Orlando Magic News & Notes: It’s Finally Here


Finally, it’s here. The Orlando Magic will kick off their defense of the Eastern Conference Championship when they host the Charlotte Bobcats Sunday evening at 5:30. You can find my series preview here and see the full playoff schedule here.

Before every game the Magic participate in a Magic show, filled with spectacular dunks (you can find a video of it at the end of this post), but as Brian Schmitz writes, the Magic are all-business once the game starts.

"With their mix of colorful personalities and high-wire performers — Howard and Carter are former slam-dunk champs; Williams all but channels Pistol Pete Maravich — their role as league-wide entertainers comes naturally.They give you the sense of a veteran club that feels it has earned a license to put on a show, too. And they are all business once the monkey business is over.“We’re very capable. You can see it. But as much as we have fun, ‘The Magic Show’ and all that, we’re about business when it’s time, when that ball goes up,” Carter said. “It’s an understanding. It’s nothing that was talked about. It’s understood with us.”"

You can find that story here.

It’s time for Vince Carter to shine.

"Yes, the Magic have had Vince Carter on the team all season, but there are strong indications his alter-ego — the stupefying, fantabulous Vinsanity — will be unveiled in the playoffs. If you don’t believe it, just listen to Dwight Howard, who was asked after the first practice of the postseason on Friday what he expects of Carter in the playoffs.“I expect amazing,” Howard said bluntly.Not that there’s any pressure or anything."

Mike Bianchi has that story here.

John Denton shares his keys to the game.

"2. Jameer Nelson is aggressive and attacking. While Howard is undoubtedly the heart of the Magic, I’ve always made the argument that Nelson is this team’s soul. He is the leader in the locker room and the player others respect most on the court to direct the traffic and keep the team under control.And often, Nelson is the barometer for how well the Magic play. Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis are the first, second and third options, but when Nelson is probing the lane and in attack mode that’s when the Orlando offense is at its best. When he gets into the lane, the threes tend to come in bunches, Howard gets lobs and Nelson certainly has the ability to score on his own.And down the stretch, it’s Nelson who will have the ball in his hands in pick-and-roll sets with Carter. Coach Stan Van Gundy has the confidence and trust in Nelson that he will make the right play – whether it’s a drive-and-kick pass or a clutch 3-pointer."

You can see all of his keys here.

The Bobcats have a lot of fouls to throw at Dwight Howard.

"“We’ve got four 7-footers,” Jordan said. “In essence, we’ve got 24 fouls. Somehow we are going to have to use that to neutralize Howard and not allow these other guys, their perimeter players, to hurt us in the double-team scenario, kind of like Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott back in the day. That would be the strategy, and I feel like if we can execute that strategy we will give ourselves the best chance to win.”Howard made 59.2 percent of his foul shots during the regular season. But he slumped badly at the line in April, hitting just 45.2 percent of his free throws in eight games.Charlotte has four centers who are 6-foot-10 or taller — Tyson Chandler, DeSagana Diop, Nazr Mohammed and Theo Ratliff — and Howard expects them to play physically.“The biggest thing for me is not getting frustrated,” Howard said. “I know they’re going to hit me. I know they’re going to be on me, pull on me, do whatever they have to do to get me out of my game. But I just have to be strong and understand what our mission is.”"

You can find that story here.

Philip Rossman-Reich discusses what we will learn in game one.

"Will Defense Trump OffenseThis might be a theme the entire series against Charlotte. But if you are a fan of defense, this series will have about as much defense as you can handle for a first round series. I have jokingly been saying 95 points per game could be enough to win this series. Thinking about it, that estimate might be a bit high."

You can find that story here.

Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer discusses the relationship between Charlotte’s two best players, Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace.

"But what could have been a clash of the titans instead evolved into a basketball version of brothers in arms.Jackson and Wallace – the Bobcats’ two best players – checked their egos at the locker-room door and allowed each other into their lives. They shared the ball – and the team.As a result, they have carried the Bobcats into this moment. The Bobcats play their first-ever playoff game today, against Orlando at 5:30 p.m."

You can find that story here.

The Charlotte Observer shares an anonymous scout’s take on the Bobcats.

"POST THE WINGS“They post up their wing players as much as any team in the NBA. You’ve got to have your small forward prepared for that because Wallace is going to beat the (expletive) out of him down there.“It’s not something small forwards do a lot and sure something most shooting guards don’t want to guard. Jackson does it less than Wallace because he likes to be on the perimeter, but he’s so big and physical, it can be a rough night for your guy. And if you have a small shooting guard, you’ve got problems.”"

You can find that story here.

Bobcats Baseline wraps up their series preview with part III, where they break down coaching and strategy.

"Obviously, defending the high pick and rolls and quick dives to the basket are key in defending the Magic. Fortunately the Bobcats are one of the League’s best at it. But they’ll have to be quick. Theo Ratliff and Tyson Chandler have the quickness to defend Howard on those plays but I’m not so sure about Mohammed and Diop. I could see Coach Brown substituting either Mohammed or Diop the moment Marcin Gortat checks into the game. Actually Diop would be a decent candidate to take on Howard because of his size and Playoff experience (going back to Dallas a few years ago) but we just haven’t seen enough of him over the last couple of months to know where he’s at physically."

You can find their preview here.

Brett Hainline goes inside the numbers with the Bobcats and Magic.

"When you look at the Magic’s most common lineups, you see a lot of positive net efficiencies. In fact, there is but a single lineup in their 10 most used lineups that does not boast a net efficiency of at least +1.1 – and that lineup used Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Matt Barnes, Jameer Nelson…and J.J. Redick. The difference between that group and the starters – Vince Carter in for J.J. – and a defensive efficiency mark of 109.2, which is simply atrocious for a team that finished the season number three in the category (109.2 would have put them at 25th in the league). While Redick impressed last year in the playoffs, hounding Ray Allen in the Orlando-Boston series, he appears to still be a bit limited defensively. Overall, when Redick is on the court, the Magic have a defensive efficiency mark of 104.5 – and when he is off, 100.8. Again, to beat the Magic, get to the bench."

You can find that story here.

David Arnott of Rufus On Fire also previews the game and discusses what must happen for Charlotte to win.

"Point 2. The Bobcats are better now than their total-season statistics indicate. The difference is marginal, but noteworthy. The Cats finished second in the league in blocked shots, ninth in the league in opponents’ FG% at the rim, and second in the league in opponents’ eFG% from three. What does all that mean? It means that even though roughly half of the minutes at the center position were played by Nazr Mohammed and Boris Diaw, they still managed to put together elite defensive totals for the entire season. Neither Mohammed nor Diaw is exactly a defensive powerhouse at center, but that’s pretty much all Theo Ratliff and Tyson Chandler do, and they’re getting the lion’s share of minutes at center now. Beware underestimating this defense. With a great shotblocker behind them at all times, Crash ‘n Jax are free to be a little more aggressive on the perimeter, improving all aspects of the on-ball defense."

You can read his preview here.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and at Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).