Dwight Howard was interviewed immediately following the Magic's win over the Clippers last night. When the question of facing the Sixers tonight came up, he basically laughed it off. It wasn't a guaranteed victory, or even a direct shot at the Sixers, it was more of a "We don't worry about teams like that," sort of comment. If the last game these teams played against each other is any indication, Dwight should be worried.
The game plan was simple back in game 2 against the Magic, foul Dwight Howard early and foul him often. No easy dunks, no easy post opportunities. If Howard was going to touch the ball in position to score, he was going to have to earn his points at the line. The results were more than you could hope for. Howard shot 10/22 from the line, only attempted 5 field goals, turner the ball over 4 times and fouled out in 31 minutes of action.
The game plan should be just as simple tonight. Fight Howard for position on the blocks, if he gets the ball down there, double him. If he makes a strong move, hack the hell out of him. Be physical, foul him hard, no and-ones. If he's hitting his freebies, so be it. If he isn't, his frustration will mount and he'll start to lash out. Stan Van Gundy's patience will wear thin and he'll probably be hesitant to go to Howard. If you can take Howard out of the equation on the offensive side of the ball, Orlando doesn't have much you really need to worry about. Iguodala can lock down Hedo. Jrue on Jameer is a tougher matchup, but it's not a mismatch. The big concern is the three-point shooting from Richardson, Redick and Ryan Anderson. Typically, I like to double with a big on Howard, but that might not be an option if Anderson is camped out in three-point land. If that's the case, the nearest guy needs to go for the double and the rest of the defense needs to react quickly.
On the offensive end, I'm expecting Howard to be on Brand. This is bad for Brand, but good for the Sixers. Brand has been unconscious from about 10 to 18 feet for a long time now, Howard will have to come out and take that shot away from him, which leaves the middle of the floor wide open. Howard has been playing really heavy minutes in important, or close games, recently. He played all 48 in a game against the Heat last week. There's a reason for that. The Heat have absolutely no inside presence if he isn't on the floor. He played 37 minutes against the Clippers last night, so I can't imagine he'll be out there for 40 minutes tonight.
The Sixers can absolutely win this game based solely on the time Howard spends on the bench. When he's out, I don't want to see a single jump shot from the Sixers. They need to attack the rim mercilessly. No one on the Magic will even put up a fight. Play even when Howard is on the floor and build a lead when he sits. If Howard finds himself in foul trouble and only plays 30-35 minutes, this could easily be a 10-15 point win.
Prediction: PHI 105, ORL 97
The tip is at 7pm, game thread will land 90 minutes prior.