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ORLANDO VS. ATLANTA // Who has the edge

INSIDE GAME

Christian Laettner is versatile at 6-11, but he is not going to muscle many centers. Laettner will give up close to 100 pounds to Shaquille O'Neal. Laettner's one advantage will be moving O'Neal away from the basket with his shooting. Also consider that O'Neal still holds a grudge that Laettner was chosen over him as the one collegian on the original Dream Team. Edge: ORLANDO

OUTSIDE GAME

Expect a barrage of threes from both teams. Orlando was third in the league in number of three-pointers taken and Atlanta was fifth. The Magic may have better shooters from the perimeter, but Atlanta guards Steve Smith and Mookie Blaylock are very effective creating their own plays and penetrating. Dennis Scott hurt Atlanta this season, converting 19 of 36 threes. Edge: ORLANDO

FREE THROWS

The Hawks looks much better, and not just because Orlando has O'Neal. The players who take the majority of Atlanta's free throws _ Smith, Blaylock, Laettner, Stacey Augmon and Grant Long _ all shot .747 or better this season. Only two of Orlando's starters _ Anfernee Hardaway and Scott _ reached that level. Add O'Neal's .487 and the Magic has a big disadvantage. Edge: ATLANTA

DEFENSE

Overall, the Magic is a superior defensive team. Orlando has a stronger presence inside and does a much better job challenging shots. The one area Atlanta excels is steals. The Hawks do a good job of slapping the ball away and maintaining control of it. For being a relatively small team, Atlanta also does pretty well on rebounds. But it still is not in Orlando's league. Edge: ORLANDO

BENCH

It is not often that Orlando's bench looks formidable compared to the opponent. But the Hawks just do not have much depth. Craig Ehlo provides an outside shot, Sean Rooks gives some fouls and rookie Alan Henderson athleticism. But Jon Koncak trumps Rooks, Brian Shaw is more well-rounded than Ehlo and the Donald Royal-Joe Wolf combo can match Henderson. Edge: ORLANDO

_ Compiled by Times staff writer JOHN ROMANO

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