Vince Carter is your classic “love/hate” player.
For whatever reason, Carter stirs the emotions of almost any basketball fan one way or the other and it usually leads to heated debates praising or criticizing him at every turn. That being said, it came as no surprise that after Carter struggled mightily in Game 1 against the Charlotte Bobcats, shooting 4-of-19 from the field and playing with a lack of aggressiveness, his critics seemed to line up around the block to say “see, I told you so.” However, after Carter returned to form in Game 2, his backers are saying the same thing.
Rather than get into more frivolous banter that is all ado about nothing, let’s take a look at how Carter was able to play very well and singlehandedly breakdown the best defensive team in the NBA. It’s an important question to answer because it’ll have ramifications for the Orlando Magic moving forward in the playoffs, assuming they advance past the Bobcats in the first round. As they say, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
As has been mentioned before, the primary reason why Carter had success in Game 2 was because he was involved almost exclusively in the pick and roll — specifically in the third quarter. Even when it became obvious that the Magic would be running a pick and roll with Carter, it didn’t matter. Charlotte couldn’t stop the inevitable from happening. Which was usually Carter scoring.
However, what really stood out in Game 2 was that Carter had the basketball in his hands a lot in the fourth quarter. It was no different than when Hedo Turkoglu was the primary ballhandler for Orlando down the stretch in games during the postseason last year, actually. In this case, Jason Williams or Jameer Nelson played primarily off the ball in the fourth quarter and Carter ran the offense for the Magic (usually in the 2/5 pick and roll with Dwight Howard). Not a surprising development, mind you, but an interesting one to say the least.
All in all, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Carter needs to be involved in the pick and roll. Especially in the 1/2 pick and roll with Nelson, which causes a lot of matchup problems for opponents. In essence, the pick and roll invites Carter to be aggressive on offense and make a concerted effort to attack the basket, which is ultimately what Orlando needs him to do if they want to make it back to the NBA Finals. Carter doesn’t necessarily have to dominate the ball, and he shouldn’t, but he should be aggressive.
If Carter does that, then the Magic will be in good shape.