get more touches in that second half. Someone needed to break into the gaps of the zone defense and move the ball around the perimeter quickly. Who knows if the Jazz will use that zone when the two teams meet in December, but they are principles the Magic should continue using when they meet again.