|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|October 29th, 2008|
|Mike Bibby||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Joe Johnson||SG||Mickael Pietrus|
|Josh Smith||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Al Horford||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Zaza Pachulia||C||Dwight Howard|
Please see the updates below - BQR
That's right: the season's finally here. And yes, that's right, Zaza Pachulia figures to start tonight against the Magic, his former team, because incumbent starter Marvin Williams will serve a one-game suspension for this brutal hit on Celtics guard Rajon Rondo in last year's playoffs. This move may benefit the Hawks in the long run, as their beefier frontline gave Magic center Dwight Howard fits in these two teams' last preseason meeting; although he scored 29 points, he also committed 7 turnovers and shot a woeful 13-of-22 from the foul line.
What I'm most interested in tonight is the Magic's attitude. Orlando has an opportunity to make a statement by beating an inferior Hawks team that has surprisingly given them trouble over the last several seasons. The Magic will count on Mickael Pietrus, whom they signed to replace current Hawks reserve guard Maurice Evans in their starting lineup, to shut-down Hawks All-Star guard Joe Johnson. He's a top-shelf scorer and Pietrus needs to make sure the Hawks have to look elsewhere for their offense.
Offensively, the Magic will look to establish Howard inside, but can't neglect to let Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu go to work on the outside, either. Lewis will probably have an expanded role in the Magic's offense this season, vowing to be more aggressive and to not defer to his teammates as often. Nearly half of his field-goal attempts last season came from beyond the three-point arc, and although he connected at a blistering 40.9% clip, he also needs to make use of his underrated post-game. He may be able to work on his sharpshooting tonight if matched-up with the slower, less athletic (not to be confused with "slow" and "unathletic") Horford. If the Hawks elect to sic Josh Smith, a versatile defender, on Lewis, all bets are off, and the Magic will lean more heavily on Turkoglu to get buckets.
Keep an eye on how the second units of both teams fare tonight. Neither team has an a-list bench, but neither is totally deficient, either. Anthony Johnson, the Magic's backup point guard, spent part of last season with Atlanta and could give his new teammates insight into the Hawks' plays. If he gives good advice, the Magic could force turnovers and get easy buckets. But that street goes both ways, as Evans could give the Hawks similarly beneficial information.
Tip's at 7 PM. Look for the Magic to honor eight members of their inaugural team during the game. Go Magic.
- Brian Schmitz says Stan Van Gundy will go with an eight-man rotation tonight. Tony Battie, Anthony Johnson, and J.J. Redick will probably be the first players off the bench. Where's Marcin Gortat? I don't know, but I hope we see some of him tonight;
- The Magic won tonight's game in 78% of Accuscore simulations;
- However, Schmitz thinks the Hawks might pull off the upset.