Another series, another roundtable discussion.
Back again to answer some more questions for Third Quarter Collapse is Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics and Sandy Weil of Sportsmetricians Consulting. Both gentlemen were kind enough to take the time to provide their respective insight on the series between Orlando and Cleveland. Here's what they had to say:
How do you see the Magic stacking up to the Cavaliers? Who do you have winning the series?
Jon Nichols: Besides the most important position (small forward), the Magic actually match up quite well with the Cavaliers. Alston has the quickness to do an adequate job guarding Mo Williams, and Howard can take care of Ilgauskas. I think Redick and Lee also will not have too tough of a time guarding West. On the other end, Varejao will have a tough time staying in front of Lewis.
Of course, I've left out the most important name...LeBron James. The Magic really don't have an answer for him (not that anyone does). He's too quick for Turkoglu and too strong for everybody else. If I were Orlando, I'd strongly consider having Varejao's man [Rashard Lewis] constantly come over and double team. If Varejao wins the series for Cleveland, so be it.
With all that being said, I see Cleveland winning this series in 7 games. They're not as good as the hype suggests right now, but they still are really, really, talented. Orlando will give them all they can handle.
Sandy Weil: I think that the Magic match up better than either Detroit or Atlanta did. But I can't see how the Magic can win this series. They've seemed pretty spotty in close games. They dropped a few close ones against both Philly and Boston (while also winning a few). To win the series, Orlando will need to win at least one game in Cleveland, which seems unlikely. I see Cleveland in the Finals.
How much do you think the regular season success for Orlando (the team has beaten the Cavs 8 out of the last 11 times) the past few years will matter against Cleveland in the playoffs? Does a better and different supporting cast for the Cavaliers make a difference when noting at the aforementioned trend?
JN: Obviously looking at this year's success is the most important thing. If the rosters have changed at all since previous years (which they have), there's really no point in looking at those games. However, the Magic still won 2 of 3 this season. Is that enough to say they "own" the Cavs? Definitely not. But it also shows that Cleveland won't plow through Orlando like they did in their first two series. Like I said earlier...this is going to be a close one.
SW: I'm not putting tons of weight on the regular season head-to-head matchups. And I didn't really look at previous years' regular seasons at all as an indicator of playoff success this year. So, I maybe missing that piece. But both Orlando victories this season were in Orlando. In the first, they had Nelson still and in the second game in Orlando, Cleveland was playing their second of a road back-to-back.
There's been a lot of talk about LeBron James' insane production in the playoffs so far. Will the Magic, ranked first in defensive efficiency during the regular season, be able to slow down LBJ? If so, how well will Orlando be able to control 'Bron?
JN: It's all going to come down to the genius of Stan Van Gundy. The Magic have nobody that can match up one-on-one with LBJ. However, Cleveland does have a few players that aren't exactly studs on offense. If you leave those guys, you can keep his scoring down a bit. Still, I think James will get whatever he wants in this series. Can Orlando shut down the rest of Cleveland's players well enough that it won't matter? That's their best bet.
SW: Orlando was #1 in defensive efficiency. But Cleveland was #3, only 0.5 points behind Orlando. The better figure to look at is the difference between the offensive and defensive efficiency. Orlando had an excellent 8.3 points per 100 possessions (for each team). This placed them third in the league. Cleveland was at 10.3, first in the league.
LeBron's playoff numbers have come against clearly inferior teams (Atlanta and Detroit). I suspect that Orlando will have more success against him, but that he will be able to produce some numbers that are less gaudy but still pretty good. But I think that the Magic need to worry as much about what the Cleveland defense can do to the Magic. I think that you'll see the Cavaliers switch LeBron James over to guard Turkoglu in crunch time, potentially sacrificing a bit of their own offense to keep the Magic out of their offensive rhythm.
I like to thank again Jon and Sandy for participating in another roundtable discussion. It's always great gathering the insight of two intellectual individuals.