|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|February 8th, 2009|
|Sun Sports HD|
|Devin Harris||PG||Anthony Johnson|
|Vince Carter||SG||Mickael Pietrus|
|Trenton Hassell||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Ryan Anderson||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Brook Lopez||C||Dwight Howard|
The Orlando Magic have gone on a bit of a slide, going 4-4 in their last 8 games, and will hope to end it tonight against the New Jersey Nets. Despite winning their last four games by a combined 87 points, they are in a bit of a tough spot themselves. With talented youngsters like Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, along with star veteran Vince Carter, they have just enough to squeak into the playoffs, but not enough to do any serious damage. Even if they end up in the lottery, they'll get a pick in the mid-to-late teens, which likely won't give them a player who can contribute right away. And with their move to Brooklyn reportedly on the skids, they may not be able to sign any premiere free agents in 2010, as has been their plan since dealing Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks for Harris last February.
Tonight, the Magic should be most concerned with Harris, the Nets' All-Star point guard. Harris was a no-brainer selection for the All-Star team, averaging 21.5 points per game (with 9.0 free throw attempts per game) to go with 6.5 assists. Carter flanks him in the backcourt and is having an All-Star-caliber season himself with per-game averages of 20.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. Lopez may be a stud, but the Magic should be more concerned with their perimeter defense against this team. I figure Courtney Lee may spend more minutes at the point than Anthony Johnson because he stands a puncher's chance of staying between Harris and the basket. Newly acquired point guard Tyronn Lue, who has a reputation as an above-average defender, could also get the call.
Even if the Magic are tired from Friday's loss to Indiana--it's almost inconceivable that they could be, based on how lax most of them were--they hould be able to get whatever they want offensively against the Nets, whose defense ranks in the bottom sixth of the league in every four-factors category except offensive rebounding.
Two quick bullet points:
The Nets could be players on the trade market; it was only two weeks ago that they were linked to the Magic in a rumor which reported they would send Eduardo Najera to Orlando for Keith Bogans, whom the Magic eventually sent to Milwaukee for Lue. Now the word is they might make a play for disgruntled Phoenix Suns forward Amar'e Stoudemire
Former Magic guard Keyon Dooling, whom they dealt to New Jersey last summer, is one of the players about whom the Nets expect to receive inquiries. Given the Magic's point guard deficit this season, the Magic could sure use a steady hand like Dooling; did you know he's fifth in the league in three-point shooting? Then again, some people, including The Sporting Blog's Bethlehem Shoals, have attributed the lack of a viable backup to Jameer Nelson as a reason for his outstanding play this year.
Tip's at 6. Stop the skid, Magic. Win big.