Ignore Courtney Lee at Your Own Risk

The book on the Orlando Magic this season is that they're a one-dimensional, three-point shooting team that struggles to win when their threes aren't falling: In a post called "Die By It," Depressed Fan points out that Orlando shoots 40.5% from three-point range in its wins and 31.5% in its losses. While I don't believe their fortunes are inextricably tied to the three-point shot, it is indeed an important part of their offense, to say the least.

And it will be even more important in their first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Orlando's biggest advantage over Philadelphia is its ability to bomb away from beyond the arc. In the regular season, Orlando averaged 10 made treys per game, while Philly averaged just 4. If those figures hold up in the postseason, the Sixers will have to make up for an 18-point deficit from the perimeter alone. That's a tall order, especially against Orlando's elite defense.

So the conventional wisdom is that the Sixers need to stay at home on the Magic's multiple three-point shooters, particularly Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, who average 4.5 triples per game between them. If they do that, they can live with single-covering Dwight Howard and letting him eat them alive. But if, for whatever reason, they do decide to double-team Howard, at least one Philadelphia fan thinks they'd be wise to leave Courtney Lee open. Here's Jeff McMenamin of the blog Philadunkia:

As for the two spot, Courtney Lee doesn't really impress me so unless he starts hitting all of his shots this is where Thaddeus Young and Sammy D can double team Dwight Howard down low and keep the Magic's biggest threat in check all game.

Were I a Sixers fan, I'd advise against this course of action. Apart from the fact that Lee led the Magic to a come-from-behind victory over Philly in February with a barrage of fourth-quarter treys he is, on a percentage basis, the Magic's best three-point shooter at 40.4%. That's slightly better than Lewis (39.7%) and much better than Turkoglu (35.6%). Yes, both those players are more prolific, but Lee is more efficient. And in the playoffs, he figures to get more open looks than in the regular season. His season-long performance suggests that he's make the most of those opportunities, yet there is cause for concern: he struggled mightily in April, shooting 29% from three-point range after four consecutive months of shooting no worse than 42%. If he rounds back into form, he'll give the Magic yet another three-point sniper, and give fans yet another reason to believe Orlando will end the series early.

So keep an eye on Lee tomorrow, because if the Sixers don't, they could be in for a long afternoon.

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