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Magic Complete Series Sweep With 99-90 Victory Over Bobcats

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The Orlando Magic defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 99-90 on Monday night, becoming the only team to sweep a first round series this year.  It is the first time in franchise history the Magic swept a team in a seven-game series. Vince Carter led the Magic with 21 points while Tyrus Thomas led the Bobcats with 21 points off of the bench.

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Once again, the Magic had to grind out a victory in a tight game. Early on, the Magic look energized and built a 21-10 lead. It looked like the Magic might breeze their way to victory, but the Bobcats battled back, ending the first quarter on a 15-2 run capped by Raymond Felton’s buzzer-beating 32-foot 3-pointer. Orlando had just one bucket in the final 4:31 of the quarter and that bucket was a dunk by Marcin Gortat on a broken play. The Bobcats seized the momentum and were able to build a seven-point lead in the second quarter led by a surprising offensive outburst by Tyrus Thomas, only to see the lead cut to two at halftime. In the first half, Charlotte’s defense combined with Orlando’s poor ball movement, kept the Magic at bay.

Despite being down at the half, you never got the feeling the Magic were going to lose the game. The Bobcats were hitting long jumpers that usually don’t fall for them while Dwight Howard once again got into foul trouble and only gave the Magic 10 first half minutes.

Rashard Lewis started the second half out with five quick points and Vince Carter made his first 3-pointer of the series at the 9:08 mark in the third quarter (after missing his first 15 3-point attempts in the series). The combination of Lewis, Carter and Jameer Nelson led the Magic to a 28-point third quarter on 8-of-16 shooting, including four 3-pointers and eight free throws, allowing the Magic to take a three point lead into the fourth quarter. The Bobcats continued to give the Magic all they could handle, but the Magic then unleashed perhaps their most deadly weapon, the 3-point shot, using it to put the Bobcats away. With the Magic leading by just one with 6:39 to play, Mickael Pietrus made back-to-back 3-pointers which was later followed by a Jameer Nelson 3-pointer. Vince Carter made a free throw with 4:18 to go, capping a 10-0 run that gave the Magic an 88-77 lead.

Carter struggled in the first two quarters, finishing the first half with just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting. The Magic tried to get him going in several different ways. They went back to the pick-and-roll between Carter and Jameer Nelson, which was so effective in game 2. They were able to create some mismatches but with the exception of a nice drive by Carter, the Magic couldn’t capitalize. In the third quarter, Carter started to run the high pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat. Carter got better looks and capitalized, burying a couple of jumpers. He was 3-of-5 from the field in the quarter and scored seven points. He finished the game with 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting. Carter was more aggressive and got to the free throw line nine times. He did a better job of looking for his teammates, dishing out four assists and did a much better job of protecting the ball. He did not turn it over once.

It was more of the same in game 4 for Dwight Howard. He got into foul trouble with a mix of legitimate fouls, poor decisions on his part, and at least two fouls when he went straight up with his hands up and inexplicably got called for a foul. Howard played a series-low 23 minutes, yet still managed to grab 13 rebounds. He did have a rough time scoring when he was on the floor. He was 2-of-6 from the floor and an abysmal 2-of-7 from the free throw line. He finished with only six points, but did have three assists and two blocks to go with his 13 rebounds.

Jameer Nelson, the MVP of this series, played very well again. Nelson didn’t shoot well (4-of-12 from the field, 2-of-6 from beyond the arc), but he got to the free throw line 10 times, dished out four assists and did not turn the ball over once. Nelson had 18 points. In the series, Nelson averaged 23.8 points per game while shooting an effective field goal percentage of 58%, dished out 18 assists and only turned the ball over five times. His performance over the past four games was nothing short of spectacular and if Nelson continues to play at this level, the Magic are the team to beat.

Rashard Lewis wasn’t that aggressive on Monday night, but his 3-point shot was falling – he was 4-of-7 from downtown. In the game, Lewis shot an effective field goal percentage of 87%. He also grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists.

Both Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus did their jobs. Not only did Barnes show his usual hustle and do the dirty work, grabbing eight rebounds and collecting three steals, but he scored 14 points and hit a couple of very timely 3-pointers.

Speaking of timely 3-pointers, Pietrus’ back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter extended Orlando’s one point lead to seven and really helped the Magic put the game away. The guy, as he has proven over the last two seasons, is ice cold in the playoffs.

Throughout the series, Orlando did a good job of forcing the Bobcats into long inefficient jump shots. That was to be expected entering the series, but with Howard in foul trouble, the task became much more difficult. Marcin Gortat did an admirable job filling in for Howard, but he still can’t protect the paint like the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. It was surprising to see the Bobcats not attack the rim more and settle for long two-pointers, but it could be a good sign for the Magicbecause Howard will inevitably get into foul trouble again this post season.

Game Notes:

  • Dwight Howard picked up 22 fouls in the four games series. That’s 5.5 per game.
  • Stephen Jackson was just 2-of-11 from the field in game 4. He shot 35.8% from the field and 16.7% from downtown in the series. Jackson also had 17 turnovers in the series.
  • The Magic only scored 16 points in the paint, but got 69 points off of 3-pointers and free throws.
  • Charlotte scored 34 points in the paint, but only 36 from 3-pointers and free throws.
  • Charlotte assisted on 27 of their 32 field goals.
  • The Magic really took care of the ball, turning it over just seven times. That has to please Van Gundy.
  • Theo Ratliff had zero points and five fouls in eight minutes.
  • The Magic were the only team to sweep their first round playoff series.

Next Up: The Magic await the winner of the Hawks-Bucks series. They’re currently tied at two. Game 5 is Wednesday and game 6 is Friday.

Final Thought: The Magic swept the Bobcats with Dwight Howard missing nearly half of each game.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, 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).