Preview: Orlando at Portland

Orlando's star is Dwight Howard, a center who scores frequently and rebounds like mad. Supporting him on the boards are Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkglu, giving the Magic a monstrous front line (Lewis and Turkoglu are both 6'10"). Portland will be giving up size up front and facing a team that is better at scoring and rebounding across the board.

Only Roy stacks up to have any appreciable advantage over his opposite number as Keith Bogans is the weak link in the Orlando starting line-up.

Meanwhile, Orlando has been tearing it up on the road, coming in with a 6-1 road record. Portland, meanwhile, lost their first home game to a bad New Jersey team with an injured but playing Vince Carter and then struggled mightily against a bad Sacramento team that was fighting internally. There is not a lot of reason to believe these trends will change.

Orlando is a much better team. Portland can win if they develop some offense that takes advantage of their strengths and keeps going to people who are scoring instead of continuing to use them.

They also need better shooting from Webster. He has been struggling for a while lately. This is largely because Portland tends to hide him in the corner, then go to the other side of the court to run their offense. They need to get him more involved and doing more than hanging out in the corner shooting 3s or being given the ball with the clock winding down to force up awkward, off-balance shots with little chance of going in. Try running him off some screens, get him some mid-range jumpers, and get him to drive a bit more.

Let Aldridge go to work down low. Artest, Duncan, and others have failed to slow him down. The best defense anyone has offered for Aldridge is for Portland to keep the ball away from him and that has worked well.

Roy also looks like he is hurting. It will be deadly for Portland's season if he goes down.

Last but not least...enough of the zone already. Portland is struggling to rebound and gives up way too much penetration. They have capable defenders. Outlaw, when he is on the ball, is an irritating defender who causes problems with his energy, intensity, and length. Aldridge is also developing nicely. Against the Kings he often defended smaller, quicker players and blocked or altered their shots. He has issues against stronger, bigger players, but that is where Przybilla is supremely useful. Webster also has shown excellent flashes, using his quickness and tenacity to cause problems for his opponents. He did a very nice job on Martin when they were matched up.

The zone is useful and effective in segments but when they run it exclusively, Portland tends to get lost. Outlaw and Aldridge in particular lose their man or zone far too often and they leave their side of the floor open for quick rotations and wide open shots. Also, the zone is easily penetrated for lay-ups or kick-outs to wide-open shooters. Portland is young and learning...we will see how it works out.

Overall, barring a stat-packing explosion from an unexpected source or two, Portland should lose, probably by double digits. If they get that stand-out performance from any 2 or 3 of the Roy/Jack/Aldridge/Webster group, they should win.

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