As seen on ESPN’s Daily Dime.
With a 99-90 victory against the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 4 on Monday night, the Orlando Magic put the finishing touches on their first four-game sweep in franchise history that can best be described in one word: strange.
Strange because the Magic were able to defeat Charlotte in four straight games despite limited contributions from their franchise player and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard. Normally, Howard is the best player on the floor for Orlando, but not in this series. The Bobcats did an excellent job of using their abundance of big men, which included the likes of Tyson Chandler, Nazr Mohammed and Theo Ratliff, to nudge, poke and prod Howard relentlessly. The strategy worked, as Howard played roughly 26 minutes per game and didn’t record a single double-double against Charlotte despite posting gaudy block totals in limited playing time. It was a frustrating week or so for Howard, but he’ll have time to regroup and redeem himself in the Eastern Conference semifinals against either the Atlanta Hawks or the Milwaukee Bucks.
So what did we learn about the Magic from this sweep?
- Vince Carter is snapping out of his funk. Maybe. It’s no secret that Carter has struggled in the playoffs so far, but after a slow start in Game 4, Carter heated up in the second half by getting involved in a steady diet of pick-and-rolls and making a variety of plays on offense for the Magic. Against the Bobcats, Carter found the most success in the pick-and-roll because it invited him to be aggressive and attack the basket, something he needs to do more of as the postseason progresses.
- Jameer Nelson is playing like an All-Star. In Games 1 and 3, where Nelson had two 32-point performances, showed him at his best. Nelson was excellent on offense, being über-aggressive and shooting with great efficiency (.647 true shooting percentage). If Nelson can continue playing at a high level, watch out.
- Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus are in playoff form. Lewis and Pietrus have taken their games up a notch and have already proven that they are more than willing to step up in crunch time and hit big shots, just like in last year’s playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see if that trend continues.