Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
In keeping with their schizophrenic nature this season, the Orlando Magic followed up a surprising win against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday with a loss to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats two days later.
It’s no secret that the Magic’s defense has regressed badly in recent weeks. After having a top 10 defense in the first month and a half of the season, Orlando is now a below-average defensive team.
The Bobcats helped continue the Magic’s defensive slide, posting a 116.8 Offensive Rating despite entering Friday’s game averaging just 101.9 points per 100 possessions (27th in the NBA).
Kemba Walker led the way for Charlotte with 25 points on 16 shots. He did whatever he wanted offensively, wreaking havoc in pick-and-rolls.
In the first quarter, Walker made his presence felt immediately by nailing several jumpers in pick-and-roll sets. His first basket of the game was a midrange jumpshot from the right elbow in a 1/4 pick-and-roll with Hakim Warrick.
Later in the period, Walker made two jumpshots in 1/3 pick-and-rolls with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The first was a midrange jumper from the right elbow. The second was a three-pointer from the right wing.
Both times, Jameer Nelson went under the screen and Walker made him pay.
As the game went along, Walker mixed things up in pick-and-roll sets. When he wasn’t nailing jumpers off the dribble, he was scoring at the rim.
One possession in particular stands out. Late in the second quarter, Walker ran a 1/4 pick-and-roll with Warrick. DeQuan Jones, defending Walker after he picked him up in transition, actually did a nice job of initially stopping him in the pick-and-roll set. But Walker eventually got the best of Jones, using a hesitation move to freeze him momentarily and create a driving lane for an uncontested layup.
When Walker wasn’t busy picking apart Orlando defensively in pick-and-rolls, he was drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line.
The key to this game, apart from Walker’s standout performance, was the Bobcats going on a 10-0 run late in the second quarter and building a double-digit lead over the Magic heading into halftime. Charlotte used that scoring surge to build a cushion between themselves and Orlando. From there, the Bobcats were able to hold off the Magic in the second half.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Even though Charlotte is in the middle of another miserable season as they continue to rebuild, Walker has been one of the few bright spots on the roster and he showed why against Orlando.
Entering Friday’s game, Vucevic had pulled down at least 12 rebounds in the last eight games, which was the second-longest streak in the league. That streak snapped, as Vucevic finished with only nine rebounds against the Bobcats.