It’s already obvious to anyone who’s been watching the Magic-Celtics series that Dwight Howard has been much more successful on the move against the Celtics defense than he has been when the Magic force-feed Howard in the post. Today, both Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post and Eddy Rivera both went to the Synergy to find some numbers that show just how important getting Howard moving is to the Magic.
Over on Orlando Pinstriped Post, Ben points out that Howard has gone 14-36 from the field on post-ups in this series, including 5-16 from his favorite spot on the left block. Overall, Howard has produced 49 points in 58 post-up possessions over the past four games. Meanwhile, he’s produced 22 points on only 17 possessions that involved Howard cutting off the ball or being the “roll man” in a pick-and-roll. According to Eddy Rivera, the Magic made a much greater effort to utilize the pick-and-roll in game four than they did earlier in the series — in fact, the Magic ran 43 pick-and-rolls in game four after only running 33 pick-and-rolls in the first three games of the series combined.
It’s easy to say that the Magic need to run more pick-and-rolls, because they do. But give Boston a lot of credit — they rotate as well as any team in the league, and a big reason the Magic have run so few pick-and-rolls is that the Magic have seen it coming and gotten in between the ballhandler and Howard to prevent the Magic from completing the play. Also, teams playing from behind tend to go to their failsafe sets, which generally means putting the ball in the hands of their best player as quickly as possible. For the Cavaliers, that failsafe set was giving the ball to LeBron at the top of the key and letting him go to work, which the Celtics were ready to stop. For the Magic, the failsafe is dumping the ball to Howard, which the Celtics are shutting down with ease. Advanced sets and plays run for role players tend to shut down when teams are nervous and playing from behind, especially in a big playoff series like this one. Running more pick-and-roll is one thing the Magic need to do to pull off a miracle against the Celtics, but it’s far from the only thing.