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Friday, April 18, 2008
Updated: April 19, 12:53 PM ET
Scouts Inc. Scouting Breakdown: Raptors vs. Magic

By David Thorpe and Mike Moreau
Scouts Inc.

East scouting reports: Hawks-Celtics | Sixers-Pistons | Raptors-Magic | Wizards-Cavaliers
West scouting reports: Nuggets-Lakers | Mavericks-Hornets | Suns-Spurs | Rockets-Jazz


Efficient offense, good shooting and a chess game of matchups are what to expect from this series.

The Raptors are the best in the league at taking care of the basketball, averaging the fewest turnovers per game. They are also the second-best 3-point shooting team and rank seventh in overall field goal percentage. They get good shots and they don't beat themselves.

The Magic are fourth in 3-point percentage and fifth in overall field goal percentage, but they play at a faster pace and turn the ball over more. This could be an area of concern for Orlando, especially from its point guards.

Toronto will get big numbers from Chris Bosh, who will score from all over the floor. The Raptors struggled last postseason against the Nets partially because their superstar didn't step up his activity level until it was too late. In the two games he played against Orlando this season, he not only hit his jumper but also aggressively attacked Dwight Howard -- going right at him. This is a winning strategy for the Raptors.

In their lone win over the Magic, the Raps got double figure contributions from every position. If the shooters aren't hitting, look for T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon to take on more of a scoring role.

The Magic got stellar performances from Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis in winning two out of three from the Raptors during the season, and these may be the matchups that determine this series. Toronto has tried almost every combination of schemes and players ... without success. They must find a defensive answer in the first two games.

Look for Orlando to continue to look for these two on screen-and-rolls and pin-downs, and for Howard playing his power game in the post. This has been the Magic's formula for success all season. Pushing the pace also frees up either of their outside shooters or, if the defense extends to cover them, opens up room for Howard inside.

TORONTO RAPTORS
POSITION
ORLANDO MAGIC

T.J. Ford
12.1 ppg
6.1 apg
1.06 spg


PG

Jameer Nelson
10.9 ppg
3.5 rpg
5.6 apg

Ford: More of a "half starter" since he splits time with Calderon at the point. Ford did not play in the Raptors' win in February but had 20 points off the bench in just 16 minutes in their March loss. He can get anywhere he wants to on the dribble, and he must put pressure on the Magic with dribble penetration to free up his shooters, or he may have to look to be more of a scorer if teammates can't hit shots. He is shooting over 50 percent in April, so this may be the role he takes on. Contrary to popular opinion, Ford likes it when he has to score.

Nelson: An effective creator who splits time at the point with Carlos Arroyo. He had three solid games against Toronto this season -- averaging 12 points, 15 assists and only 4 turnovers -- and must continue with that type of efficiency against Ford and Calderon, both of whom he can score against. He will create off the high screen and off the dribble from all over the floor and has shot 60 percent from the floor and 10-for-16 from 3 in April.


TORONTO RAPTORS
POSITION
ORLANDO MAGIC

Anthony Parker
12.5 ppg
4.1 rpg
2.2 apg


SG

Maurice Evans
9.3 ppg
3.1 rpg
1.0 apg

Parker: Steady performer all season and the best 3-point shooting starter, but April has been his worst shooting month -- only 41 percent from the field and a dismal 23 percent from 3. The Raptors will try to free him with the pick-and-roll or screen for him off the ball for the catch-and-shoot. He can get to the basket on the dribble, but Howard's presence has bothered Parker at the rim in previous meetings. And Keith Bogans also has bothered him with physical play. Nelson had only two points in an early-season loss to Magic but had 15 in a February win.

Evans: Has worked his way into the starting lineup and is the Magic's fourth-leading scorer in April, averaging 12 points per game on 48 percent shooting. Will give way to Bogans when struggling or if more defense is needed, as was the case in March when Evans went 1-for-7 from the field and Anthony Parker had 19 points.


TORONTO RAPTORS
POSITION
ORLANDO MAGIC

Jamario Moon
8.5 ppg
6.2 rpg
1.38 bpg


SF

Hedo Turkoglu
19.5 ppg
5.7 rpg
5.0 apg

Moon: Came out of nowhere this season to give the Raptors athleticism and shot-blocking from the small forward spot. He'll provide the spectacular dunk on the break and other hustle plays on offense. He had 17 points and 12 rebounds in the Raptors' win over the Magic back on Feb. 20, but was ineffective in a loss to Orlando two weeks later. The best rebounding small forward in the league, and a good defender, but he will have his hands full with Rashard Lewis or Turkoglu.

Turkoglu: Not enough superlatives to describe his All-Star caliber season. He has become more than just a shooter and has done plenty of damage to Toronto -- scoring 24 points in both Magic wins this season. He's become a better finisher and, with Toronto's lack of shot-blocking, you can expect Hedo to continue driving and attacking -- as he has done in all three previous games. The Raptors have tried every combination of defenders on him -- from Parker to Bosh -- but have found no answer. Look for a big series from him.


TORONTO RAPTORS
POSITION
ORLANDO MAGIC

Chris Bosh
22.3 ppg
8.7 rpg
1.0 bpg


PF

Rashard Lewis
18.2 ppg
5.4 rpg
2.4 apg

Bosh: The best Raptor has had two big games against the Magic, scoring 26 in an early season loss and erupting for 40 in a February win -- he was unguardable, going 14-for-16 from the field and 11-for-11 from the line. One of the best shooting big men in the NBA, he can get caught up shooting too many jumpers at times, but not against Orlando. He has no fear of Dwight Howard and makes it a point to go right at him at every opportunity, which he did time and time again in February. Howard will even give up on a play when Bosh gets a step so as not to commit the foul. Neither Brian Cook, Lewis or anyone else on the Magic can slow Bosh down, so Bosh can get big numbers every game unless Orlando changes strategies.

Lewis: He has been equally effective against Toronto this season, as he and Turkoglu have posted almost identical scoring numbers (24-16-22 for Lewis and 24-16-24 for Turkoglu). The Raptors can't guard either one of them and are undersized with any matchup other than Bosh. As good a spot-up shooting forward as there is in the league, Lewis won't hesitate to post smaller defenders, which is all Toronto has. Shooting 45 percent from 3 in April, he looks primed and ready to continue torturing Toronto.


TORONTO RAPTORS
POSITION
ORLANDO MAGIC

Rasho Nesterovic
7.8 ppg
4.8 rpg
0.73 bpg


C

Dwight Howard
20.7 ppg
14.2 rpg
2.15 bpg

Nesterovic: He has been on a tear in April, playing his best basketball of the season and averaging 16.3 points (twice his average) on 60 percent shooting. His stepped-up scoring and shot-blocking will be needed in this series. He will try to put Howard in as many screen-roll situations as possible because he wants no part of him at the rim; Howard will let Nesterovic shoot the pick-and-pop jumper or the spot-up 15- to 18-footer. If Nesterovic can continue his hot streak, Howard will stay closer and the basket area will be less menacing for Raptors drivers.

Howard: Has put together an incredible season, dominating around the basket. Howard had 37 points on 13-for-16 shooting when Bosh had 40 in Toronto's win, but he has been in foul trouble in the two Magic wins over the Raptors this season, which limited his minutes. Teammates picked up the offensive slack, but this could be a concern since Bosh's game plan will be to go right at Howard and challenge him. Howard will have his way with Nesterovic or anybody else inside. The Raptors can only hope Howard gets in foul trouble or he gets frustrated with a lack of touches, which can happen if the Magic shooters are firing away.


TORONTO RAPTORS
POSITION
ORLANDO MAGIC

Jose Calderon
11.2 ppg
2.9 rpg
8.3 apg


BENCH

Carlos Arroyo
6.9 ppg
1.8 rpg
3.5 apg

RAPTORS

Jose Calderon: The other "half-starter" at the point, he has had a near All-Star season. Played three superb games against Orlando, including 19 points and 13 assists in the Raptors' lone win. Creates shots for everybody and can be a nightmare to defend if Raptors shooters are keeping help defenders at home.

Carlos Delfino: The Raptors' highest scorer off the bench in April (went 6-for-8 from 3 in a win over New Jersey). Scored 23 points on 5-for-8 3-point shooting in Raptors' win over the Magic in February. Capable of picking up some of the scoring slack if others are cold.

Andrea Bargnani: Dismal start to his season just kept getting worse -- has made only two of his last 24 3s. Was a nonfactor in the last two games against the Magic and may have become such an offensive liability that, shockingly, he may see very limited action.

Jason Kapono: The NBA's leading 3-point shooter has stopped shooting them, attempting only two in his past 13 games. Played no part in games against the Magic this season. Raptors need him firing away, but the Magic know that.

Kris Humphries: The big-body-rebound-and-foul guy. Should see limited action only when necessary.


MAGIC

Carlos Arroyo: Comes off the bench for Nelson and will stay on the floor if he is playing well. A penetrating scorer and creator, his playing time will rise and fall with his decision-making, as shot selection and turnovers have been an issue.

Keith Bogans: Has come off the bench in the Magic's last two games versus Toronto. Orlando's best on-the-ball defender, he is also a capable 3-point shooter. He has struggled from 3 lately, but his primary job will be to defend Anthony Parker as he can give Parker trouble with his rugged, physical style.

Keyon Dooling: Provides quickness, scoring and defensive energy. An alternative to Arroyo if more size is needed.

Adonal Foyle: Big veteran will spell Howard and could play extended minutes if foul trouble becomes a factor.

Brian Cook: Broke a bone in his hand in practice and is expected to miss this series. Could be available if Orlando advances.


BOTTOM LINE

David Thorpe: Stan Van Gundy will have his guys ultra-prepared for this entire series -- it's what he does best. Toronto showed a lack of toughness in its postseason loss to New Jersey last season and throughout this season. Orlando is primed and ready to take the next step toward leaguewide recognition as an up-and-coming franchise.
Prediction: Magic 4, Raptors 1


Mike Moreau: The Raptors' shooters are struggling, and defensively they just can't solve the puzzle of defending Orlando's big three. If Toronto returns to lights-out shooting, it will be in the series. However, Orlando has played at a consistently higher level all season. That will continue in this series.
Prediction: Magic 4, Raptors 2

David Thorpe is an NBA analyst for ESPN.com and the executive director of the Pro Training Center at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., where he oversees the player development program for NBA and college players. To e-mail him, click here.

Mike Moreau is the Director of Basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, FL. He also serves an NBA Analyst for Hoopsworld.

Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.