Tonight's Game: Orlando Magic at Philadelphia 76ers

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2009 NBA Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Orlando Magic main logo
vs.
Philadelphia 76ers classic logo
Philadelphia leads, 2-1
April 26th, 2009
Wachovia Center
6:30 PM
TNT / Sun Sports
Probable Starters
Rafer Alston PG Andre Miller
Courtney Lee SG Willie Green
Hedo Turkoglu SF Andre Iguodala
Rashard Lewis PF Thaddeus Young
Dwight Howard C Samuel Dalembert
Game Officials
Dick Bavetta
Tony Brothers
Sean Corbin
Series Central

There's very little one can write about tonight's game between the Orlando Magic and the Philadelphia 76ers that hasn't already been written. Not much has changed from game-to-game in this series. Philadelphia continues to be too athletic for Orlando to handle, and can live with Magic center Dwight Howard scoring at will as long as it means keeping the team's perimeter players at bay. Orlando has lacked in effort and intensity for most of the series, which is the main difference between it and Philadelphia.

It's a must-win game for the Magic, as a victory would even the series at two games and would give them homecourt advantage the rest of the way. A loss would effectively end their season. The guys have shown resiliency all year, but it hasn't shown in the way they've played in this series. It's do-or-die time, as the cliche goes. After the jump, a look at what they need to do tonight in order to win.

The Magic's top priority is to come out with a better commitment on both ends of the court, but especially defensively. Slow starts have haunted this team. Despite trailing the series, 2-1, Orlando holds a slim +5 point differential overall. However, its differential in the first period is -4, largely due to its poor defense. Philadelphia has shot a blistering 35-of-63 (55.6%) from the field in the three first quarters in this series. Orlando, by contrast, is a dismal 24-of-59 (40.7%) but has narrowed the point spread to -4 due to a heavy advantage in free-throws made and attempted. The 76ers, particularly Andre Miller (15-of-23, 31 points in first quarters), have gotten whatever they wanted out of the gate in each of the series' first three games. So far, only Courtney Lee has had any sort of success guarding Miller. Coach Stan Van Gundy would be wise to cross-match Lee with Miller, leaving Rafer Alston to guard Willie Green, the 76ers' fifth option. Keeping the ball out of Miller's hands--much easier said than done, given that he's the point guard--will be key to making sure Philadelphia's offense doesn't get off to a hot start.

On offense, Orlando must look to force-feed Dwight Howard. The 76ers do not have an answer for him, and any shot another Magic player takes is one less shot for Howard. Even if he doesn't score, he can at least draw fouls and put the Magic in the bonus early.

Orlando's biggest offensive liability--and arguably its biggest defensive liability, but that's not our focus right now--is Hedo Turkoglu. He's 7-of-30 from the field, 2-of-6 from three-point range, and has committed 9 turnovers. I can't decide which is more surprising/disconcerting: that Turk has only had room to attempt 6 treys in 115 minutes played in this series, or that he's missed 19 of his 24 two-point shots. David Thorpe of ESPN.com suggests that reducing Turk's ballhandling duties may make him a more effective player:

It's clear Turkoglu is not much of a threat off the dribble, but if Orlando can use another creator, Turkoglu can be a great catch-and-shoot guy who can put up a big number.

Lee has proven in this series that he can break Philly's defense down off the dribble. Why not swap some of Turk's ballhanding responsibilities with Lee's spot-up shooting responsibilities? Camp Turk out in one of the corners while Courtney runs a high screen-and-roll with Dwight. Maybe Turk can work himself into a groove with enough quick, in-rhythm treys. It's worth trying, I suppose, but Stan Van Gundy apparently disagrees. From Orlando Magic Daily:

After tonight's disheartening game-three loss to the Sixers, Stan Van Gundy went out of his way to say good things about Hedo Turkoglu in the post-game press conference. Van Gundy said he had confidence in Turkoglu, he's going to continue to give him the ball, and he's going to keep running the offense through him.

Well, there goes that idea.

Tune in at 6:30 for all the drama.

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