Saturday, April 23, 2011

Black Skies for a Dark Horse

In my first round preview, I mentioned that the Orlando Magic were my dark horse pick to win the NBA title.  Since then, my dark horse has received a few black eyes at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, a team I've needled since the start of my blog.  Atlanta has a game on the Magic and home court advantage right now despite 33.3 points and over 17 rebounds per game from Orlando's center, Dwight Howard.  Why was/is Orlando considered my dark horse pick, especially after they've struggled at the start of this year's playoffs?

Dwight Howard battles inside. 
Of all the contenders in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat are the top dogs.  The two squads share elite top-end talent, in the form of a trio and a foursome that made up over half of this year's Eastern Conference All-Star team.  Seven players- zero centers.  Dwight Howard is the alpha center in the league, and he equipped himself with a dominant interior scoring game this year, making him an offensive mismatch, and possibly an offensive Constant, in the playoffs.

The Heat's center-by-committee act can easily be exposed against Orlando, especially since Miami lacks a defender capable of tracking Jameer Nelson around Howard's enormous screens.  Boston's version of Superman has kryptonite of the calf- they need to make an alternate, comedic version of Smallville where elderly Clark enters a nursing home and fights off a villainous, pimped-out great-grandson of Lex Luther who walks with a cane and has dentures made of kryptonite- and with Kendrick Perkins gone, Boston has some mighty question marks at the five spot.       

Even though the Chicago Bulls have home court throughout and my league MVP, Derrick Rose, they are far too flawed and inexperienced a team to make it very far in these playoffs.  Joakim Noah was pushed around by ancient Shaquille O'Neal last year; a spry Dwight Howard should tame the gator.  Howard also represents the biggest road block in the league for Rose as he slashes into the paint.  If Chicago is having trouble with Darren Collison-Tyler Hansbrough pick-n-rolls, what happens when they need to defend Dwight and Jameer?

The team should be able to take down Atlanta.  The Hawks don't have a trusty go-to player, and nothing about the team is dominant.  Orlando's peripheral perimeter players need to clear those clouds and let Superman bathe in some rays to let the dark horse flourish.  If the Magic can take three before the Hawks take two, they have a very real chance of making it to the NBA Finals, where anything can happen.           


  1. Great post title!

    Thoughts on where the Magic are now down 1-3?

    I have to confess I did not see this coming at all. Savvy people are pointing out retrospectively things that showed signs of this possibility after Atlanta won the regular season series, but this Hawk team just seemed like it was coming into the playoffs pre-beaten.

    Happy to see Howard playing so well after last year's 1st round debacle, but that just makes the Magic's struggles all the more striking.

  2. Honestly, even last year I thought Atlanta would present more of a challenge to Orlando because of Josh Smith's ability to defend stretch 4's on the perimeter, which was Orlando's gimmick back then. That obviously never showed, so coming into this series, I thought Orlando would just run over a team that seemingly limped to the finish line. Inexplicably, Atlanta has whooped some butt.

    I still think Orlando can succeed as my dark horse and get out of this hole. Game 5 was a good start towards building momentum back.