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In a game where things shifted back and forth between a defensive struggle and a shootout, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats by the score of 92-77 to take a 2-0 series lead in the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as all five starters scored in double-figures. Vince Carter had 19 points, five rebounds, and two steals and was, without a doubt, the player of the game for Orlando. And despite being plagued by foul trouble for a second consecutive game, Dwight Howard had 15 points, nine rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in roughly 28 minutes of action. For the Bobcats, Stephen Jackson led the way with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting.
In the first quarter, the Magic and the Bobcats displayed to a nationally televised audience why they are two of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Neither team had much luck scoring on the other, which made for some boring or entertaining basketball depending on how you look at it. In any case, amidst all the missed shots and turnovers from both sides, head coach Stan Van Gundy stayed true to his word and made a concerted effort to call plays for Howard and get him involved on offense. On nearly every possession in the period, Orlando ran 4-out/1-in offensive sets for Howard. The thing is, the results were a mixed bag since Charlotte elected to double-team Howard on the low block almost every time. Sometimes Howard would make a good decision, like passing the ball out of the post to a cutting Matt Barnes for an easy layup. Sometimes Howard would make a bad decision. The important thing was that Howard was getting his touches and given chances to make plays offensively.
However, as was expected, Howard got into foul trouble early in the second quarter and was forced to sit on the bench the remainder of the period. Considering Marcin Gortat didn’t play very well in Game 1, it seemed like the door opened for the Bobcats to close the gap or take the lead but that was not the case. Gortat played with much better effort and energy this time around, plus various players for the Magic were able to chip in on offense while maintaining a high intensity level on defense that usually dips when Howard is off the floor. That’s why Orlando was able to increase the lead from six to 11 in Howard’s absence, because several players were able to pick up the slack on both ends of the court.
In the second half, though, Carter and Howard did the heavy lifting.
For the first time in the series, Howard was able to make an impact on offense by scoring nine consecutive points to start the third quarter. Howard scored in a variety of ways, either in 4-out/1-in offensive sets or 1/5 pick and rolls with Jameer Nelson, and punctuated his scoring flurry with back-to-back dunks that sent the crowd at Amway Arena into a frenzy. Unfortunately for Howard, he picked up his fourth foul shortly thereafter and couldn’t ride the momentum he created by seemingly scoring at will against Theo Ratliff. Logically, with Howard out, the Magic needed Carter to deliver and he did.
From the 5:35 mark until the end of the period, the Bobcats could do nothing to stop Carter from creating, passing, and scoring with the basketball in a half-court setting. Van Gundy stated beforehand that he wanted to see Carter attack the basket more, particularly in the pick and roll, and guess what? That’s what happened. Carter was involved in the 2/5 pick and roll with Gortat or the 1/2 pick and roll with Nelson on almost every possession and the results speak for themselves.
It’s important to note that, at this point, Orlando’s lead was 10.
[5:35] Carter makes free throw 1 of 2
[5:35] Carter makes free throw 2 of 2
[5:01] Carter makes layup (Nelson assist)
[3:40] Carter makes layup
[2:19] Carter makes driving layup
[1:40] Lewis, 23-foot three-point jump shot (Carter assist)
By the time the damage was done, the Magic led by 20 heading into the fourth quarter and that was all she wrote.