Every now and then, we will highlight and promote some of the more creative FanPosts from the site. The following post was originally made by @yourdribbleizcookiez on February 22. Stats and other updates have been edited and some portions have been removed to account for the games that have passed since originally posted.
While it is far too soon to think playoffs, it is interesting to see how the Magic might match-up against a potential first round opponent if they do manage to make it to the postseason. With the Magic having defeated the Raptors on Sunday, and with some Toronto writers even wondering if the Magic may have the Raptors number, we thought it would be a great time to highlight this in-depth and entertaining post.
It’s the end of February and Orlando is in the midst of a playoff push, now one game out of the eighth spot (and three games out from 6th place).
Who would’ve predicted that the Magic would be in the thick of it this late into the season? I for one have become sick of following mock drafts by the All-Star break and seeing other teams’ rebuilds speed by our own. So, to see Orlando in it to win it (and winning convincingly recently) is a refreshing breath of fresh air. Again, everybody cross their fingers because nothing is guaranteed but Death and Taxes, but hopefully by the end of the regular season we can also add Magic Playoff Basketball to that list.
As it stands, Orlando could potentially face:
2) Toronto, 2 games back
3) Indiana, 5.5
4) Philadelphia, 7.5
5) Boston, 8.5
As you can see, it is a coin toss of games separating who Orlando might face if they move up to the six slot, wagering on taking on the likes of either the Pacers, the Sixers, or even the Celtics.
Off Rating: 106.8 (23rd); Def Rating: 107.7 (9th)
Starting 5: (G) Augustin (G) Fournier (F) Isaac (F) Gordon (C) Vucevic
Bench: (G) Briscoe (F) Iwundu (C) Birch
Let’s take a look at match-ups:
1) Milwaukee Bucks (1-2; 103-83 W, 108-118 L, 91-113 L)
Off Rating: 113.1 (4th); Def Rating: 103.7 (1st)
Starting 5: (G) Bledsoe (G) Brogdon (F) Middleton (F) Antetokounmpo (C) B. Lopez
Bench: (G) Hill (F) Snell (F) Mirotic (C) Wood
Magic Connection: Jeff Weltman, John Hammond, previous General Management of the Bucks, Creator of Long Bois Drafting School of Thought; Ersan Ilyasova, treasured return in the Tobias Harris trade
Match-up Issues: Many would point at Giannis, this year’s potential MVP, which is completely fair. I actually think Orlando is equipped to take on the Greek Freak for 48 minutes with doses of (well, everybody) but especially Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. Both have had breakout defensive seasons, and if they can do anything to nullify his output then the Magic have a strong chance of moving on to the next round and upsetting the Bucks, the current #1 seed.
My larger concern comes from the 1 spot, where Magic killer Eric Bledsoe resides for Milwaukee. He has a distinct size and strength advantage on D.J., and the Bucks make a point of taking advantage of this early, dumping it in the post for Eric to operate. In Orlando’s lone win though, it is important to note that Steve Clifford battled this match-up by staggering Isaiah Briscoe’s minutes to overlap Bledsoe’s also, and Briscoe put up a fierce battle, matching him blow for blow. Both are built like bulldogs, and Isaiah’s defense was desperately needed in helping stop Eric’s production, while admirably running the show. Expect to see a lot of Isaiah if Orlando takes on Milwaukee.
Outlook: Orlando has all the tools to make this a complete grind against the best record in the East. Take it for what you will but the Magic match up as well with Milwaukee as most anyone else in the League.
2) Toronto Raptors (2-1; 116-87 W, 91-93 L, 113-98 W)
Off Rating: 112.3 (7th); Def Rating: 107.5 (8th)
Starting 5: (G) Lowry (G) Green (F) Leonard (F) Siakam (C) Ibaka
Bench: (G) Lin (F) Anunoby (C) M. Gasol
Magic Connection: Jeff Weltman, previous General Manager of the Toronto Raptors; Serge Ibaka, treasured return in the Victor Oladipo trade
Match-up Issues: That’s a loaded lineup over there across the border, even more so with the addition of former Grizzly Marc Gasol. Astonishingly, Orlando has blown them out once already, and lost a heartbreaker to them by two points (and just defeated the Kawhi-less Raptors on Sunday), so far. In both games, two key match-ups come into focus: 1) Kawhi Leonard was kept relatively quiet, putting up 17 points in one and 21 in the other, on sub optimal shooting numbers; the easiest finger to point to is Aaron Gordon, who has spent all season feasting on primary wing scorers. If AG can keep this former Finals MVP under wraps then the tables even out considerably, allowing Orlando to steal a few and potentially swinging the series their way. 2) Nikola Vucevic is a monster, and he can’t be stopped. Even in Orlando’s early season, loss, Vooch was a complete beast on the boards, tearing down 18 rebounds to go along 14 points and 4 assists. Ibaka, Orlando’s treasured return in the Victor Oladipo trade, was helpless against Nik’s offensive prowess. When Toronto got another shot at him the very next month, Vucevic went out almost gave them a 30-20-10 triple double (30-19-8, to be exact). Maybe this is why they went and purchased Marc Gasol from the local Memphis supermarket? Hmm. Food for (Vucevic) thought.
Outlook: Mighty sunny in Orlando, scattered clouds, light breeze, and great chance of a Magic first round upset.
3) Indiana Pacers (1-1, 107-100 W, 112-90 L)
Off Rating: 109.6 (15th); Def Rating: 104.2 (2nd)
Starting 5: (G) Collison (G) Evans (F) B. Bogdanovic (F) Young (C) Turner
Bench: (G) Joseph (G/F) Matthews (F) D. Sabonis (C) O’Quinn
Magic Connection: Former No. 2 pick by Orlando and All-Star, Victor Oladipo; Former No. 11 Pick by Orlando, Domantis Sabonis; former prized Magic back-up center and forever fan favorite Kyle O’Quinn
Match-up Issues: This is not Victor Oladipo’s Pacers, as he is on the shelf for the time being recovering from injury. However, that does not make them any less dangerous, shown by the early season blow out against Indiana. The most dangerous threat in both games was (wait for it)… Bojan Bogdanovic, not to be confused with Bogdan. He dropped 26 and then 21 points on Orlando, which means that he can light it up quickly, and must be extinguished even faster. Myles Turner (27 and 7 in 2nd game, 10 and 6 in the first) and Thad Young also may pose problems if not appropriately contained. The Pacers are kind of top heavy and ride their starters hard, which is probably why they went out and got a grizzled vet in Wesley Matthews to help ease some of the strain with Oladipo out. Orlando has been led by a consistent Nik Vucevic (averaging almost 20/10) and surprise performances in either game by AG (20/14), D.J. Augustin (20 points), Terrence Ross (detonating for 30 points) and Jonathan Isaac (13 points/13 rebs). Both games have been somewhat of a mixed bag and it’s difficult to put a finger on a consistent trend between the two teams.
Outlook: Oladipo or not, the Pacers pose a threat if taken lightly (or even if not taken lightly). It will be up to Orlando to minimize the inside presence of guys like Turner and Young and keep them off the glass, keep drivers like Turner out the lane, along with neutralizing the Pacers’ perimeter shot makers like Bogdanovic. This will be a tough series for Orlando to pull out.
4) Philadelphia 76ers (1-1, 111-106 W, 115-116 L)
Off Rating: 111.8 (9th); Def Rating: 108.6 (13th)
Starting 5: (G/F) B. Simmons (G) Redick (F) Butler (F) Harris (C) Embiid
Bench: (G) McConnell (G) J. Simmons (F) Scott (C) Marjanovic
Magic Connection: Former Magic guard and fan favorite, JJ Redick; Former Magic forward (also fan favorite), initially traded for other fan favorite JJ Redick, Tobias Harris; also close to our hearts but didn’t work out former Magic guard Jonathon Simmons, recently traded for former No. 1 pick now Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz; Magic All Star center Nikola Vucevic, renowned Sixers killer
Match-up Issues: Battle of the Bigs. Joel Embiid is widely regarded as one of the, if not The, top center in the NBA. You might know where I’m going with this. Vooch has made a living on carving up anything that has a Sixers jersey attached to it, and this year has been no different. Comparing head to head match-ups, you can make the case that Vooch has come out ahead in his bouts with Jojo, averaging a disgusting 28.5 ppg/10.5 rpg/ 8 apg against Embiid’s 25.5 ppg/ 11.5 rpg/ 6.5 apg. It’s not a mistake - Vooch shows up to play, especially against high-caliber competition. The question now is what are the rest of both teams going to bring to the war? What’s been made clear is that JJ Redick is now the enemy and should not be spared if captured. He burned Orlando in both games this year, dropping 31 (along with 8 three-point bombs) and 22 in their loss. To counteract his sniping, Ross has been consistent in his jungle clearing role of flame thrower, averaging 15 points off the bench in both games. Jimmy Butler, widely agreed as being a killer in combat, has been relatively quiet, so it will be Orlando’s mission to keep him that way. A wildcard to consider is the addition of beloved (but now should be hated) Tobias Harris. He will most likely match up against AG, who will be tasked to slow him down. What might turn the series is in fact the output of Aaron Gordon though, who has bullied the Sixers to the tune of an average of approximately 19 and 9 in both outings. If he can turn out those Voochesque type of numbers for the term of the whole series, then Orlando stands a chance of forcing Philly into waving a white flag and moving on to its next campaign.
Outlook: This series against the Philadelphia Magic, er, Sixers, will come down to Jojo vs Vooch, then who of the rest performs well enough to close the deal. The Magic may be able to keep the, ahem, Magic going against this Philadelphian foe.
5) Boston Celtics (2-0, 105-103 W, 93-90 W)
Off Rating: 111.7 (10th); Def Rating: 105.9 (5th)
Starting 5: (G) Irving (G) Smart (F) Tatum (F) Marcus Morris (C) Horford
Bench: (G) Rozier (G) Brown (F) Hayward (C) Theis
Magic Connection: Former drooled upon point guard prospect for Orlando at beginning of season, Terry Rozier
Match-up Issues: Kyrie Irving is a match-up issue to anybody. Being the Orlando Magic, this is especially true. This year, he has put up stats against Orlando to the tune of almost 24/7/5. It will be a team effort in corralling a dangerous player like Kyrie and making sure other players beat you, which has worked effectively in both Orlando’s wins against the Celtics this year. Unfortunately, neither win has been commanding to say the least, as they were both decided by one possession. At the end of the day a win is a win though, and Orlando had to effectively close the door both times, so kudos to them. Nik Vucevic has been his usual consistent self in these outings also, averaging 20/12.5, in line with his season stats. Horford, his potential nemesis, has been much quieter, with 12.5/8.5 averages. It’s crazy that Gordon Hayward is on this team, but between him, Tatum, and Jaylen Brown, all have been relative non factors in Orlando’s wins this season, so a key to victory should be making sure that stays that way, as any of the three have the potential to do some damage if left to their own devices. Stand out performances for Orlando in either win include J.I.’s memorable 18/12 performance, a precursor to his stronger string of recent production. Fournier has proven hot against the Celtics also, averaging 16 points and 7.5 assists, with passing that would have probably been unheard of coming from Evan as recent as last season.
Outlook: While both wins were squeezed out by the hairs on their chinny chin chins, Orlando has proven that they can take it to Boston, who is supposedly built for championship aspirations.
With all this being said, OPP, who do you all like Orlando’s chances the most against in this upcoming 2019 First Round of the Playoffs? The Bucks, Raptors, Pacers, Sixers, or Celtics?
Who would the Magic have the best chance against in a potential first round playoff match-up?
This poll is closed
Don’t forget to vote, and leave your comments explaining why. Thanks, and Go Magic!