Stan Van Gundy summed it up pretty well in the postgame presser: “We weren’t very good at anything today. We didn’t rebound. We didn’t take care of the ball. We didn’t shoot well. We didn’t defend.”
No one likes to lose — and making excuses for a loss is generally a waste of time — but if there ever was a built-in excuse for a game, it was this one. The Magic didn’t get in from Washington D.C. till 3 a.m., in addition to the hour of sleep everyone lost because of daylight’s savings. Then they played their third game in four nights, against a Bobcats team that had Saturday off. And to top it all off, Matt Barnes didn’t play.
Now, if the last 15 seconds of excuse-making induced you to taste vomit, I don’t blame you. And you could certainly argue these guys are getting paid millions of dollars to play a sport full-time, so they should suck it up.
But the recent tough schedule is worth mentioning. The Bobcats just looked like a team with more energy and more juice in their legs. Stephen Jackson (28 points, 6 assists) and Raymond Felton (16 points, 7 assists) pushed the issue early on, applying pressure and swinging the ball around faster than Orlando’s rotation could keep up.
Dwight Howard (27 points, 12 rebounds) and Vince Carter (23 points on 13 field goals) played well, and Mickael Pietrus sank five three-pointers on his way to 20 points. But the Magic received little production outside of those three, as Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson combined to go 3-of-17 from the field for seven total points.
It’s certainly disappointing Orlando failed to match the franchise record in consecutive victories or clinched a playoff spot — a win would’ve done both — but I’m not sure that there’s a lot to take away from this game long-term.
Vince Carter continues to play well, making everyone forget about a January where he shot 28 percent and averaged 8.7 points per game. If Carter plays like he’s been playing this month — 52 percent from the field, 48 percent from three-point range — the Magic are a very real threat to win the NBA Finals.
And two months ago, I was already conceding the East title to Cleveland. So there’s that.
Otherwise, this seems like a game the Magic can shake off and move on from. A win over Orlando’s potential first-round playoff opponent would’ve meant a sweep, but the Magic handled Charlotte three times before this one and are clearly the superior team.
If this play continues into Wednesday night, though, then there may be cause for concern.