- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “When he thinks about what might go wrong this afternoon in Charlotte, N.C., Stan Van Gundy worries about his players’ collective psyche. Van Gundy envisions 19,077 people inside Time Warner Cable Arena cheering wildly, and he visualizes an already desperate Charlotte Bobcats team feeding off of that energy. And, in his nightmare scenario, Van Gundy imagines his Orlando Magic failing to match that intensity. The Magic will face that danger today in Game 3 against the Bobcats. Orlando leads the best-of-seven series two games to zero, and Van Gundy knows that his players could succumb to human nature and let up just a bit. Instead, Van Gundy wants his players to unleash their inner killer instinct.”
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “If you watch Games 3 and 4 between the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats, you’ll probably see Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin sitting courtside right next to the Magic bench. With rain and other severe weather forecast for Saturday, Hamlin hopes to escape Talladega Superspeedway for a few hours and be in Charlotte for the 2 p.m. tip. He’s a Bobcats fan and season-ticket holder, but has a soft spot for the Magic.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “This storyline is like a broken record, but it continues to dominate talk around the Magic because of [Dwight] Howard’s persistent foul trouble so far. He played just 27 minutes in Game 1 and 28 minutes in Game 2 because he had five fouls both nights. That time on the bench has limited Howard to rather ordinary numbers so far (10 ppg., 8 rpg.). The Magic must find a way to keep Howard on the floor more because he changes how Charlotte plays. When he’s in the game, Charlotte is a perimeter shooting team, and that’s a good thing for the Magic because the Bobcats severely lack shooting from long range. But when Howard is out, the Bobcats mantra is to attack the rim relentlessly with Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton.”
- David Scott of the Charlotte Observer: “Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown eagerly reeled off a list of players he has rescued from what could be called the NBA’s scrap heap during his 25 years in the league. “I got Eric Snow when he was a fourth stringer in Seattle,” Brown said. “Theo Ratliff wasn’t even starting (anymore) in Detroit. I got Raja Bell out of the YMCA in Miami. George Lynch came from an expansion team in Vancouver. Tyrone Hill had been traded many times.” Brown, though, wasn’t randomly plucking those names from the air. Call them afterthoughts, castoffs, second-chance players, whatever: They were the core of his 2001 Philadelphia 76ers team – led by star guard Allen Iverson – that played in the NBA Finals. Brown seems to be doing it again in Charlotte. Albeit without a player like Iverson, Brown has molded a roster sprinkled with players who have found new life playing for him, qualifying for the NBA playoffs for the first time in franchise history.”
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: “Everything else about the Charlotte Bobcats has run to form between the regular season and the playoffs: They still have slow starts on the road, still turn the ball over too often, still need plenty of trips to the foul line to win. So they can only hope, entering Saturday’s first-ever playoff game at Time Warner Cable Arena, that this trend holds up, too: They’re one heck of a home team. No team in the NBA has more of a split personality: The Bobcats won 18 more games at home this season than on the road, the widest such differential in the league. They shoot better, score more and block a ton more shots (282 at home, 164 on the road).”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Stern warned coaches and players about publicly questioning his game officials only hours after fining Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and small forward Matt Barnes $35,000 apiece for comments they made in Howard’s defense after Game 2 against the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday night. And Stern said a $35,000 fine will seem like pocket change to the next coach or player who has a beef with the way the whistles tweet. [...] Stern said the fines could be the equivalent to game checks, which means $100,000 extractions from wallets.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Sometimes they roll their eyes at the numbers, yawn at some and certainly absorb bits and pieces of the info along the way. And considering the consistent effort and the strong finish that the Magic had during this 59-win season, it’s hard to argue that they weren’t the most focused and well-prepared team in the NBA. But one Van Gundy statistic in particular caught his team’s attention heading into Saturday’s Game 3 against the Charlotte Bobcats, and it goes something like this: “In the last five years, 47 times teams have been up 2-0 and 32 times they have lost Game 3,” Van Gundy said. “And all but two of those cases that’s the higher-seeded team (losing). You would think they could more than one-third of the Game 3s. It does tell you in terms of teams mental states.” Van Gundy is usually a coach of many words, but when his chatter loses its effectiveness, he lets the numbers do the talking for him. And he’s hoping that “a little history lesson,” will give his team a must-win mentality once again in Saturday’s Game 3 at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena.”
- Here are the keys for the Orlando Magic against the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 3.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Rashard Lewis emerged from the Orlando Magic players’ lounge following Friday’s practice with his left sneaker off, a bag of ice wrapped around his left ankle and a slight limp. But the Magic power forward emphasized that the injury won’t slow him down when the Magic face the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 3 on Saturday. [...] Lewis said he hurt the ankle during the third quarter of Game 2 on Wednesday. On the sequence in question, Lewis went up for a layup on a fastbreak and had the ball blocked off the glass from behind by Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace. Wallace then came down on Lewis’ ankle.”
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk backs up head coach Stan Van Gundy’s comments about Michael Jordan’s legacy.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post poses a question: which struggling Magic player needs to step up the soonest?
- Kate Fagan of ESPN the Magazine critiques the free-throw techniques of several players in the NBA: “Howard’s 63.6% mark in last year’s playoffs was nearly 20% higher than his previous postseason average. He credited the practice of singing to himself to “calm his nerves.” Hey, Knicks fans, does Superman’s held follow-through remind you of anyone? Magic assistant Patrick Ewing mentors Howard, who takes 100 free throws after game-day shootarounds.”
- Speaking about free-throws, this remains a sensitive topic in the city of Orlando: “[Nick] Anderson, Orlando’s original draft pick in 1989, played 13 seasons, went to the playoffs in six of them and finished with respectable career averages (14.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg). But he is universally remembered as Nick the Brick for missing four consecutive free throws in the final 10.5 seconds of Game 1 of the 1995 Finals as the Magic nursed a three-point lead over the defending-champion Rockets. Few fans recall that Kenny Smith nailed a three-pointer to send the game into overtime or that Anderson finished the night with 22 points and 11 rebounds. All they remember are the four clanged foul shots and that the Rockets swept the series. ‘That first free throw I was as confident as ever,’ Anderson says. ‘It felt great leaving my hand, but it just rimmed out. I know what kind of player I am, I’m going to make the next one. I tried to adjust my stance, made it wider to make extra sure I was stable, but I leaned back as I shot, as if I were falling.’ That second attempt hit the front rim and ricocheted back to Anderson. The desperate Rockets immediately fouled him again, and Orlando called timeout. Outwardly, Anderson appeared defiant, pounding his chest. Inside, he says now, ‘it started playing like a radio in my head. You just missed two free throws. You just missed … ‘ ”
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.
It’s been an uphill battle for Dwight Howard to stay on the floor against the Charlotte Bobcats and make an impact on both ends of the court but he’s been doing the best he can, considering the circumstances. Credit needs to be given to the Bobcats because they have done an excellent job of neutralizing Howard offensively in the series, so far. Charlotte hasn’t been perfect, though. In Game 2, Howard was able to get his offense going a little bit.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy is letting his opinions fly and — another $35,000 later — he’s learning freedom of speech isn’t free. Not in the NBA. We’ll get to another topic — what Van Gundy thinks about Michael Jordan, his Charlotte Bobcats and Jordan’s place in basketball history as the supposed all-time greatest player in a second. You’ll want to stick around for that.But late Thursday, Van Gundy and Magic small forward Matt Barnes — the team’s two most outspoken members — were fined $35,000 each for their public comments regarding the officiating after Wednesday night’s Game 2 against the Bobcats at Amway Arena. Van Gundy and Barnes were talking to the media about how star center Dwight Howard is being treated by the referees in the first-round series. Orlando leads Charlotte, 2-0.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “[Marcin] Gortat, who averaged 13.4 minutes per game this season, has played about 20 minutes in each of the first two games. Howard only has managed around 28 minutes per game — about 10-12 minutes fewer than the Magic expected to play him this postseason. ‘I think it’s always good to have a back-up center. Everybody wants them, but there are not a ton of them,’ said GM Otis Smith, who matched the Mavs’ five-year, $34-million offer sheet for Gortat, a restricted free agent. ‘Marcin comes in and keeps us somewhat whole. He’s not the same guy (as Howard), doesn’t demand the same respect, but he can hold his own at the position when Dwight’s in foul trouble.’ ”
- Click here to read what Barnes and Van Gundy said to get fined by the NBA. Van Gundy, not surprisingly, stands by his comments in defense of Dwight Howard.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com examines Howard’s foul troubles: “Van Gundy’s theory that Howard is the most foul-prone superstar in the league certainly seems true when analyzing numbers from the regular season. Howard was whistled for 287 fouls this season, most in the NBA. His 3.5 fouls a game were the third-most in the NBA behind Portland’s Greg Oden (4.0), Sacramento’s Jason Thompson (3.7) and Memphis’ Marc Gasol (3.7). Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (3.5), Utah’s Paul Millsap (3.5) and Carlos Boozer (3.5) were tied with Howard. Of the five players expected to be on the first-team All-NBA team this season – Cleveland’s LeBron James (1.56 fouls a game), Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (2.08), Miami’s Dwyane Wade (2.35), Los Angeles Kobe Bryant (2.56) and Howard (3.50) – the Magic’s big man is far and away the most foul-prone.”
- Basketball Prospectus proudly reveals the first Internet Basketball Awards. Take a look.
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie chooses his Defensive Player of the Year: “By March, or even February, this was a foregone conclusion. Dwight Howard changes games. He changes a team’s offensive game plan before it even has the chance to hit the floor, and then once the ball goes up, Howard changes shots. He changes plays, he changes the arc on a shot taken within his vicinity, and he changes the chances a team has at a second shot should it escape his grasp and carom off the rim. No other player in the NBA changes things, defensively, as much as Dwight Howard. No guard, no other big man, no roaming wing. Nobody.”
- Henry Abbott of TrueHoop chimes in on the Jekyll and Hyde act of Vince Carter, with an excerpt from yours truly.
- Austin Burton of Dime Magazine compares Howard to Shaquille O’Neal in that they are two of the most difficult players to referee: “Last night’s Magic/Bobcats matchup was another case of the refs not knowing how to deal with Dwight. He got his first foul when Theo Ratliff was literally hugging him in full view of the refs, but no whistle blew until Dwight used an elbow to free himself. His third foul was also pretty weak, and then Dwight picked up his fourth when he blocked Gerald Wallace at the rim but the refs called him for body contact. I’ve seen plenty of similar plays where dudes like Joel Anthony would get away with that; you expect a superstar like Dwight to get away with it, too. Just like in Shaq’s prime, the refs can’t figure it out because Dwight is so strong and so physical.”
- Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: “This series is just ugly. That’s fine, honestly. I’m sure Orlando doesn’t mind facing a pretty tough defensive opponent in the first round, even if it makes things a bit more difficult than they could have been. That’s exactly what’s happened in Games 1 & 2: Orlando has struggled to develop an offensive rhythm, even with Dwight Howard seemingly providing a mismatch against Charlotte’s bigs. Good defense and questionable foul-calling have limited Dwight’s effectiveness in both games, and his 15 points and six turnovers are definitely manageable for the Cats. The rest of Orlando’s starters’ scoring — Jameer Nelson’s 13, Rashard Lewis’ 13, Vince Carter’s 19, Matt Barnes’ 11 — also seems fairly pedestrian, until you realize just how slow this game was. There were 80 possessions. That’s it. 80. That’s a full 10 possessions slower than the slowest team in the league (Portland), and even more impressive given the combined 33 turnovers. That’s 33 possessions ended early, one way or another, and yet the pace just hit 80. Not only is that a bit of a slog, but it’s actually kind of impressive, when you think about it.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post provides commentary on the Orlando Magic’s commitment, as an organization, to winning a championship.
- Eric Freeman of The Baseline doesn’t give the Bobcats a good chance of coming back and winning their series against the Magic.
- Bethlehem Shoals of NBA FanHouse asks a few interesting questions about Carter and Howard.
- Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard of ESPN Insider wonder which player currently in the playoffs needs a championship ring the most.
- John Hollinger of ESPN Insider explains why the matchup between Orlando and Charlotte has been one of the top stories in the playoffs, so far: “Theoretically, Charlotte-Orlando should be a competitive matchup between the league’s top two-ranked defenses, and a compelling chess match between arguably the two best coaches in the East, Larry Brown and Stan Van Gundy. It hasn’t been, however, because only one of these two teams can play offense. While the Magic have been able to shrug off bad games from their two key offensive performers — in Game 1, Dwight Howard had five points and Vince Carter shot 4-for-19, and they still won easily — every possession from the Charlotte side has been excruciating.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Only 14 teams in NBA history have won a best-of-seven series after trailing 2-0. Like in Orlando’s 98-89 Game 1 victory, [Dwight] Howard again battled through foul trouble, held to another 28-minute night. Backup Marcin Gortat was re-signed at a high price for these situations and again played about 20 minutes. “Hopefully, the refs will start letting Dwight be a little more physical and stop calling such tic-tac fouls on him,” [Matt] Barnes said. “You know, give him a chance to play. As far as the physicality, we welcome that now.” Barnes said Howard receives “no respect. Absolutely, Dwight gets no respect from the refs, from the league, as far as not being mentioned as the MVP.” Asked if he were worried the way the postseason is being officiated, Howard said, “Yeah, it’s a big concern.” What the Magic and the Bobcats can agree on is this: They don’t like the way the whistles are blowing.”
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Once and for all, isn’t it time everybody stopped portraying the Magic as just a bunch of running, gunning, cunning 3-point shooters? Yes, they made more 3-pointers this year than any team in NBA history, but this team would just as soon lock you down as gun you down. Even offensive-minded players like Vince Carter are spouting [Stan] Van Gundy‘s defense-first mantra. “If we’re going to be the last team standing, we’re going to do it with our defense,” Carter said. Coming into this series, the main story line was how the Magic’s rifling offense would deal with Charlotte’s stifling defense. Granted, Charlotte is one of the league’s best defensive teams, but so, too, is Orlando. Has anybody bothered to look at the league stats? It’s Orlando that leads the NBA in field goal percentage defense and defensive rebounding. The Magic have been the toughest team in the NBA to shoot against, allowing opponents a league-low 43.8 percent from the floor. And, oh by the way, they also have a guy by the name of Dwight Howard, who may someday go down as the greatest defensive force the league has seen since Bill Russell.”
- George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “We know the deal with Carter: Extremely talented individual player, spotty record with the team concept thing, a veteran looking for a championship ring after years of disappointments with other people and places. This first round NBA playoff series started as badly as it could for him. Only four shots went in; the other 15 bounced here, there and everywhere. Vinsanity indeed, but only in the different context. A lot of folks justifiably judged Carter harshly after his 4-19 effort in Game 1 of the playoff series against the Bobcats. But he wasn’t among the crowd of dissidents while watching game film on Monday. He watched each shot. Every single clunker. Then vowed to be better. His 19 points, on 5 of 10 shooting, was a solid rebuttal. The five Magic starters scored in the teens, reflective of balanced scoring. That’s a good thing, Just ask Stan Van Gundy.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Even before the series started, Bobcats officials hinted that they would use their bigs’ 24 available fouls to put Howard on the free-throw line, where the Magic center is at his most vulnerable. But, if anything, Charlotte didn’t foul Howard enough on Wednesday night. Howard attempted 12 foul shots and made only five of them, and in retrospect, the Bobcats would have been better served if they had wrapped up Howard whenever he received the ball within six feet of the rim. One example of a missed opportunity for Charlotte came just two minutes into the third quarter. Howard collected the ball directly underneath the hoop, between two defenders, and as he jumped and twisted toward the foul line, he banked the ball off the window for a reverse layup.”
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “After a bruising physical game, in which both the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats pounded at each other, the Bobcats found themselves in an 0-2 hole to begin the franchise’s first playoff series. What did Charlotte learn from Game 2 against the Magic? “We gotta be more physical, more aggressive,” Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace said. “If the referees are gonna let us play, we gotta play.” Charlotte lost Wednesday night to go down 0-2 in the best of seven series against the Orlando Magic. They’ll return for the franchise’s first home playoff games starting Saturday at 2 p.m. Charlotte goes home still hoping for an upset, hoping they can pound their way to one.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “On the one side, Orlando has a battering ram (Dwight Howard), aerial assault (Vince Carter) and waves of battle-tested troops (Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson and Mickael Pietrus). On the other side, Charlotte certainly has a nifty one-two punch (Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace), but little else in the way of dangerous firepower. Clearly, after Orlando smothered Charlotte 92-77 in Wednesday’s Game 2 at noisy Amway Arena, this is looking more and more like a matchup where one team simply overwhelms the other with its embarrassment of riches as it pertains to weapons.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “I do think that, going forward, Orlando will need to get more production off its bench. Mickael Pietrus lit it up from the outside once again, draining 3 of his 4 three-pointers, but the rest of the second unit contributed just 12 points on 9 shots. Marcin Gortat, once again forced to take on a larger role due to Howard’s foul trouble, played 19 minutes and finished with just 2 points on 1-of-2 shooting (the miss was a wide-open dunk), 2 rebounds, and 1 blocked shot. You expect those numbers from Gortat in, say, 7 or 10 minutes of work, not 19. And he was, once again, not much of a factor on defense. Though he seemed to be more energetic than he was in Game 1, it’s clear that he’s just not getting into his highest gear, to use an automotive analogy. His failure to box out Boris Diaw on a missed Tyson Chandler free throw led to a three-pointer from D.J. Augustin and a 5-point possession for the Bobcats. Those 5 points, incidentally, represent 6% of their total output. Scoring’s at a premium for this team, as it has been for most of the season.”
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: “Every so often Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown dispenses with the technical jargon, and leads a scouting report with something more gut-level: “Don’t get punked,” it will read on the dry-erase board. They’re getting punked, and that’s why they’re down 2-0 in this playoff series following a 92-77 loss to the Orlando Magic.”
- Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer: “Watching the Bobcats in the first quarter felt like cringing at the Carolina Panthers’ offense in their infamous Arizona playoff game. If Jake Delhomme had been playing point guard, it could not have been worse. Of the Bobcats’ first 13 possessions, they failed to score on 12. They turned the ball over six times. They shot an air ball. Quickly, it was 13-3, Orlando. But because Charlotte was playing good defense and Orlando wasn’t raining 3-pointers with its customary regularity, the Magic didn’t put Charlotte away immediately. Instead, it turned into a slow, painful, boring death for Charlotte in Game 2.”
- Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse: “Not since the Detroit Pistons became champions in 2004 has anyone won an NBA title without one dominant scorer, without someone averaging at least 19 points a game. Although playoff time traditionally is when teams shorten their playing rotation, the Magic have played like it’s still the regular season, leaning on two people at every position. In both victories over Charlotte, the Magic played 10 guys nine minutes or more. And in both playoff games, they had five players reach double-figure scoring. They did it 46 times that way in the regular season, winning 40 of those games.”
- John Krolik of ProBasketballTalk: “The Bobcats kept the game close by playing good defense on Dwight Howard. The Magic went to him early and often in the post, as Stan Van Gundy promised they would. It ended up playing into the Bobcats’ hands, as they did a great job frustrating Howard with quick doubles, rotating when he passed out, and putting him on the line instead of giving him easy dunks and layups. It took Howard 10 shots and 12 free throws to get his 15 points, and he turned the ball over six times. He looked like he finally got comfortable on the block at the beginning of the third quarter, but promptly picked up his fourth foul and was forced to sit. Howard was again in foul trouble thanks to some cheap loose-ball fouls, and only played 29 minutes. The surprising thing is that during the 19 minutes Howard sat, the Magic actually managed to out-score the Bobcats by 13 points. Howard is a great player who makes the Magic much better on both ends of the floor, but the Magic seemed more comfortable offensively when Howard sat on Wednesday.”
- Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated: “After a slipshod first period in Game 1, Lewis has defended Boris Diaw extremely well while finding his range for a combined 13-for-23 on field goals — including 6-of-12 from 3-point territory while leading his team in plus/minus in each of the last two games (he’s +31 for the series). After a wretched showing in three regular season games versus the Bobcats, Lewis has joined Pietrus in sealing off the weaknesses in Orlando’s game at both ends.”
- Eric Freeman of The Baseline: “The Magic had a more balanced attack, with all five starters finishing in double figures and Vince Carter (19 points on 5-of-10 from the field and 9-of-11 from the line) and Dwight Howard (15 points on 5-of-10 FG and seven offensive rebounds despite foul trouble) leading the way. It wasn’t always entirely successful — they shot 45.3 percent, good but not great — but this was a team effort, the kind of performance that speaks to just how much talent the Magic have. They got just enough from everyone to make this a comfortable win.”
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
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.