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Posted: Friday April 17, 2009 12:38PM; Updated: Friday April 17, 2009 2:15PM
Paul Forrester Paul Forrester >
INSIDE THE NBA

Magic-76ers series breakdown

Story Highlights

The favored Magic come into the series with some injury concerns

Philadelphia doesn't inspire confidence based on its poor finish to the season

The Sixers aren't playing well enough to pose a real threat to Orlando

No. 3 Magic (59-23) vs. No. 6 Sixers (41-41)

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dwight-howard.p1.jpg
Dwight Howard averaged 15.7 points in three regular-season games against Samuel Dalembert and the 76ers.
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images
Season Series: Magic won 3-0
Nov. 6: MAGIC 98, 76ers 88
Nov. 26: Magic 96, 76ERS 94
Feb. 28: Magic 106, 76ERS 100
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OVERVIEW: Orlando arrives in the postseason with a thud, having gone 4-5 in April while dealing with some bothersome injuries to key players. Fortunately for the Magic, they'll meet a team slumping even worse, as the Sixers prepped for the postseason by losing six of their last seven (with the lone victory a gift from a Cavs team more interested in resting players than winning). One positive for the 76ers is starting forward Thaddeus Young returned earlier this week after missing seven games with a sprained ankle. Young's comeback is a boost to Philadelphia's running game, an integral part of its offense.

***

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Orlando injuries. Rashard Lewis (17.7 points) missed the last three regular-season games with knee tendinitis and Orlando's other starting forward, Hedo Turkoglu (16.8 points), sat out the last two with a sprained ankle. The Magic are hoping to have their second- and third-leading scorers available for Game 1.

2. Deep trouble. Thirty-two percent. That's the Sixers' conversion rate on three-pointers this season, worst in the NBA. When you can't space the court from long range, and don't have much of a post presence, you aren't giving one of the league's best defenses much to focus on but your slashers, and that's no way to win a series.

3. Dwight Howard's free-throw shooting. Will the big man's woes at the line cost the Magic in the playoffs? Howard has shot about 59 percent in each of the last four regular seasons; his career playoff mark is 51.7 percent in 14 games.

***

UNDER THE RADAR: The Magic signed defensive-minded shooting guard Mickael Pietrus to a four-year, $23 million contract last offseason with an eye toward this time of year. The 6-foot-6 Pietrus, along with rookie Courtney Lee, will be asked to slow down Andre Iguodala in the first round and perhaps Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in the conference semifinals. Also, Pietrus' ability to space the floor (he's one of five Magic players with at least 80 three-pointers) could be particularly important if injuries limit Lewis and/or Turkoglu.

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PREDICTION: Magic in 4. Orlando may not be a well-oiled machine at this point, but it will contain the Sixers' limited offensive options without much trouble and burn their mediocre defense from three-point range. And truth be told, it wouldn't make much difference even if Elton Brand were on the floor for Philadelphia.

MORE SERIES BREAKDOWNS

Cavaliers vs. Pistons
Hawks vs. Heat
Celtics vs. Bulls
Lakers vs. Jazz
Nuggets vs. Hornets
Blazers vs. Rockets
Spurs vs. Mavericks

 
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