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Monday, April 28, 2008
Scouts Inc. Update: Raptors vs. Magic, Game 5

By Mike Moreau
Scouts Inc.

Raptors-Magic series scouting report | Series page

Game 5 has the Orlando Magic sitting exactly where they want to be in this series -- playing at home with a chance to close out the Toronto Raptors.

The Magic seem to have found the right combination to stifle the Raptors. Their 3-pointers, drives, post-ups and their forward combination of Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis continue to provide matchup problems for Toronto.

Both Turkoglu and Lewis were more aggressive off the dribble in Game 4, putting the ball on the floor and attacking the basket rather than settling for 3s. Both found themselves either matched up with a smaller defender like Anthony Parker or Jamario Moon, or a bigger, slower defender like Andrea Bargnani. The Raptors can match Chris Bosh with Lewis, but that leaves them lacking for an adequate defender for Turkoglu.

Even when Toronto had those two in check, Orlando got 3-point shots and big fourth-quarter baskets from Jameer Nelson and Keith Bogans, so the Raptors have to hope that Nelson and Bogans don't step up big in two consecutive games.

When the Magic get their offense rolling at home and the crowd is energized, they can tend to fall in love with the 3-point shot, which not only gave them huge first-half leads in Games 1 and 2, but also allowed the Raptors back in those games when the shots went cold.

Look for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to continue to emphasize balance and keep Turkoglu and Lewis in a driving mode.

Defensively, the Raptors will try to turn Game 5 into a fast-paced, helter-skelter frenzy filled with quick 3s and hurried shots. Look for Van Gundy to use an early timeout as soon as he sees any signs that the Magic are getting caught up in the kind of game that favors the Raptors.

Toronto just has no answer for how to neutralize Dwight Howard, who always seems to end up right in front of the rim with a Raptors player on his back. All of Orlando's ball screen action sends Howard to the rim after the screen -- he is no threat to pick and pop, and only on occasion will he shoot anything resembling a jump shot.

When he catches in the lane or in the post, it is strictly a power game, and the Raptors have tried Bosh, Bargnani and Rasho Nesterovic, as well as combinations of other defenders to try and stop Howard. When he is denied the entry pass, he has been devastating on the offensive boards, sealing his defender on his back.

It might be time for the Raptors to go to a "Hack a Dwight"-type strategy. Howard is shooting 65 percent from the field and only 53 percent from the free-throw line. He was only 1-for-6 in Game 4, and has made just nine of his last 23 free throws, so look for Toronto to wrap him up, foul him often and keep him from igniting the crowd with his dunking repertoire. This might be the only way the Raptors can disrupt Howard's rhythm, and it could cause him to pick up a frustration foul or two on the defensive end.

With the success of Jason Kapono in this series, the Raptors added some sets to free him for shots in Game 4, using Parker to screen block-to-block to bring Kapono all the way across the floor to catch and shoot or attack the lane quickly.

This leaves Parker to then curl to the top of the key off of a double screen for his jump shot -- something Toronto had some success with.

However, Toronto's shooters are at their best in more of a drive-and-pitch game, with the floor spread out and T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon creating havoc off the dribble. In the second half of Games 1 and 2, as well as in its Game 3 win, Toronto's guards were flying off of ball screens and creating for its 3-point shooters, who were just reading and spotting up.

Calderon must look to score more than he did in Game 4, and Ford must make better decisions on his penetrations, as he took some ill-advised jump shots early in the shot clock in critical situations late in Game 4.

Bosh has been magnificent in this series, and expect another big game from him, getting jump shots by stepping off the lane and driving at Howard and Lewis. He did major damage on the offensive glass in Game 4, so look for him to get more easy baskets if the Raptors run it loose offensively.

When the Raptors do get into the half-court set, expect them to go back to a steady diet of high-elbow ball screens, which have Calderon and Ford tearing around the corners and Bosh and Bargnani spotting up for jump shots or drives to the middle. The Magic have had trouble guarding this action, and also look for more ball screens that involve Dwight Howard's man, as Howard played goalie in Game 4 with eight blocks. The Raptors have to get him away from the basket to have any success.

In Game 5, expect the Raptors to play with reckless abandon at both ends of the floor -- throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Magic on defense and having no inhibitions offensively. Down 3-1, the Raptors are as dangerous as their nickname suggests, and Orlando must not get caught up in the frenzy or it will find itself right back in Toronto again.

PREDICTION: Magic win Game 5

Mike Moreau is the director of basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He also serves as an NBA analyst for Hoopsworld.

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