Cohen: Would You Rather This or That?

By Josh Cohen
April 10, 2012


ORLANDO -- Let’s play a game. It’s called Would You Rather THIS Or Would You Rather THAT?

WOULD YOU RATHER the Orlando Magic be the No. 3 or 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with home-court advantage in the First Round and play the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks or Atlanta Hawks?

OR WOULD YOU RATHER the Orlando Magic be the No. 5 or 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs without home-court advantage in the First Round and play the Indiana Pacers or Philadelphia 76ers?

If you ask those who cover the Magic regularly, most insinuate that regardless of seed and home-court circumstances, Orlando’s best chance of advancing past the opening round is if it matches up with Indiana or Philadelphia, two opponents the Magic have owned over the past few years. The Magic are 5-2 this season against the Pacers and Sixers pooled.

The other three potential First Round adversaries are a combined 6-1 against the Magic this year.

However, here is a very important fact: Only once in NBA history since the league adopted a 16-team postseason tournament in 1984 has a team seeded lower than No. 3 in their conference won the NBA championship.

The Houston Rockets captured the title in 1995 despite being a No. 6 seed. But perhaps an asterisk should be highlighted next to this accomplishment. For one, the Rockets were the defending champs and secondly, they made one of the league’s most lopsided midseason trades when they acquired perennial All-Star Clyde Drexler from the Blazers.

With all the figures and data, it’s extremely difficult to effectively answer.

Sure, it would be idyllic if the Magic grabbed the No. 3 seed, secured home-court advantage in the First Round and played either the Pacers or 76ers. That would solve the dilemma, but again this is a theoretical game.

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WOULD YOU RATHER the Miami Heat be the No. 1 seed IF the Orlando Magic were the No. 3 seed in the East?

OR WOULD YOU RATHER the Chicago Bulls be the No. 1 seed IF the Orlando Magic were the No. 3 seed in the East?

This one should be easy – unless you are one of too many people buying into Chicago’s hype.

Listen, the Bulls have proven for the past two seasons that they are a phenomenal regular season team. Tom Thibodeau deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year honors again. Even when Derrick Rose was absent for a dozen games recently, the Bulls still managed to crush and throttle opponents as a result of their outstanding defensive commitment.

But let me share some important historical evidence: There have rarely been teams throughout league history that did not include TWO top 25 players in their prime and ultimately won the title.

You can argue Dirk Nowitzki was the only top 25 player on the Mavericks last season and they found a way to raise the Larry O’Brien trophy in June. You can also imply that the 2004 Detroit Pistons didn’t have a 10 player on their roster, but debatably had four top 25 talents (Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace).

It would be hard to suggest that Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer – undeniably Chicago’s second and third best players after Rose – are legitimate top 25 players in the league. They just aren’t consistent enough.

As a result, it would be outrageous to recommend the Magic play the Heat in the conference semifinals rather than the Bulls if Orlando advances past the opening round.

If Miami does get beat in the playoffs – and that is a big obstacle for any potential playoff opponent – it likely won’t be before the conference finals. Unless something absolutely stunning transpires, the only way the Heat get eliminated at some point is if fatigue, injuries or pressure becomes too much to swallow.

Last season, we saw how the Heat, and most notably LeBron James, buckled under the pressure when the stage lights were most bright. Apprehension doesn’t rise until at least the conference finals.

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WOULD YOU RATHER Hedo Turkoglu come off the bench if he is able to return for the playoffs and the Orlando Magic continue to start Jason Richardson at the small forward position and J.J. Redick at shooting guard?

OR WOULD YOU RATHER Hedo Turkoglu return to his starting role if he is able to return for the playoffs and J.J. Redick resume his duties as the backup shooting guard?

It probably depends on the opponent. If the Magic play the Celtics, for example in the First Round, Turkoglu is Orlando’s best answer to try and prevent Paul Pierce from enjoying a standout series.

On the other hand, if Orlando were to match up with the Sixers, for instance, then J-Rich would perhaps be more effective in the starting lineup as the small forward considering Philadelphia’s size deficiency and inability to shoot well from the outside.

It’s imperative to note, as well, that Redick has been sensational in every game he has started this season. In the Magic’s last two games, Redick has shot a combined 14-of-23 from the field and totaled 39 points in wins over Philadelphia and Detroit.

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