By: Victor Nash
After taking on Miami (and probably losing), the Nets will get a crack at another title contender on November 5th: The Orlando Magic.
I find this matchup to be interesting, because the Nets are like a poor man’s Orlando. This season everyone in the starting lineup can shoot very well with the exception of Brook Lopez and Devin Harris. The Magic have been successful by surrounding their All-Star center, Dwight Howard, with elite shooters, and I think the Nets are trying to use Orlando as a model. The Nets rely heavily on Lopez, just as the Magic rely on Howard to propel their offense.
Looking at the matchups between the two teams, the Nets win only one in my opinion: PG. Jameer Nelson is a great PG, but I believe Devin is quicker and will get around Nelson’s strength using his agility and ability to explode to the rim. Nelson is not the greatest of defenders and could get burned badly by Harris’ speed. On offense, the Nets will have to run the pick and roll many times in order to take advantage of this matchup.
The one roadblock in this plan is the monster known as Dwight Howard. Howard is probably the best defender in the game, and is great at rotating defensively, which will allow him to converge on Harris even if he beats Nelson using the pick and roll. A key part to the Nets’ game plan should be to have Harris draw quick fouls on Howard in order to limit the Magic’s gameplan. A lot of the Nets’ offense will include getting the ball to Lopez. Brook will have his hands full against a bigger Howard, but unlike last year, he can kick out to shooters like Anthony Morrow and Troy Murphy for an open three. These shooters must take advantage of the bad defense of Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis and expose the Magic’s overall minimal defensive problems.
Defensively, this will be a tough one for the Nets. Nearly everyone in the starting lineup for the Magic is a great offensive player and can shoot, making this a difficult game for Coach Avery Johnson to prepare for. I would expect Johnson to give Quinton Ross, a player with phenomenal skill at defending the perimeter, plenty of minutes so that the Nets can converge on Howard with a double team, whilst having Ross guard the Magic’s three point threat on the floor (this could be Mikhail Pietrus, Carter, Lewis, JJ Reddick, and sometimes even Nelson).
The only true advantage the Nets have in this one is a better bench. However, this is only a slight advantage, as the Magic have players like Reddick, and Marcin Gortat coming off the bench. The Nets will most likely lose this one and will struggle to beat the Magic for the next couple of seasons. Still, they play the games for a reason and the Nets have a shot at winning if they execute correctly on both ends of the floor.