Second Thoughts: Bobcats-Magic Game 1

Throughout the postseason, I will be trying to watch every Magic game a second time (after emotions have calmed down et cetera) for hopefully a deeper analysis and a better understanding of what exactly happened the previous game and to try and figure out what will happen in the next game.

First Half

-Dwight Howard’s blocks are just as impressive the second time you see them… maybe more. He completely obliterated Theo Ratliff on that first possession. He just met him at the top of his jump and said, “Nope.”

-Vince Carter’s first possession: drive into the paint for a floater and a muscle flex as he walks down the floor. Second possession: get a mismatch with Boris Diaw off a switch, sizes him up and then fades away. Preview of things to come in Game One.

-Charlotte loves operating at the elbow. Everything stars and ends there. I noticed this Sunday at the game too. Gerald Wallace got going early by coming around a screen at the elbow and hitting the jumper there. Everything operates around these curl screens. Wallace or Jackson can either pull up for a jumper if Orlando plays under the screen or drive in to the paint if the defender chases. The problem is the forwards stay in the high post and so Howard is pulled away from the basket. I have seen several Bobcat bloggers say if anyone were to zone them, they would be in trouble. That might be what the Magic have to consider at some point to neutralize their space at the elbows.

-Vince Carter’s next two possessions: Carter drives in aggressively and misses a layup but Dwight Howard grabs two offensive rebounds and draws a foul. Then Carter tries running a screen and roll with Howard somewhat half-heartedly and misses a pull up 3-pointer. The lesson is aggression is a good thing for Carter, even if he misses close.

-TNT, that is not what it looked like outside. They showed sunny skies during the broadcast. Just horrible.

-Charlotte’s versatility is going to make everything tricky. The Magic have very little space to operate with the ball off of ball rotations. The Bobcats are electing to switch every perimeter screen not involving Jameer Nelson or Dwight Howard. They have the personnel to do that especially with Rashard Lewis at the four. Some are clamoring for Brandon Bass over Ryan Anderson, and that might be a good idea if he can defend Diaw and Tyrus Thomas. A second post player could anchor another defender down low and and give Orlando some space for 3-pointers off of the team’s beautiful ball rotation.

-Charlotte is just so disciplined defensively, the team has the versatility to shift and rotate to everything and the team is very cohesive and has talented defenders. Scary combination. Charlotte pressures the ball and forces you to start your offense later than you want to. With all the things already mentioned, it puts the margin of error to a minimum.

-Blue Stuff still looks weird to me.

-Really have to credit Charlotte for continuing to attack the basket throughout this game. That first quarter, where Dwight Howard had six blocks (and blocked the first shot of the second quarter), would completely discourage most teams.

-Again, Charlotte closes out really well and are forcing Orlando not only to start its offense later than usual, but also to extend it farther from the basket than it is used to. This takes away lots of precious time off the shot clock. Then add in the Bobcats’ active hands and it makes life very hard for an offense. I think my 95 points per game prediction might hold.

-This series will present a strange balance for Orlando. The Magic absolutely cannot settle for quick shots. Missing a 3-pointer eight seconds into the shot clock are not going to work out well for Orlando. But the Bobcats are so good defensively that you have to take the first good shot you get because you may not get another one. This team’s defense does not even give you enough time to rotate the ball around the perimeter more than once.

-Charlotte learned this in the second half, but they cannot switch when Jameer Nelson comes off the pick. Unlike Carter, Nelson is always in attack mode (or he was in Game One at least) and is looking to get in the paint and score or dish. He was also just hitting shots no person has any business hitting sometimes. The Bobcats adjusted and forced Nelson to go wide off the screen instead of straight off it like he was throughout the first half.

-About the only way the Bobcats can stop Howard is by grabbing him — both offense and defense. But Howard cannot pick up any cheap fouls. The cheap one at the end of the second quarter quietly changed the game. Imagine how Howard could have played if he had only three fouls after picking up those two quick ones in the third. Howard knows he cannot let Charlotte frustrate him, but easier said than done. The first and second half are pretty clear examples of what Howard can do when he is intensely focused and when he is intensely frustrated.

Second Half
-Dwight Howard collected his ninth block about two minutes into the third quarter. He did not record another one the rest of the game. Orlando was up 60-43 at that time. It goes mostly downhill from there for him.

-Speaking of Howard, he has to make free throws in this series to be any type of factor on the score sheet. He is getting good looks, staying patient and making the right pass. The Bobcats are just electing to foul him any time he gets into scoring position. One for six from the line is not going to be enough for him to get the ball every time down the floor like he needs to for Orlando to have a successful postseason run.

-Charlotte is not afraid to attack the basket. Howard does not change that no matter how many blocked shots he has. Since the Bobcats are not a great jump shooting team, everything is created for them by Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace driving to the basket. They are going to have a tough time scoring. Not only is Howard very good at protecting the rim, but the Magic are especially adept at scrambling and chasing opponents off the 3-point line (not that is what the Bobcats want to do). That second level recovery is going to be key the rest of the series and Orlando is certainly up to the challenge.

-Lots of complaints about the fouls that were called during the game. At the time, I was more concerned with how average Orlando’s man defense was and how easily Charlotte was getting to the basket. But yes, the referees made some 50/50 calls and usually pointed them against the Magic. It was not that they were not calling fouls, it is just that any 50/50 call in the second half went the Bobcats way. Those are the breaks. More than anything, it shows how much Charlotte was attacking the basket in the second half (especially with Dwight Howard out of the game for the majority of the final 24 minutes).

-When Orlando attacked the basket in the second half it seemed it was reckless and with their head down not looking to pass or score. It is almost like they are going in expecting a whistle that will not come. I am sure Charlotte felt this way in the first quarter with Howard swatting every shot that got anywhere near the rim. The Magic have to put their head down and keep playing when the whistles don’t go their way.

-Dwight Howard took his fifth and sixth free throws with a little more than 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. He did not go to the line the rest of the game. That shows you how much Charlotte took him out of the game offensively by drawing fouls against and sending him to the line.

-Orlando only had eight offensive rebounds, but it seemed like the team made Charlotte pay for each one. Sure, there were times when the Magic failed to score off a second chance opportunity, but the Bobcats cannot give up offensive rebounds if they want to win this series. Orlando is too good offensively to be held down for so long. The shorter the game is — that means cutting down turnovers too — the better chance the Bobcats have of winning it.

-I said earlier the Bobcats hedge out more on pick and rolls involving Jameer Nelson. While that is true, I have not really noticed it that often in the second half. Why? Well, the Magic stopped running the play. Nelson is not probing and attacking like he did in the first half. It is like the whole team was knocked back a little and their bell was completely run until the game got close in the fourth quarter.

-Dwight Howard can have his way in this series. He showed it on the defensive end tonight with the blocks and how he did keep Charlotte from scoring at the rim. The offensive rebound dunk he had late in the fourth quarter was also quite impressive. This is how Howard has to get involved throughout this series. He must be active on the offensive glass and make offense where the Bobcats cannot foul him.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily