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News » Supporting casts key to playoffs

Supporting casts key to playoffs

Supporting casts key to playoffs
Let me interrupt the preordained Kobe vs. LeBron NBA Finals a minute to bring into focus what will actually decide Basketball's ultimate championship - the team with the best pieces surrounding its franchise player.

That can change on any given night, but taking these playoffs as a whole, the Orlando Magic are the clubhouse leaders. They have done more to lighten the load on Dwight Howard's broad shoulders than the Los Angeles Lakers for Kobe Bryant, the Denver Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony and certainly the Cleveland Cavaliers for LeBron James.

Despite Cleveland's 112-102 win in Game 5 Thursday, the Magic have put King James on the throne of elimination by creating mismatch problems all over the floor. With 6-foot-10 Hedo Turkoglu often running the halfcourt offense, the Cavaliers have had trouble defending Orlando's army of 3-point shooters, especially with Howard's inside presence constantly forcing Cleveland to prioritize what it wants to take away.

The Cavaliers were the NBA's best defensive team in the regular season, holding opponents to 91.4 points per game.

They shut down their first two playoff victims, sweeping away Detroit and Atlanta.

Orlando is a completely different chess match. The Magic are averaging 101 points, even without that 16-point overtime period in Game 4.

They came within one LeBron miracle 3-pointer from brooming the Cavaliers, because Orlando doesn't need Howard to be a scoring machine to win games. As long as Howard cleans up the boards and isn't a free-throw liability, the Magic can still prevail.

It's not all on Superman. The Magic have been carried at various critical points by Rashard Lewis, Rafer Alston and Mickael Pietrus, who has emerged from an injury-riddled season to become an off-the-bench assassin. How many more 3-point daggers can he stick in the Cavaliers?

If these NBA playoffs have taught us anything - besides the endless tweeting by whistle-happy officials - it's that the best solo acts by LeBron, Kobe, Howard and Anthony will leave them ringless without legitimate tag-team partners.

So far, Orlando has had the best supporting cast.

Before Thursday night, where James played a perfect fourth quarter, the Cavaliers' normally reliable defense has been flummoxed by the Magic's offensive versatility. Somebody always seems to have Howard's back.

"We shoot a lot of threes, so if you double-team the big guy, that leaves open shots," Magic general manager Otis Smith said. "You have to pick your poison."

Thursday night, the Cavaliers finally looked like a Finals team because Mo Williams (24 points, 6 for 9 on 3-pointers) gave James a much-needed offensive assist.

It's amazing what some backup for the superstar can do to drive a team to a championship.

As great as King James has been in this series, the Magic still has the edge because they have more helping hands.


(904) 359-4540

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 30, 2009


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