It's really a shame that this series is being relegated to obscurity by the powers that be in the mainstream media and the league itself. Honestly, when you look around there are two first-round series completely up for grabs at this point, the Sixers/Magic and Boston/Chicago. After the jump, I want to talk about the psychological edge and who could possibly hold it after four tough games.
Let's take a step back and look at quarter-by-quarter scoring trends over the first four games:
First quarter total points
- Philadelphia: 97
- Orlando: 91
- Philadelphia: 84
- Orlando: 90
- Philadelphia: 181
- Orlando: 181
- Philadelphia: 81
- Orlando: 109
- Philadelphia: 102
- Orlando: 81
- Philadelphia: 183
- Orlando: 191
It's pretty amazing that the teams have played dead even in the first half, with the Sixers getting off to better starts, then coming back to the pack in the second. Still, the scoring is only 6 points off for each quarter. The second half is an entirely different story. The Magic are up 28 points in the third (7 points per game), while the Sixers hold a 21 points edge in the fourth (5.25/game). Here's where I'm having a problem getting a fix on the pulse of the series.
If you're a Magic player or coach, are you thinking "All we need to do is execute like we have in the third and we'll blow them out?" Or are you thinking, "We really need to push the lead to 20 in the third, because we can't do anything down the stretch?" Is the Orlando mindset, "We have the series right where it should be, now we'll take them at home?" Or is it, "This team just won't go away?" Does Orlando take solace in the fact that they have the series tied even though neither Hedo nor Rashard have really had a good game yet, or are they wondering if Andre Iguodala will continue to stifle whoever he guards?
On the flip side, if you're the Sixers do you have a sinking feeling that one of these dreadful third quarters is going to sink the ship, or do you feel like no matter what happens in the first 36 minutes, the fourth quarter is yours? Are you waiting for the other shoe to drop and the Magic to drain 15 threes in a blowout win, or do you believe in the varied defensive looks, the superior athleticism and the raw desire that's carried you to this point? Are you kicking yourself for not putting the Magic down, or do you have a renewed fire, fueled by the success you had in Orlando in games one and two?
If you can figure this series out, please share your thoughts with us in the comments. Common logic would tell you Orlando has the momentum heading home for game 5, but is that momentum fool's gold considering they blew a 10-point lead in the final 5 minutes of game four only to be bailed out by a last-second shot?
Gun to my head, I think the Sixers are in Orlando's head. They won 59 games in the regular season. They've were put to the test starting in game 1 and the Sixers haven't let up since. If Orlando was going to assert themselves, they would've done it by now. I'm not sure if they're capable or not, but I just don't see this Sixers team letting up at this point.