We saw this a year ago: A 2-1 series lead, a home game to bust it open, a challenge against a much higher seed.
But, somehow, this series feels different. Should it? Will it? The 76ers have said they have not talked about last season's first-round loss to the Detroit Pistons. They said this Sixers team is a completely different team from last year's, especially with the veteran, experienced presence of Theo Ratliff and Donyell Marshall.
We'll find out tonight. To this point, the Orlando Magic have looked little like a 59-win team. They have looked average, perhaps even worse than average. Tonight is the game where the Magic will either show up, knock down 12-15 three-pointers and dominate offensively, or the Sixers will keep doing what they're doing and make this their series with a 3-1 lead. A few things to watch:
1.) Stan Van Gundy: In the post-game press conference on Friday night after Game 3, Van Gundy shook his head and said it was his responsibility to get better shots for Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. Van Gundy sounded like a guy who spent all day yesterday looking at the game film and plotting a few options. In the first three games, these two guys just haven't done enough to make the Magic win. Van Gundy said the big issue was the way the Sixers are playing Turkoglu off the pick-and-roll: The Sixers are trapping him, not allowing him to create much off the dribble. Van Gundy said he didn't think those two guys needed to explode for the Magic to win, citing the fact that both Sixers wins went to the final possession. So watch Turkoglu and Lewis. Sixers coach Tony DiLeo said they will start the game with the same defensive scheme they have used the first three games (focusing on those two, leaving Orlando's guards and Dwight Howard to beat them). DiLeo also said that if the Magic present some different offensive options, the Sixers have a few different ways to guard guys that they will employ. (I figure this means guarding the pick-and-roll differently, perhaps a harder hedge, or a switch.)