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Expert opinion: a chat with RealGM columnist Jarrod Rudolph

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Here’s part two of our expert opinion series. This time we grab a few minutes with RealGM columnist and Orlando resident Jarrod Rudolph.

OMD: What are you initial thoughts on the Magic/76ers match-up?

JR: My initial thought on the Magic/76ers series is that it will be the quickest of the eight first-round playoff matchups. It will also be the most boring! The Sixers did a great job of recovering from a bad start, but at the end of the day they’re not good enough to make the series interesting.

OMD: The Magic were inconsistent during the last 10 games of the year, do you think there will be any hangover heading into the playoffs?

JR: The Magic will be okay. They’ve acknowledged that their play hasn’t been great over the last 10 games and understand that must change if they’re going to have a real shot. This team is good enough to get to the NBA finals; I don’t think they’re going to beat themselves like we’ve seen them do over the last 10 games. They’ll be ready.

OMD: Dwight Howard has received some criticism lately for not being serious enough on the court, do you think Magic fans should be worried about his focus?

JR: No! I think there is too much time wasted on Dwight Howard’s seriousness. Over the last two seasons the Magic have won 111 games. They wouldn’t have won half without him. It’s a shame that people are criticizing a guy for smiling and having a great time, while winning a lot of games, in a league that has a perceived image problem. Howard’s sincerity is great; would we rather Howard play with a fake scowl? I don’t think making a mean face or acting like a tough guy is going to help Howard on the court. It would only push him in the direction of being the person that many writers think he should be. My advice to the writers that continue to question Howard’s seriousness and level of would be go watch Tyrus Thomas play; he never smiles and seems to be a bit too serious. Let me know how that approach is working. I don’t think his level of seriousness or lack of smiling is going to get him any extra rebounds or blocked shots. We need to celebrate the individual and stop trying to create characters. Howard is who he is; people need to deal with it.

OMD: Another knock against the Magic by some analysts is the team’s lack of an obvious go-to fourth quarter scorer, do you think this will ultimately limit how far the team can go in the playoffs?

JR: Sure, the lack of a go-to scorer can hurt the Magic; if they didn’t have one. Hedo Turkoglu will take care of closing the show for Orlando. Turkoglu’s play dropped down a notch this season, but he’s still the Magic’s closer at the end of games, in the fourth quarter he’s still among the league’s top scorers. We should also expect to see Howard will the ball late in some games. He’s developed a few go-to moves this season; his running hook is sweet and effective. If guys are making an effort to get him touches throughout the game, I would expect a few clutch baskets. But only if the offense consistently runs through him the most of the game. He’s not the type of player that can just turn it on offensively; he has to get into a rhythm, he needs touches in order to get in a rhythm.

OMD: What do you think will be Orlando’s biggest advantage in the series?

JR: Orlando has the better players. They’re just a better all-around team.

OMD: What do you think will be Philadelphia’s biggest advantage in the series?

JR: Other than playing with nothing to lose, the Sixers don’t have an advantage!

OMD: What is your final series prediction?

JR: Magic in 5

Check out what ESPN’s Jemele Hill had to say about the series here.