Second Thoughts: Bobcats-Magic Game 3

First Half
-Whenever Dwight Howard touches the ball, every head turns toward Howard on defense. Charlotte has done a good job bottling up Howard because of this, but it also opens everything up on the perimeter. Jameer Nelson got it going early with a 3-pointer on the first possession. That would become a theme.

-Dwight Howard foul one, 9:30 left in the first: he spins into the lane on a slipped screen. Stephen Jackson is nearly set and draws a charge. Iffy call, but it could have gone either way.

-Orlando has increasingly done a better job keeping its hands active as this series goes on. Charlotte is a team that can get steals and blocks, they have done a good job with it all series. But the Magic are not a team that gets a lot of steals. That is what made Game Three so unique. Jameer Nelson and Matt Barnes really did a good job deflecting passes and poking the ball away. They both got steals at key points as Orlando had seven steals in the game.

-Interesting little play with 6:20 left to get Matt Barnes an open three. Dwight Howard got the ball in the post and was immediately doubled by Boris Diaw. Howard passes it to the top of the key to Rashard Lewis. Here is the new wrinkle. Vince Carter cuts through the lane into open space. Usually you would say get it to Carter on the move here and let him create. But Lewis reads the play well and dishes it to Barnes on the wing for an open three. Orlando is not a team that does a lot of off the ball cutting, but this was a great decoy by Carter to get an open shot. It could be a future option in the offense.

-Dwight Howard’s roaming left Nazr Mohammed open for some easy put backs. Everyone has to help with rebounding when Howard is roaming, but Mohammed did a good job filling in the extra space Howard left open. This is also sort of how Josh Smith made that game-winning dunk in Atlanta in March.

-Second foul, 3:58 left in the first: Dwight Howard is late to challenge Gerald Wallace and he draws contact and the foul. Not much Howard could do there but get out of the way. Sometimes he needs to do that more.

-Charlotte was able to stay in the game and control if for the most part by turning Orlando over and converting those turnovers into points. The Bobcats had a more than a few breakaways and steals at the top of the key that got them easy baskets. They also did a good job racing out on the break after getting steals from anywhere on the floor. It was a good adjustment by Larry Brown to get his team out on the run and score off their defense. Whether Charlotte can survive the next adjustment and keep up offensive with Orlando is another question.

-Foul 3, 10:40 left in the second: Dwight Howard is battling in the post with Tyson Chandler. Chandler is grabbing him and should be called for a foul, but Howard does a swim move to push Chandler off him a little and Chandler stumbles back. Yes, it was a foul on Chandler but the referees more clearly saw Howard’s reaction. He has to be smarter in that situation.

-Magic let frustration get the better of them a little bit. The Bobcats fed off that for turnovers and continued to aggressively attack the basket.

-Larry Hughes gave Charlotte a big spark off the bench as the team finally got some production from the reserves. The Bobcats will need another type of effort form its reserves to get a Game Four win. The 3-pointers were also falling for Charlotte in the second quarter and that was a way for the team to tkae the lead and control of the game.

-Jameer Nelson had a franchise record 19 points in the first quarter. He did decidedly worse in the second quarter partly because he had to force things offensively more rather than rely on the spacing Dwight Howard provides.

-Rashard Lewis is quietly having a very good series. He is not hitting his 3-pointers at an incredible rate, but he is faking the shot and driving in much better than he has all season. He is getting in the paint and forcing some action because everyone expects him to shoot. He is also diving all over the floor on defense and has turned Boris Diaw into a pretty passive player.

-Vince carter still has not made a 3-pointer in this series. He is not getting horrible looks either. He just has to keep shooting, eventually they will fall.

-If Orlando does not turn the ball over, Charlotte really struggles offensively. It does not take a genius to see that, but you have to make the Bobcats a half court team.

-For a team that relies on cutting and dribble penetration, the Bobcats are not great at setting picks. They had more than a few moving picks called on them during the game and it seems like they are moving on just about every screen.

Second Half
-Matt Barnes seemed a bit off today. He was leaning and shifting his weight the wrong way on defense and letting Stephen Jackson get by him at times. He also missed a few layups. Hopefully it was just one game, but today was not Barnes’ best effort.

-Orlando is pretty effective when the team gets out on the break. Surprising the Magic do not do it that often but with Jameer Nelson’s mid range game and a couple of great slashers in Matt Barnes and Vince Carter, they should at least think about pushing the pace a little bit more… at least in this series.

-It is pretty amazing how poor Charlotte’s offense is when the team cannot get to the basket. The Magic throughout this series have been able to lock down the defense and keep the Bobcats on the perimeter, and this is when they take control of the game. They did that in the third quarter to erase a nine-point deficit at the beginning of the half. As long as Orlando can contest jumpers, Charlotte will struggle.

-Charlotte uncharacteristically took a ton of 3-pointers in this game and honestly most of them were good looks. Charlotte probably settled more than they should, but if you have confidence and feel you can make those shots, they were good looks at the basket. But all the 3-pointers kept the Bobcats from wreaking havoc in the paint.

-Fourth foul, 3:40 left in the 3rd: Howard is wrapped up with Gerald Wallace underneath the basket as Jameer Nelson hits a jumper. Howard has his arm wrapped around Wallace’s head and he throws him to the ground. Easy call for the referees, but completely avoidable if Howard just walks away. The Magic are up four as Howard goes to the bench.

-When Orlando is moving the ball, the team is nearly impossible to stop. It is obvious, but there are far too many shooters on the floor and too many skilled players who can get into the paint. It is amazing how good ball movement makes the difference in this series.

-Jason Williams also has not had a great series. Jameer Nelson’s stellar play has made it almost a non-issue, but Williams will be a player the Magic need to step up later this postseason.

-Dwight Howard is playing with such a small margin of error every time he touches the ball. He is going to have so few opportunities for shots that every one he gets almost has to go in. Every time he misses a shot, it might as well be a turnover because he gets so few. A lot riding on his massive shoulders.

-I will say this again, when Dwight Howard is allowed to be on the floor for an extended period of time, he simply dominated. Five blocks in one quarter after sitting the entire game was just amazing and none of them were really physical need to foul (maybe) blocks. It seems like his fouls come in bunches.

-Dwight Howard’s scoring run in the third quarter was amazing. Even with the defense completely focused on him throughout the series, it was like Charlotte forgot about him offensively because of all the fouls. When he rolls hard and works patiently and strategically in the post, he is difficult for any defense to beat.

-Fifth foul, 3:43 left in the fourth quarter: Howard is trying to establish post position on Tyson Chandler. He gets frustrated lifts his arm and the refs see that for his fifth.

-Sixth foul, 3:32 left in the fourth quarter: next possession, Howard hedges out to guard Raymond Felton as he comes around the screen. He bumps him and Felton gets by and hits a layup as his hand gets hit. Honestly, the whistle was not called on the bump, so I have a hard time seeing where the foul was. Tough call for Howard, he has to be smarter with five fouls.

-Orlando simply outexecuted Charlotte down the stretch for the most part. The Magic attacked the basket and got open jumpers. The Bobcats settled for 3-pointers and rarely got in the paint — the thing that worked so much. Playoff experience worke din Orlando’s favor here.

-But even with the Magic attacking the basket, they missed some difficult shots up close that would have made the ending more comfortable. But Stephen Jackson made the mistake of taking a 3-pointer and going for a two-point lead with 30 seconds to play. Jackson gets a good look, but that is clearly not Charlotte’s game and it is what doomed them.

-Marcin Gortat hit some clutch free throws in going three of his last four at the line.

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