If one listens to the chatter, the Orlando Magic no longer stand a chance. National NBA analysts, local writers and fans everywhere have counted the Magic out.
That should be music to every Magic fan’s ears.
Over the last two seasons, the Magic have never been the sexy pick. Dwight Howard lacked toughness, Lebron James would be too much or the Boston Celtics wouldn’t lose a game seven at home.
Maybe this will be the season all the experts finally get it right— but looking at the other “Big Four” teams in the NBA Eastern Conference, reasons exist to believe the experts will be wrong again.
That sounds like silliness after the Magic’s embarrassing loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. But if NBA basketball really comes down to match-ups, the Magic have a shot.
Among the East’s front runners— Boston, Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Atlanta and New York, only one team has demonstrated dominance according to win-loss records in games against that group.
At this point in the season, the Boston Celtics have gone 12-1 against the East’s top five teams. Miami has gone 7-6, Atlanta 5-5, Orlando 5-7 and the Chicago Bulls 4-5.
Miami comes with all the hype, but with quite possibly the most glaring weaknesses. Yes, the team boasting the most exciting Big Three in the NBA, have big problems.
The Miami Heat have no bench and no front court.
The Heat have relied heavily all season on their Big Three to score. In their loss to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, the Heat bench only scored three points in the entire second half.
Lack of scoring from their bench has become a trend rather than the exception.
In the half-court grind-out style that typifies the Eastern Conference playoff games, Chris Bosh could become the next Rashard Lewis.
Big men who can’t post-up, start to become a liability in the NBA’s second season.
The Bulls also lack depth, and will have trouble matching-up.
No one can question the fact that Derek Rose has stepped up his game this season.
But like the Heat, the Bulls need to find scoring from someone other than their super star.
Luol Deng looks to be the guy to step up. He will have to do it consistently over seven games to keep the Bulls in the hunt.
Remember the Bulls tried to sign JJ Redick during the off-season to add another shooter. At yesterday’s trade deadline, the Bulls still sought to add another scoring weapon— looking to add either Courtney Lee or OJ Mayo.
The Bulls know they need more scoring threats to make a deep run.
Joakim Noah can’t cover Howard. Boozer will be solid, but can he give the Bulls enough in a tough seven-game playoff series?
The Atlanta Hawks have quietly creeped up the standings. They improved their back-court with Kurt Heinrich. They may be the sleeper pick to watch this season in the playoffs.
But in the end, you have to believe too much Dwight Howard will make the difference in that potential series.
In the end, the Boston Celtics may have done the Magic a huge favor by trading away Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson.
Danny Ainge put a great deal of pressure on Shaq if the Celtics should meet the Magic in the playoffs.
None of this is to say the Magic are a lock to win the East.
But it also demonstrates that if the Magic can put their talent together, they once again could be the NBA’s version of The Little Engine That Could.