Averages are for the playoffs
PG... ORL Jameer Nelson (23.8 ppg, 4.5 assists) ATL Mike Bibby (11.0 ppg, 2.9 assists)
With Nelson healthy and playing at an All-Star level, this makes the Magic stronger than last year's Eastern Conference Champions; Bibby is a solid veteran at PG
SG... ORL Vince Carter (15.5 ppg, 4.0 rebounds) ATL Joe Johnson (20.9 ppg, 5 .7 assists)
Carter struggled with his shooting against Charlotte in the first round, but if he can play as well as he did the final two months of the regular season, it will negate much of the advantage the Hawks have here with All-Star Johnson
SF... ORL Matt Barnes (8.5 ppg, 5.2 rebounds) ATL Marvin Williams (9.6 ppg, 6.4 rebounds)
Even though Williams has a slight statistical edge over Barnes; Barnes' tough defense has been invaluable to the Magic
PF... ORL Rashard Lewis (15.8 ppg, 5 .5 rebounds) ATL Josh Smith (13.1 ppg, 9.7 rebounds)
Lewis played solid against Charlotte and was the Magic's second leading scorer in the first round, but Smith's athleticism offensively and defensively could make things tough for the Magic
C... ORL Dwight Howard (9.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.0 blocks) ATL Al Horford (15.6 ppg, 9.9 rebounds)
Obviously, Howard needs to stay on the floor and avoid the continuous foul problems that plagued him in the first round. Even so, he was still a force on defense against Charlotte despite his limited time. Horford was solid against the Bucks.
BENCH... ORL Mickael Pietrus (9.0 ppg), J.J. Redick (5.0 ppg), Marcin Gortat (3.8 ppg, 5.2 rebounds), Ryan Anderson (2.8 ppg), Jason Williams (1.0 ppg) ATL Jamal Crawford (15.9 ppg, 3.0 rebounds), Zaza Pachulia (4.4 ppg, 3.1 rebounds), Maurice Evans (1.9 ppg), Jeff Teague (0.7 ppg), Mario West (0.7 ppg)
Hawks have sixth man of the year award winner Crawford, but the Magic's overall depth is arguably the best in the NBA. Other than Crawford, only Pachulia and former Magic swingman Evans see significant time off the bench.
OUTLOOK... Hawks deserve props for coming back strong in Games 6 and 7 against the Bucks after their embarrassing Game 5 loss at home. Magic are well-rested and ready, and Howard should have a much better overall series than he did against the Bobcats as long as he can stay on the floor. Pietrus will be ready to play for the Magic despite a sprained left ankle suffered in practice Sunday.
Magic in 5 games.
Here is the AP preview of the Magic/Hawks series.
According to sportsbook.com, the Magic are a -800 favorite (wagering $800 do win $100 plus the original amount bet) to defeat the Hawks in the series, while the Hawks are a +500 underdog (wagering $100 to win $500 plus the original amount wagered).
The Magic are 9 point favorites to win Game 1.