Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Mr. Under the Radar
In my last post, I wrote that the matchup between Chris Bosh & Dwight Howard was the most compelling one-on-one matchup in the Eastern Conference's opening round matchups.
I stand by that statement, but--as faithful reader Chris Kemlo pointed out on the message board (and as Michael Grange pointed out in an interview that will be posted later on today)--the key matchup for the series will be Hedo Turkoglu vs whoever is covering him for the Raptors.
As much as Dwight Howard is a freak of nature, Hedo Turkoglu is the guy that makes the Magic dangerous. Here's a list for you:
Those are three of the premier players in the NBA. Dream-teamers, all-stars, potential hall of famers. They're also three of the four players in the NBA that averaged over 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game this season. The other?....
He's a 6'10" slasher who also shoots it well from outside. The Magic are 10-2 this season when he records 8 assists or more, and he's fared very well against the Raptors this season. In three games against Toronto, Turkoglu is averaging 21.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. However, those numbers should come with two caveats:
1. The final game (where he put up a 24/7/8 line) was played without the services of Chris Bosh
2. The first game (where he put up a 24/15/6 line) was played early in the season when Jamario Moon wasn't even dressing for the Raptors, when Rasho was only playing spot minutes, and when Jason Kapono was still in the starting line up. Therefore, Toronto wasn't using its two best defenders, and one of its worst defenders was prominently involved in the rotation.
In the last game of the three, when Toronto had its full complement of players, Turkoglu was held to a 16 point, 4 rebound, 9 assist performance, and missed 4 of his 16 shots. The key defender on Turkoglu? Jamario Moon.
How the Raptors choose to defend this Magic team, and especially Howard and Turkoglu, will have a huge impact on the series. The Magic--like the Raptors--are a team that likes to get the ball inside (either by dropping into Howard in the post, or by penetration from Turkoglu) THEN kicking it out to three-point shooters. If the Raptors can get serviceable one-on-one defence from Moon (on Turkoglu) and Nesterovic (on Howard) then that will go a long way towards limiting the effectiveness of Orlando's spot-up shooters (especially Rashard Lewis).
I'll close with my 2nd stat of the day:
TIMES LEADING TEAM (OR TYING FOR TEAM-LEAD) IN SCORING
The Raptors have had 10 different players lead the team in scoring this season, meanwhile, prior to their final (pointless) 2 games of the season, 79 of the 80 games that Orlando had played this season had one of 4 players lead the team in scoring--Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Turkoglu, and Jameer Nelson.
My question to you is this: Does that balanced scoring of the Raptors (or alternatively, Orlando's imbalance) mean anything in the playoffs? Is it an advantage for the Raptors that different players have shown the ability to step up? Perhaps it is an advantage for the Magic, that everyone on their team has a clearly defined role?