Magic Beat Bobcats 92-77, Take 2-0 Series Lead

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The Orlando Magic blew a defensive battle open in the third quarter, then closed the game strong to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats 92-77 to take a two-games-to-none lead in the series. Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy described the game as “hard fought” and “a tougher game maybe than what the final score indicated.” Dwight Howard’s minutes were limited again but he still managed to score 15 points. Vince Carter bounced back from a poor game one performance with a team-high 19 points. Stephen Jackson led the Bobcats with 27 points.

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To say the game was a defensive struggle in the first half might be an understatement. Orlando was shooting just 36.4% in the first half while the Bobcats shot just 35.5%. Orlando was 4-of-14 from beyond the arc and Charlotte was just 2-of-5. Charlotte turned it over 13 times in the first half.

In the third quarter, things changed. Orlando got a little lax on defense, but that may be because they turned up the pace and had a much easier time scoring. The Magic posted an effective field goal percentage of 75.0% in the quarter while still holding the Bobcats to just 42.1% shooting from the field. The Magic outscored the Bobcats 34-25 and had a 75-55 lead at the end of the quarter. The Bobcats got within 10 in the fourth quarter, but the Magic closed the game out on a 7-2 run.

Orlando ran the pick-and-roll well Wednesday. Not only did they run their pick-and-roll between Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard, but ran several other variations as well. Nelson ran the play with Carter and later Carter ran the play with Howard and Marcin Gortat. These plays also helped get Orlando’s shooters open looks. Orlando made 10 3-pointers on the night.

Carter had a great bounce-back game after shooting poorly on Sunday night.

“I just came ready to play,” Carter said. “Nothing changed, nothing I did different. I just let the game come to me. I wasn’t in a rush.”

It seemed like things were atleast a little different. Carter did a better job of trying to attack the basket, but still couldn’t be as aggressive as he wanted to be, so the Magic turned to the pick-and-roll between Carter and Nelson. He did an excellet job of rolling off of his screens and letting Nelson find him, often abusing the Bobcats on the pick-and-roll.

“We don’t practice it much,” Carter said of the pick-and-roll with Nelson. “It’s just us just reading each other. We have conversation about how to attack it. I played the four in college so I have an idea on how to run the pick-and-roll. He’s been aggressive so it really helps – they have to respect that as well.”

Carter was 9-of-11 from the free throw line, which speaks for his aggressiveness. He finished the game with 19 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

Nelson also played a pretty good game. Sure, he didn’t score 32 points like he did on Sunday, but he ran the pick-and-roll very well and did a good job of getting his teammates involved. Nelson finished the game with 13 points on just 4-of-11 shooting but also added five assists and turned the ball over just once.

Dwight Howard had another frustrating night. He got into foul trouble and played just 28 minutes for the second consecutive game. After the game, Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy discussed how upset he was with the way Howard is officiated.

“I don’t see other great players in the league on the bench all the time especially after marginal calls,” Van Gundy said.

Howard admitted that he was displeased, but knows he must keep from getting frustrated.

“I just try to keep my composure and play through everything,” Howard told reporters after the game. “I understand that I’m playing for something bigger than myself and just can’t allow that to frustrate me or let it frustrate my teammates.”

Howard still played pretty well. He scored 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots. He was however, not without his mistakes. He missed six of his nine free throw attempts and turned the ball over six times.

At one point in the game, Howard did get into a grove. He scored the first nine points of the third quarter before picking up his fourth foul at the 6:28 mark.

Rashard Lewis played well for the second straight night. He continued to be aggressive. Lewis pumped and got defenders off of him, sometimes following up with a 3-pointer and sometimes driving to the hoop. Lewis had a fake and one of his pattented runners at the basket during the game, a play that seems nearly unstoppable for a 6’10 player as offensively skilled as Lewis. It’s something the Magic would like to see Lewis do more of. Lewis shot just 5-of-12 from the field, but hit three 3-pointers and had 13 points. Lewis also looks like he is making a better effort to rebound the ball with Howard in foul trouble. He grabbed seven on Sunday.

“I think he’s playing well,” Van Gundy said of Lewis. “We actually didn’t run as many plays for him tonight, so he was just getting them off pick-and-rolls and other people’s passes.”

Van Gundy was still pleased with Lewis’ effort.

“That’s a good sign actually, of him getting shot attempts when we’re not running plays directly to him.” Van Gundy said.

Game Notes:

  • Stephen Jackson played very well, scoring 27 points, but also turned the ball over seven times and was visibly frustrated down the stretch. He looked like he was trying to get a technical down in the last two minutes of the game, complaining to each official while Jameer Nelson was completing a three-point play.
  • Matt Barnes got more involved in the game, scoring seven of the Magic’s first nine points. He finished the game with 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
  • Ryan Anderson showed good energy and hustle and did a nice job on the boards.
  • Every Magic starter scored in double figures.
  • Each team grabbed 36 rebounds. The Magic were 48-8 this season when grabbing an equal amount of more boards than their oppoent.
  • In the first quarter, Charlotte was without a field goal from the 9:53 mark until the 2:38 mark.

Next Up: Orlando now must travel to Time Warner Cable Arena  to face the Bobcats in game 3 Saturday afternoon. Charlotte was 31-10 at home this season, but 0-2 against Orlando.

Final Thought: The Magic are now up 2-0, so even though there is room for improvement, there isn’t much to complain about.

(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).