Before I begin, I want to state that this isn't my style. I'm not one to criticize another person's opinion because everyone is entitled to their own analysis and thought, but I felt compelled to respond to a post Jon Barry made on ESPN's Daily Dime today in the aftermath of the Orlando Magic's close loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers last night.
Here we go:
Cleveland's MVP candidate had his fingerprints all over the game's crucial possessions, while Orlando's contender for the league's top individual award was nearly invisible.
Let's think about this logically. James is a small forward who can handle the rock and thus, isn't dependent on his teammates to get him the ball. Howard doesn't have that luxury, being that he's a center.
Safe to say, it's pretty easy for James to have "his fingerprints all over the game's crucial possessions" when he possesses the ability to play point-forward when applicable.
LeBron James showed why he is the favorite to be named MVP by hitting a big 3-pointer and making the key free throws in the final minute of the Cavaliers' 97-93 win over the Magic in a matchup of two of the Eastern Conference's best teams.
No qualms there. There's a reason why James is referred to as 'The King.'
If Orlando's Dwight Howard is an MVP candidate, then the ball needs to go through him down the stretch. That wasn't the case tonight and I haven't seen that with him on a consistent basis.
First of all, if Orlando's Howard is an MVP candidate?
He IS an MVP candidate, but as head coach Stan Van Gundy eloquently said a little while back, Howard "leading the league in rebounding and blocked shots while still averaging 21 points a game is just not as sexy as those guys going out and having 40-point nights."
I would agree that the Magic could have done a better job of feeding the big man the ball throughout the game, but give credit to the Cavaliers for preventing the Orlando players from getting him the rock. Cleveland is 2nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency; they know how to defend.
Orlando is a 3-point shooting team and they had a difficult time in the halfcourt sets when they didn't go to Howard.
Again, Barry seems to infer that Orlando being a 3-point shooting team is a bad thing (a point tackled by Ben a few days ago). The Magic aren't a one-trick pony, folks. If they were, the team wouldn't be 49-18.
It seemed like he didn't touch the ball the final three or four minutes and he went scoreless in the fourth quarter. They need to be able to go to Howard at the end of games. I don't know if Dwight is not calling for it or if Stan Van Gundy is not calling for him to get it. At some point he has to prove he can deliver.
Seemed? Well, either he did touch the ball or didn't touch the ball.
With regards to Orlando getting the ball to Howard at the end of games, it's easier said than done, especially when you take into account the fact that Cleveland is a superb defensive squad (as I already mentioned). Getting the ball to Howard is a two step process, given his position on the court, a.) Orlando player needs to successfully pass the ball and b.) Howard needs to successfully receive the ball.
They tried to win the game from the outside. They shoot 31 percent on 3-pointers when they lose and 41 percent from the outside when they win.
What did Cleveland try to do all night? Try to win from the outside (thanks to the fact Howard dominated the paint defensively), which the Cavaliers succeeded in doing when, ironically enough, James made a three-pointer to seal the game for his team.
[...] Meanwhile, Orlando is playing good basketball and they have some impressive wins, but they need a power forward.
The Magic don't need a power forward. This statement has been made ad nauseam, it seems, and is a lazy assertion. Why? Because Orlando, as currently constructed (with a healthy Jameer Nelson), is a championship caliber team.
They play with the small lineup.
Orlando plays with a small lineup? Technically, no. Hedo Turkoglu is 6'10'', Rashard Lewis is 6'10'', and Howard is 6'11''. The Magic may play "small ball" but the team doesn't play with a small lineup.
They don't have anyone other than Howard to go to in the post.
I would disagree that Orlando has no one other than Howard to go in the post. Turkoglu is a reliable option down low as well. Lewis could and should also be a post-up threat, but he isn't for a number of reasons (falls in love with his jumper, doesn't slash into the paint enough, etc).
They shoot a lot of jump shots and do a lot of one-on-one basketball.
I can't dispute that the Magic shoot a lot of jump shots and play a lot of one-on-one basketball (Orlando is 29th in assists), because it's true.
If they had another big body, they would be so much better defensively.
Orlando has enough big bodies - Tony Battie, Marcin Gortat, and Dwight Howard. Not sure how much better the Magic can be on the defensive end, when they're already the 3rd most efficient defense in the league. If you want to be technical about it, Orlando can get better defensively but the improvement would be minimal, at best.