Two of the "new-breed" power forwards in the league, or two small forwards playing out of position? Traditionalists would tell you that playing guys like this at power forward can work in the regular season, but when the game gets slowed down in the playoffs, it's going to hurt you. When both teams run a "small" lineup out there, I guess from a personnel package standpoint, they cancel each other out. Will they cancel each other out in production as well?
Personally, I think this is going to be the most-interesting matchup of the series, and I think there's a good chance that the play of these two guys could dictate who wins and who loses.
Lewis is a very, very good offensive player. While 44% from the floor would be a poor percentage for a traditional power forward, you have to take into account that over half of his attempts come from three-point land. He causes terrible mismatches for most teams, forcing them to either send one of their bigs out to the perimeter to track him down, or go with a small lineup of their own. Much like Thad, he does not rebound well for the position, but that's to be expected. Nor does he get to the line very often.
When Orlando has the ball Thad needs to lock in on Lewis. He cannot be the guy who jumps passing lanes and helps on drivers. Lewis is not the guy you want to help off. Thad has the quickness and defensive skills to be able to shadow Lewis all over the floor and keep him from driving to the hoop, but you really can't give him an inch of space. He's got a lightning-quick release and he'll fire at any time from just about anywhere behind the arc.
I don't think Thad will have a problem handling Lewis in the post, if Orlando decides to go that route. It's going to be hard for Thad to avoid helping out, but it's essential for team defensive success against Orlando. I'll give you one early key to the game as well. Whenever Lewis is on the floor, Thad needs to be on the floor as well. Reggie Evans cannot guard Lewis and neither can Speights. Evans especially must be shielded from this responsibility. Nothing bad things will happen if you try to put Reggie on him.
The good news here, is that I don't perceive Lewis as having a clear advantage over Thad. He's an excellent shooter, but it's far from a mismatch. He's a terrible guy for the Sixers to face, any good three-point shooter is a nightmare matchup, but there's nothing about his game that Thad can't handle.
When Philly has the ball, I believe there is a physical mismatch. Lewis has a balky knee which he's been resting, but the tedinitis is still there and it's bound to limit his mobility at least somewhat. Lewis may be quicker than 95% of the PFs in the league, but he is not as quick as Thad. Along with Iguodala and Lou, Orlando really doesn't have a prayer of keeping Thad out of the lane using single coverage. If Orlando runs zone against the Sixers first unit, which I suspect they will from time to time, there's going to be pressure on Thad to be the guy to break it with outside shooting. I hope the rust is completely knocked off his jumper.
If I had to put my finger on one matchup as an indicator of who will win each game, I'm going with this one. I think Thad has a coming out party in one of these games, dropping 30+ on Lewis's head. I can also just as easily see Lewis burying 10 threes in one of the games for Orlando.
Advantage Orlando: Lewis is a veteran and for better or worse, Stan Van Gundy's offense is really more geared to get him good looks than Dwight Howard. They're run plays, Lewis will get open, and he will drain threes. I think Thad has the ability to play him tough, and probably match him point for point, but I wouldn't bet on it.
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