- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Much of Charlotte’s gameplan in this series was to trap the 6-foot [Jameer] Nelson and force him into making mistakes. But Nelson has shredded those double teams and he’s repeatedly torched the Bobcats off the pick-and-roll. His seven-for-seven, 19-point first quarter was one for the ages in [Orlando] Magic history. He made all four of his 3-pointers, including a runner at the buzzer in which he was foolishly fouled by Raymond Felton and completed the four-point play. And Nelson steadied the offense late, getting in the lane and getting the ball to the right spots. If this series had an MVP award, it would go to Nelson without question.”
- The city of Charlotte loves Vince Carter and hates J.J. Redick.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus states that Dwight Howard needs to avoid ticky-tack fouls: “Howard again played limited minutes because of foul trouble, which is going to become increasingly problematic as the postseason progresses. The issue isn’t that Howard can’t guard without fouling, he just can’t keep himself from committing the silly fouls that send him to the bench. On Saturday, he got tangled up with Gerald Wallace under the basket and flung Wallace aside. Because he’s so big and strong, the relatively benign blow sent Wallace reeling and was an easy call for the officials. Later, Ray Felton actually beat him baseline and had a bead on the bucket and Howard, caught off balance, just sort of reached in and got Felton on the arm. Those are the kinds of plays Howard has to avoid. He can’t get away with them. Like Shaquille O’Neal, he can’t avoid ticky-tacky calls like other players simply because he’s so powerful. D.J. Augustin can tangle with a player under the basket and get away with it, because the contact might be shielded from the officials. When Howard does it, he’s like a human cue-ball–players just start flying when Howard contacts them.”
- A recap of the Magic’s win against the Bobcats in Game 3.
- Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook takes a look at Charlotte’s late-game execution in yesterday’s game. Head coach Larry Brown deserves kudos for drawing up a great play.
As seen on ESPN’s Daily Dime.
Entering Game 3, the Charlotte Bobcats were looking to do something they had never done before — win a playoff game. The Bobcats whiffed on their first two chances to do it against the Orlando Magic on the road in Games 1 and 2. However, Charlotte had a golden opportunity to get the proverbial monkey off its back in front of a sellout crowd at Time Warner Cable Arena in Sunday’s game.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, Jameer Nelson ruined the party.
For Nelson, who had torched Raymond Felton & Co. in Game 1 on Sunday by scoring 32 points, it was déjà vu all over again, but with a twist. Yes, Nelson scored 32 points for the second time in three games, tying his playoff career high, but this time he set a franchise playoff record by scoring the most points in a quarter (19 in the first). Considering that the Magic’s postseason history includes prolific scorers like Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and Tracy McGrady, just to name a few, it’s an impressive accomplishment for Nelson.
How did he do it?
Nelson scored a majority of his 19 points in spot-up situations, contrary to the first quarter in Game 1, when he scored either in the pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard or in transition. Nelson did an excellent job of staying ready and being decisive on the perimeter when he received the basketball off a pass from Howard, Rashard Lewis or whomever else.
Perhaps what was most impressive about Nelson was his court awareness on the final play of the first quarter. After a missed shot from Stephen Jackson, Nelson raced down the floor and looked to put up a desperation heave before the buzzer. In the process of crossing half court, Nelson drew a foul after Felton was reaching in and hoisted a 35-foot 3-pointer immediately after the referee blew his whistle with 1.3 seconds left.
The shot went in on the continuation — after brief deliberation from the officials — and Nelson was able to connect on the ensuing free throw to make a four-point play.
It was that kind of outing for Nelson, who is quickly reminding everyone why he was named an All-Star in 2009 and, in the process, putting the Magic in the driver’s seat to sweep the Bobcats.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Are the [Orlando] Magic conducting some bizarre experiment? It looks as if they’re now trying to invent new and different ways to win that don’t include four-time all-time star Dwight Howard and barely include eight-time all-star Vince Carter. Take Saturday’s game of charades. The Magic won despite committing 21 turnovers for 31 points. They won with point guard Jameer Nelson, 5-foot-10, taking over the 6-11 Howard’s role as top scorer. They won with power forward Rashard Lewis playing Carter’s role as go-to guy late.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Howard picked up his sixth foul with 3:32 remaining in regulation, and the Bobcats took an 80-79 lead when Raymond Felton made a free throw. But the Bobcats couldn’t take advantage of Howard’s absence. “It didn’t seem like he was out, because we wasn’t attacking the rim, and the spacing was still terrible on our part,” Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson said. Rashard Lewis, tender left ankle and all, quickly drew two fouls and made all four of his free throws to give the Magic an 83-80 lead. Nelson hit a six-foot shot in the lane, Vince Carter hit a pair of foul shots and backup center Marcin Gortat made three of four shots from the stripe to close out the victory.”
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Magic are so good and so deep that they are winning even when they play badly as they did during their 21-turnover monstrosity Saturday. It makes you wonder just how dominant these guys are going to be when Howard actually starts playing instead of sitting on the bench in foul trouble. The Magic big man played only 26 minutes and fouled out Saturday, but still the Bobcats couldn’t pull out the victory despite an obnoxiously loud sellout crowd for its first home playoff game since the city was awarded a franchise six years ago.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Games like this, when Dwight Howard is constantly saddled with foul trouble, are why the Orlando Magic retained Marcin Gortat. Games like this, when Orlando’s top two scorers are effectively limited, are when the Magic can fall back on being the NBA’s deepest team. And games like this, converting repeatedly down the stretch on the road against a desperate Charlotte team, show why the Magic are once again championship contenders. Getting some clutch rebounding and – of all things – free throw shooting from Gortat and gutsy offensive play from Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis, the Magic rallied in the final three minutes for a 90-86 defeat of the Bobcats that was immensely telling. Not only did it the victory give the second-seeded Magic a commanding 3-0 lead in the series, but it also showed the steely resolve of an Orlando team that’s had to go other places for points and production. And the Magic again looked like a playoff-tested team on Saturday, rallying from a one-point deficit with their best player (Howard) having already fouled out.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “The Bobcats scored only 6 points after Howard fouled out, and a lot of credit goes to Orlando’s defense. But I can’t help but think that Charlotte did Orlando some favors on their possessions. Boris Diaw rushed a three-pointer, and Larry Hughes clanked another trey well short near the end of the shot clock on the next possession. Hughes learned his lesson and drove to the basket on the next play, drawing a foul on Carter and converting the free throws. Felton got a nice layup inside. But overall, you’d have to say the Bobcats settled for two many jumpers late in the game, and Jackson’s missed three-pointer really nicely sums up Charlotte’s approach down the stretch. Just too early to take that shot–though he was, again, very open on a beautiful play Brown drew up for him.”
- Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer: “Instead of imposing themselves on the Howard-less Magic, however, the Bobcats continued their three-fest. They scored only six more points, two on a layup by Felton, the other four on free throws. “I never thought I would coach a team where a third of their shots would be 3s,” coach Larry Brown said. The Bobcats took 74 field-goal attempts, 23 of them 3s. They shot as many 3s as they did free throws. Only five 3-point attempts went in. In the fourth quarter, Charlotte took six 3s and not one was good.”
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: “Here it is, in the official play-by-play: 3 minutes, 32 seconds left, and All-Star Howard commits his sixth personal foul, attempting to block a Raymond Felton layup. Felton makes the resulting free throw and the Charlotte Bobcats lead 80-79. And then….wretched. The Bobcats were outscored 11-6 to lose 90-86 and fall behind 3-0 in this best-of-7 playoff series. If the Bobcats don’t win Monday, they’ll be swept in their first playoff appearance.”
- John Krolik of ProBasketballTalk: “After a back-and-forth second half, the door was open for Charlotte when Howard, who’d been effective throughout the fourth quarter, fouled out with the Bobcats up one and three and a half minutes to play. The Bobcats didn’t have enough shooting to get over the hump, and Boris Diaw and Larry Hughes came up short on crucial three-point attempts. With the Bobcats down one and 31 seconds to go, Larry Hughes called timeout and set Stephen Jackson up with a three-point look. He missed it. After that, the Magic made enough free throws to hold on, and the Bobcats now find themselves in a 3-0 hole.”
Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
The Charlotte Bobcats entered today’s game looking for their first playoff win in franchise history but the Orlando Magic didn’t follow the script, as they defeated the Bobcats by the score of 90-86 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs. The Magic were led by the player of the game and arguably the player of the series, so far — Jameer Nelson. For the second time in three games, Nelson tied a career playoff-high by scoring 32 points on 12-of-21 shooting and stepping up in crunch time when Orlando needed him. Plus, Nelson set a playoff franchise record by scoring the most points in a quarter (19 in the first). For a third consecutive game, Dwight Howard was saddled with foul trouble and finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, and seven blocks in roughly 26 minutes. Marcin Gortat played the unexpected role of playoff hero, sealing the game for the Magic by hitting two free-throws in the final seconds.
- 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.”