Playoff Preview: Raptors at Magic - Game 1

The Magic open their first-round playoff series by hosting their friends from north of the border, the Toronto Raptors. Orlando won two out of their three meetings with the Raptors this season, and the only game played at the Amway Arena.

GAME 1 - Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Final Records: Orlando- 51-31, Southeast division champions; Toronto- 41-41, second place in the Southeast division.

Toronto on the road- 16-25; Orlando at home- 25-16

The Raptors are led by All-Star power forward Chris Bosh, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 22.3 ppg., and 8.7 rpg. Toronto starts T.J. Ford and Anthony Parker in their backcourt. Ford is a very speedy point guard who has always had a significant injury history and finished the regular season averaging 12.1 ppg., and 6.1 apg. Parker is a sharp-shooting guard who hits on nearly 44% of his three-point attempts, and averages 12.5 ppg. and 4.1 rpg. Athletic defensive stopper Jamario Moon starts for the Raptors at small forward, and he averages 8.5 ppg., 6.2 rpg., and a team leading 1.4 blocks per game. Rasho Nesterovic starts at center, and he is more of a defender and big body than he is an offensive threat, as evidenced by his 7.8 ppg.

Off the bench, Toronto has the finest backup point guard in the game in Jose Calderon. Calderon leads the team in assists with 8.3 per game to go along with his 11.2 ppg. The Raptors have former first-overall pick Andrea Bargnani at center, who scores in double figures (10.2 ppg.), and is more of an outside threat than a post-up player. Toronto also brings sharpshooters Jason Kapono, Carlos Delfino, Kris Humphries, and Rasho Nesterovic off the bench.

Statistically speaking: The Raptors finished 13th in the league in points scored (100.2 ppg.), 7th in field goal percentage (46.8%), 8th in adjusted field goal percentage (51%), 2nd in three point shooting (39%), 2nd in free throw percentage (81.24%), 15th in field goal percentage allowed (45.78%), 10th in opponents ppg. (97.3), 21st in opponents three point shooting (37%), 19th in steals (7.0/gm.), 2nd in turnovers (11.2/gm.), 25th in blocks (4.1/gm.), 28th in rebounding (40.1/gm.), and 5th in assists (23.8/gm.).

Here's how Orlando matches up:  6th scoring (104.5 ppg.), 5th FG % (47.44%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (54%), 4th three point shooting (39%), 27th FT% (72.12%), 7th FG% allowed (44.6%), 11th opponents scoring (99.0 ppg.), 13th opponents three point shooting (36%), 27th steals (6.3/gm.), 16th turnovers (13.9/gm.), 27th in blocks (4.1/gm.), T12th rebounding (42.0/gm.), and 22nd in assists (20.8/gm.).

What do the stats say? Toronto is a great free throw shooting team, but they don't have much of an inside presence as they struggle with interior defense and rebounding.

Best matchup for Toronto: Chris Bosh (if he plays) vs.Rashard Lewis (or Dwight Howard)- Bosh is a tough matchup for anyone, and he will push Lewis around down low. If Orlando opts to cover him with Dwight Howard, Bosh will simply take Howard outside and either shoot an 18 foot jumper, or beat him off the dribble. Bosh is averaging 33.3 ppg., and 7.5 rpg. against the Magic this year.

Best matchup for Orlando: Dwight Howard vs. Rasho Nesterovic- Toronto will have to send double and triple teams at Dwight to keep him from having a huge night. Howard has averaged 24.3 points and .7 rebounds per game against the Raptors this year.

Keys to a Magic victory:
1. Attack the basket. Toronto is mostly a perimeter type of team who doesn't have a legitimate shot blocker down low. The Magic are most successful when they play inside out instead of outside in. If the Magic take the ball to the basket aggressively they should find success.

2. Make free throws. The Raptors are the second-best free throw shooting team in the NBA, and the Magic are one of the worst. It's playoff time and the team needs to take advantage of every scoring opportunity.

3. Defend the three. Toronto shoots the outside shot nearly better than anyone else in the league (2nd-39%). The Magic must rotate defensively and close out quickly to force the Raptors guards and forwards to put the ball on the floor.

4. Stop the penetration. Orlando must stop the Toronto guards from penetrating and getting into the paint. Both Jose Calderon and T.J. Ford are much quicker than the Orlando point guards, and the team must find a way to get the ball out of their hands, or cut off their drives to the hoop.

5. Play Bosh even. If the Magic are going to be successful, Chris Bosh can't be the star of the series. Orlando must find some scoring threat, either Howard, Turkoglu, or Lewis to match Bosh's output. If so, they should have an advantage at some of the other positions.

Final thoughts: This could be the most exciting series in the Eastern Conference's first-round, and all kinds of three-point shooting records could fall. Game 1 will go a long way in determining the tone of this series and it's very important for Orlando to defend their home court.