- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “Stephen Jackson said his left knee was sorer today than yesterday, but expects to start Game 2 of the Charlotte Bobcats’ series against the Orlando Magic. Jackson hyperextended his left knee on Sunday after a collision with Gerald Wallace. An MRI on Monday revealed no structural damage, but a small bone bruise. He is officially listed as day-to-day, but will remain listed as a starter.”
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Magic won Game 1 against the Bobcats, but they didn’t play championship basketball. Not even close. Vince Carter drove to the hoop for the Magic’s first bucket but barely ventured into the paint again for the entire game. He needs to be more aggressive and take the ball to the basket if he indeed is going to be “amazing” in these playoffs as [Dwight] Howard predicted. And Howard needs to start playing smarter and stop picking up dumb fouls. Yes, he is reigning Defensive Player of the Year because he aggressively contests shots (eight blocks in the first half Sunday), but the Magic need him to stay on the floor for offensive purposes as well.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com looks back at some of the biggest moments in the Orlando Magic’s win against the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 1.
- Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace make it perfectly clear that they are going to continue to attack the basket against Dwight Howard, knowing that he can’t block every shot.
- Eric Freeman of The Baseline explains that even though the Bobcats’ franchise is new to the playoffs, the players on the team are familiar with the setting: “Stephen Jackson is an NBA champion and quite memorably makes love to pressure. Boris Diaw played a key role in several playoff runs for the Suns. Larry Hughes, while a mess on the court, at least knows what the playoffs are. Tyson Chandler has won a playoff series. Theo Ratliff is roughly 732 years old. That leaves Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton as the only members of the core without significant playoff experience. But if the playoffs are about mental toughness and playing hard at every opportunity, Gerald isn’t exactly someone you need to be worried about. Felton had some trouble containing Jameer Nelson early, but even if that’s related to inexperience, it wouldn’t explain the collective screw-up Charlotte evinced to begin the game. Oh, plus their coach is Larry Brown, whose name is essentially synonymous with hard-working veteran playoff basketball.”
- Charlotte won the battle but lost the war. Rob Mahoney of ProBasketballTalk explains: “From the Bobcats’ perspective, this is exactly what they want. Howard wasn’t frustrated into making too much of a negative impact (he often forces shots or commits turnovers when he feels he’s been wronged), but to hold Dwight to five points in the opening bout is certainly impressive. Charlotte not only showed that they’ll be competitive in this series but that they’re capable of neutralizing (or at least hedging the impact of) Orlando’s post game, which seemed like an unknown heading into the series. Now if they could just figure out Jameer Nelson…”
- At Orlando Pinstriped Post, Ben Q. Rock takes a quick look at Ryan Anderson’s playoff debut and in a guest post, John Schuhmann of NBA.com offers some context for Magic fans after Vince Carter struggled yesterday by looking back at his recent postseason history with the New Jersey Nets.
- Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook shows how the Bobcats blew a chance to steal a win against the Magic after they were down five with two minutes remaining in the game.
- Bethlehem Shoals of NBA FanHouse offers some commentary: “Orlando-Charlotte was unexpectedly tight — and fun. When Dwight Howard was blocking a shot every time down the floor, it certainly didn’t seem headed in that direction. But Howard ended up in foul trouble, and it was left to Jameer Nelson to carry the team. Little man who was the issue last year goes for a career-high while the celebrated big man gets upstaged by a 6-foot-7 swingman. I can write that out in symbolic logic if you really want. That swingman in question was Gerald Wallace, who went for 25 points and 17 boards. This one — above the rim, over Howard — deserves a poster. If they even make posters for rebounds.”
Jameer Nelson was one of the lone bright spots on offense for the Orlando Magic against the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 1, amidst Dwight Howard‘s foul troubles and Vince Carter‘s shooting woes. Nelson was able to put on a show in front of a nationally televised audience, reminding everyone why he was an All-Star in 2009 by scoring 32 points on 10-of-18 shooting and terrorizing the Bobcats’ defense in the process.
I compiled a video to show the types of plays Nelson got his points from. For instance, note how Nelson and Rashard Lewis are able to force the switch on the 1/4 pick and roll with Boris Diaw to create a mismatch in Nelson’s favor on two separate possessions.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic just didn’t go off script to win, they had to make it up as they went along. [...] No. 2-seeded Orlando raced to a 22-point lead in the third quarter, looking every bit like the club that posted the NBA’s second-best record. But the No. 7-seeded Bobcats made runs as the Magic were forced to work around [Dwight] Howard‘s foul trouble in the second half. They made some big plays defensively and clutch shots in the final period, as is their trademark. The Magic held the Bobcats to 29.7 percent shooing in the second half. The game lived up to its billing as a grind-it-out affair between two of the league’s stingier defenses, and Howard was monstrous. Howard finished with more blocks (9) and rebounds (7) than points (5) in almost 28 minutes.”
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “There was one sequence of plays in the first half where [Jameer] Nelson had the Bobcats looking at each other and probably mumbling to themselves, “What – did the Magic sign Chris Paul for the playoffs?” Nelson jab-stepped, got the defender on his heels, pulled back and drained a trey. He then blew by a defender and drove in for a layup. Then he led a fastbreak and kicked it out to Rashard Lewis for another trey. By the time the first half had ended with Nelson hitting a buzzer-beating 35-footer, he’d scored 24 points and doubled his scoring average for the season.”
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “Early in Sunday night’s game, Vince Carter had to walk to the free-throw line, stand before Dwight Howard and try to talk him into relaxing. Theo Ratliff fouled Howard, something he’s used to, and as he approached the free-throw line, he got an earful from Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson. Howard jawed right back at Jackson in what looked like the beginning of that frustration he sometimes lets swirl around inside his head. Eventually he did get rattled, and paid for that with five fouls during the Magic’s 98-89 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. But that early in the game, frustration wasn’t a problem, Howard said. It was just that he was a little too excited.”
- George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Don’t look at the statistics. They’re deceptive. Howard only scored five points on four shots. He grabbed seven rebounds. Instead, listen to Brown. “He got five points, but he was the most valuable player,” Brown said after Orlando beat Brown’s Bobcats, 98-89, in their NBA first round playoff matchup Sunday night at Amway Arena. The discombobulating of Brown’s plans came in other ways. With so much focus on Howard, other things opened up for the Magic. Jameer Nelson was fabulous, scoring a game-high 32 points. Rashard Lewis had 19. J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus hit big shots in the finals minutes. A lot of this had to do with the dirty-work on Howard.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “For much of the 2009-10 regular season, Mickael Pietrus would disappear for one game and reappear the next. Like Forrest Gump with his box of chocolates, the Orlando Magic never knew what they were going to get. But maybe Pietrus was saving his best stuff for the playoffs.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Fully healthy in a playoff game for the first time in two seasons, Nelson was off the charts in the first half with his aggressiveness. He was in attack mode from the jump, making six of eight shots in the first quarter and 10 of 12 in the first half. He also made four of his first six 3-pointers, including a long buzzer-beater just before the half, giving him 24 points by the break. With Charlotte possessing no true shot blocker, Nelson was able to turn the corner on the pick-and-rolls and get all the way to the rim. In the first half alone, Nelson had three layups and two other runners in the lane. And when Raymond Felton went under screens to cut off the drive, Nelson made him pay by stroking one 3-pointer after another.”
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: “Game 1 of this playoff series established several things, but none more than this: The Charlotte Bobcats have no business in a 3-point shooting contest with the Orlando Magic. You know how Bobcats coach Larry Brown says he “hates” the 3-point shot? He must detest it even more after this one. The Magic outscored his team 39-9 off 3s, which was just enough to preserve a 98-89 victory in this best-of-7 opener.”
- Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer: “As they began the first playoff game in franchise history, the Charlotte Bobcats looked freshly scrubbed and very nervous. They looked like they should be carrying brand-new backpacks. “We were like little kids on the first day of school,” Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace said. Exactly. The Bobcats were enthusiastic, energetic… and not quite ready for everything that was about to happen.”
- Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse: “Point guard Jameer Nelson wasn’t part of the Magic’s playoff run to the 2009 NBA Finals — and even got blamed for the Finals loss when he finally returned at less than full-speed — missing most of the fun after mid-season shoulder surgery. This was about making up for lost time. Nelson, the smallest man on the floor, set the tone quickly Sunday in the Magic’s 98-89 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. It was the Little Big Man Show. The Magic rode him early, then hung on through a rocky second half, turning to him time and again down the stretch. With Dwight Howard struggling to stay in the game, and Vince Carter struggling to shoot straight, Nelson delivered the kind of performance that showed why they gave him the title of captain.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Tonight’s crowd at Amway Arena was one of the best I’ve seen. No doubt that it was a legitimate sellout, and I estimate at least 95% of the paying customers were in their seats prior to tipoff. Charlotte’s Theo Ratliff won the tip, and very few seconds elapsed before fans broke into a spontaneous, unprompted chant of “DE-FENSE!” Genuine engagement and enthusiasm from the crowd tonight, and the Magic’s hot start only fanned the flames.”
- Henry Abbott of TrueHoop: “Some very smart people are picking the Orlando Magic to win this year’s NBA title. Stan Van Gundy‘s team has a great offense and a better defense, and they don’t just beat up on weaklings — they also happen to match up well with all of the NBA’s top teams. Yet, in the first game of their campaign to return to the Finals, the Magic could have easily lost to the 44-win Charlotte Bobcats, who wouldn’t have even made the playoffs in the Western Conference. Hypotheticals matter not at all, and are best avoided. But they’re irresistable in analyzing crunch time of this particular game. With 33.1 seconds left, the Magic led by five. From that point, the Bobcats were forced to foul repeatedly. Thanks to impeccable Orlando free throw shooting, they coasted to a nine-point win.”
- Ric Bucher of ESPN.com: “If All-Star center Dwight Howard has to be on the floor for the Magic to win an NBA title, the Charlotte Bobcats provided the blueprint for keeping him off it. Actually, the blueprint has been utilized before. The Bobcats simply proved it still works by limiting Orlando’s leading scorer to five points and seven rebounds in 28 foul-plagued minutes. It might’ve been less, but when the Bobcats closed to within six with 5:19 left, coach Stan Van Gundy put Howard back on the floor with five fouls. He survived to the end, as did the Magic, 98-89, thanks to 32 points from Jameer Nelson. But, in spite of all the happy chatter about Howard’s nine blocked shots, it had to be troubling to see their anchor reduced to role-player status. For while the ‘Cats might not have enough bricks and mortar to actually build a series upset from the blueprint, there’s a good chance some other team in the East does.”
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “Two different games: All Orlando Magic in the first half, and a scrappy Charlotte Bobcats comeback in the second half. The biggest difference was Dwight Howard’s foul trouble. You’ll remember from last spring that one of the keys to the Magic’s run to the NBA Finals was Marcin Gortat‘s ability to step in and maintain if not elevate the team’s level of play when Howard was sidelined by fouls. Not so in this game.”
- Matt Moore of ProBasketballTalk: “There’s a lot to talk about regarding Magic-Bobcats Game 1. The Magic’s initial dominance. The brilliance of Jameer Nelson. The failboat of Raymond Felton taking a lap around the lake. The grit, the nail-chewing, back-breaking, unrelenting grit of the Bobcats in making a significant run in the second half to pull within five under two minutes. And in the end, the Magic held on for a 98-89 win in Orlando behind the same thing that got them to the Finals last year. The three ball. The Magic shot 43% from the arc (13-30), and that was pretty much your ballgame.”
- John Krolik of ProBasketballTalk: “Howard was on the floor for 28 minutes of Sunday’s game. He was on the bench for the other 20 minutes of it. When Howard was off the floor, the Bobcats played the Magic dead even. When he played, the Magic were +9 over the Bobcats. Howard completely dominated the game while scoring five points. One of the most amazing defensive performances I’ve ever seen.”
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images
In a hard fought, physical game, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats by the score of 98-89 to take a 1-0 series lead in the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs. Before the game, there were two players to keep an eye on for the Magic and they were Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson. There were question marks surrounding Lewis and Nelson as the postseason was gearing up but each player answered the call for Orlando. Nelson led the way for the Magic, setting a career playoff-high by scoring 32 points, as well as chipping in with six assists and four rebounds. Lewis was excellent, playing a very efficient game by scoring 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Dwight Howard had a lackluster performance on offense but he was otherworldly on defense, where he tied a playoff-high with nine blocks and set a franchise playoff record with eight blocks in the first half. Gerald Wallace performed magnificently, with 25 points and 17 rebounds for the Bobcats. Monster numbers for Wallace, to say the least.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Let the countdown begin.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic start the choreographed fun late in warm-ups while the crowd settles in. Players begin with a rhythmic clapping and jumping up and down in a semi-circle. Veteran point guard Anthony Johnson moves into the center as the ringmaster and does a “funky dance” to ignite the pregame ritual. He introduces himself as Tyrone Biggums (a character created by comedian Dave Chappelle) and then introduces Vince Carter, “The DJ,” who pretends to spin records. Johnson will introduce Jameer Nelson as “Baby Yams,”‘ and then Dwight Howard as superhero “Hancock” and Jason Williams as “Bubs.” Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to “The Magic Show.” [...] The show tips off today in a first-round playoff series against the Charlotte Bobcats.”
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Prepare yourself, Orlando. I believe we are about to see a Vince Carter we’ve never, ever seen before. A Vince Carter who won’t admit it but knows his entire basketball biography can be rewritten with 16 victories in the next two months. On Friday, before the first practice of the postseason began, Carter swished a miraculous shot from the free-throw line into the basket at the other end of the court. And then in one of the first plays of practice, when the Magic were doing a routine two-on-two pick-and-roll drill, Carter drove forcefully down the lane and dunked so hard it rattled the rim and made the entire team take notice.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “While Howard is undoubtedly the heart of the Magic, I’ve always made the argument that Nelson is this team’s soul. He is the leader in the locker room and the player others respect most on the court to direct the traffic and keep the team under control. And often, Nelson is the barometer for how well the Magic play. Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis are the first, second and third options, but when Nelson is probing the lane and in attack mode that’s when the Orlando offense is at its best. When he gets into the lane, the threes tend to come in bunches, Howard gets lobs and Nelson certainly has the ability to score on his own. And down the stretch, it’s Nelson who will have the ball in his hands in pick-and-roll sets with Carter. Coach Stan Van Gundy has the confidence and trust in Nelson that he will make the right play – whether it’s a drive-and-kick pass or a clutch 3-pointer.”
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: “An NBA opponent scout, who wants to remain anonymous, breaks down the Charlotte Bobcats entering the playoffs, in an interview with Observer NBA writer Rick Bonnell: [...] ‘They have been trapping constantly of late, almost like a college team. Everybody knows Larry calls his preferred trap a “42” – it’s his version of a run-and-jump trap. It fits right in with their high-energy disposition. It’s especially effective against the other team’s second unit. Your second-team point guard had better be able to handle pressure because this team will absolutely test him that way.’ ”
- Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer: “An NBA locker room generally has one alpha male – the player that everyone else defers to both on and off the court. Michael Jordan was the ultimate example, but most teams willingly cede this control to the club’s most talented veteran. That veteran clarifies the team’s emotional tone and schedule daily – from who gets picked on the most to how much attention the head coach should be paid to where to go on an off night in Atlanta. The Bobcats, though, have ended up with two alpha males. Jackson and Wallace not only peacefully co-exist but have built a solid friendship. The transition since Charlotte traded for Jackson in November has been mostly seamless because Jackson and Wallace so respect each other’s work on the basketball court.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic SF Matt Barnes said Thursday that his camp spoke with the franchise about extending his contract or awarding him with a new deal. “Yeah, we talked to them,” Barnes said told the Sentinel. “We’re going to wait until the season’s over.” Barnes’ agent is Aaron Goodwin, who also represents Magic C Dwight Howard. Barnes signed a two-year deal last summer, but he can opt out of his contract at season’s end. He has said he would love to stay with the Magic.”
- Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated lists the Orlando Magic as one of the teams that has a chance to win a championship this year: “Orlando attempted more threes than last year, while Dwight Howard averaged two fewer shots per game; but he is shooting a higher percentage at 61.1 percent and he is likely to win another defensive player of the year award. Put it all together and coach Stan Van Gundy has wrestled an apparently disparate roster back into title contention. They enter the playoffs on a 20-3 tear along with the confidence that they can reprise last year’s upset of Cleveland. They surely look like the biggest obstacle the Cavs will face this spring.”
- Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated previews the first round series between the Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats: “This could be a much tougher test for the Magic than it first appears. Their 3-1 season edge over Charlotte included two victories in the first three weeks of the season, before the Bobcats acquired Stephen Jackson. Since then, Charlotte extended Orlando to overtime before losing and then went into Orlando and beat the Magic in mid-March. Points will be precious, as Larry Brown’s Bobcats led the NBA in defensive efficiency (fewest points allowed per 100 possessions), Orlando was third and both teams play at a slower-than-average pace. If Orlando isn’t hitting its three-pointers, Charlotte could steal a game on the road — and the Bobcats finished (31-10) at home.”
- Charles Barkley chimes in on Orlando.
- Doug Collins recognizes that it’s not all about threes when the Magic play: “Normally teams that take a lot of threes play small. They stretch you out, they run, they quick shoot the ball and they want to get into a shootout. [The Magic have] Dwight Howard back there anchoring that defense blocking or changing shots. One of the things I love about Orlando is they’re a team that can get hot and throw up huge numbers but they can also beat you in a game where defense wins.”
- Want to know why Rashard Lewis has struggled against the Bobcats this season? Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post provides an explanation: “The poor shooting in spot-up situations is absolutely cause for concern, as spotting up is how Lewis gets 42.9% of his offense on the season, according to Synergy. That figure increased to 60.9% against the Bobcats, which makes his decline in effectiveness in those situations so jarring. He scored 7 times in 28 possessions when spotting up, or just 25% of the time for 0.679 points per possession, as the above chart shows. For the season, spotting up? He scores 45.5% of the time and produces 1.218 points per possession. What a dramatic drop-off. Thing is, Lewis can’t stop shooting. Orlando needs him to continue firing away, predominantly from beyond the arc, for its offense to work. He’s going to have to spot-up against the Bobcats, and he’s also going to have to convert those chances at a much higher rate. So the next question is, “how?” Honestly, he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”
- Bill Simmons of ESPN.com attempts to prove that Orlando can’t win four straight playoff series with Vince Carter on the team.
- Two of the top 10 five-man units in the playoffs, sorted by efficiency differential, are owned by the Magic. John Schuhmann of NBA.com has more: “The Magic starters are the best starting unit in the East, both offensively and defensively. If you’re willing to look at smaller sample sizes, you’ll discover that replacing Howard with Marcin Gortat gives you even better results, (Def: 85.2, Diff: +33.4), which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because Howard is the prohibitive favorite to win his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award. The starters-plus-Gortat lineup played in just 21 games together, and for just 74 minutes total.”
- With the use of video, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook breaks down the strengths and weakness, plus the tendencies, of Orlando and Charlotte.
- Bethlehem Shoals and Tom Ziller of NBA FanHouse offer a fun and insightful preview of the matchup between the Magic and the Bobcats.
- Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse: “At the start of practice Friday — in a mundane, two-on-two, pick-and-roll drill he has run a thousand times in his career — veteran Vince Carter surprised everyone by cutting loose with a dunk so emphatic, so focused, that it shook the goal, looking like something he did a decade ago in a nationally-televised game. Even Magic center Dwight Howard was impressed, turning to general manager Otis Smith, who was watching from a distance: “I guess he’s ready for the playoffs,” Howard said with a nod. Carter, 33, never has been more ready to play basketball, knowing through the next eight weeks he can redefine his career, change the perception he has fought the last 12 years, that he is nothing more than a great individual player who can dominate the highlight tapes. He wants to be known as a champion. And he finally has the chance to do it.”
- As Tom Haberstroh of Hoopdata shows, Howard gets a lot of And-1’s.
- Meet Jameer Nelson, Orlando’s championship x-factor, according to Austin Burton of Dime Magazine: “He wasn’t there for most of the ‘09 Finals run, so in a sense he’s still playing catch-up. By the numbers, it’s been a subpar year for Jameer: His scoring is down, his shooting percentages are down, his steals are down, and his turnovers are up. He also missed a solid month of the schedule with injuries. With Vince Carter assigned to create offense and run the pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard in crunch time, Jameer just needs to protect the ball, hit open shots, and defend his position.”
- Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference’s statistical plus/minus projection likes Orlando in 5 against Charlotte.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “If you consider yourself a connoisseur of defense, the matchup between the Charlotte Bobcats and the Orlando Magic is the series to watch. On the final night of the regular season, the Bobcats passed the Magic to finish the season as the NBA’s top defensive team. While the two teams have very different styles–Charlotte thrives thanks to excellent wing defense, forcing turnovers and solid performance in the paint, while the Magic funnels everything toward the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard–both have proven very successful. It’s on the offensive end that the two teams differ in results. Orlando’s fleet of excellent shooters around Howard set the NBA record for most three-pointers in a season. Charlotte has been substantially below average on the offensive end this season, which explains why the Bobcats are the seventh seed while the Magic boasted the league’s second-best regular-season record and is a heavy favorite in this series.”
- Will there be a title rematch between the Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers? Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie breaks down the possibility.
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
And the grand finale.
I gathered writers, the best of the best in the blogosphere, to participate in a roundtable discussion and answer some of the most pertinent questions concerning the Orlando Magic as the 2010 NBA Playoffs are set to begin.
So, without further ado, here are the participants:
Each individual provided his opinion on Vince Carter‘s potential impact in the playoffs, how things may shake out if the Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, and more.
Who is the x-factor for the Orlando Magic in the playoffs?
Kevin Arnovitz: The x-factor, as he’s long been for Orlando, is Rashard Lewis. If Lewis is accurate from the perimeter, effective at exploiting slower defenders with improved dribble game and able to use his size to post up smaller defenders, then he gives the Magic even more flexibility in the half court.
Tom Haberstroh: Matt Barnes. They’ll need him to do the dirty work. Can he neutralize the opponent’s top scorers?
Kurt Helin: I wanted to go with someone a little more exotic here — Matt Barnes, Rashard Lewis, and those guys will need to have key moments and games — but in the end it’s about Jameer Nelson to me. Dwight is going to be Dwight. But nobody else in the East has a second option as good as a healthy Nelson. Maybe nobody outside the Lakers does (Gasol behind Kobe). And in the playoffs, when things get tight, that second guy comes up huge. Nelson is a shooting guard who can score when the offense breaks down and there are 6 seconds left on the shot clock, and you need that in the playoffs.
If Nelson can come up huge in the playoffs. That’ll be the test. When it comes down to Cleveland in the conference finals — and it will — the Magic will need to pick-and-roll them to death because neither Shaq nor Big Z can defend it well consistently. If Nelson is All-Star Nelson, running the P&R as god intended… well, the Great Cleveland LeBron Freak Out will begin earlier than expected.
Matt Moore: The bench, quite honestly. I could drive it down to Matt Barnes or Brandon Bass or Marcin Gortat or Mickael Pietrus or J.J. Redick or Ryan Anderson but that’s the whole point. It could be any one of them. They’re all capable of producing at an insanely high level, and the 10-15 points they can put in (if SVG gives them time) could be the swing. Mickael Pietrus was the dagger in the ECF last year. In the semis, J.J. Redick’s defense on Ray Allen was the tip of the sword. It could be any one of those guys. That’s the trouble with the Magic. There’s simply no way to stop all of them.
Kevin Pelton: At the risk of copying Kelly Dwyer, this has to be Rashard Lewis. Lewis’ ability to stretch the floor was the difference-maker for the Magic in last year’s postseason, and you can trace Boston’s addition of Rasheed Wallace and Cleveland’s move for Antawn Jamison to wanting to have similar presences. Lewis has had a down regular season and Orlando could really use him to step up at both ends of the floor.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Ben Q. Rock is a man that needs no introduction, at least to Magic fans that frequent the blogosphere, but deserves one. Rock covers the Magic at Orlando Pinstriped Post, my former stomping grounds for over a year, and has done excellent work for the past three years. For instance, Rock has been doing a great job of previewing the first round series between the Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats the last few days. I highly suggest reading what Rock has written, so far, as it’s about informative as it gets.
Rock promised, when I left OPP, that he’d collaborate with me from time to time so here we are.
A few days ago, I was able to ask Rock a few questions concerning some of the major storylines surrounding the Magic with the 2010 NBA Playoffs starting on Saturday.
I’ve always been of the opinion that Jameer Nelson is the x-factor for the Orlando Magic. When he goes, so go the Magic. But certainly the same thing could be said about Vince Carter, given his talents and what he’s proven to be capable of in a Magic uniform. So, between Nelson or Carter, who must produce and take his game to another level for Orlando to win a championship?
Well, I mean, both Vince [Carter] and Jameer [Nelson] are important, and I’m not sure there’s one who’s more key to Orlando’s title chances than any other. I suppose you could say that Vince is going to end more possessions and thus will have more responsibilities, and thus he’ll have more chances to affect the Magic’s playoffs. Thing is, I feel like he’s more consistent. He’s going to get his 15-to-18 points per night, as he’s done for the last few months. Whereas Jameer’s been more up-and-down.
Given the choice, most opponents would rather limit Carter and take their chances with Nelson firing away, so Jameer has to answer the call there. To me, the biggest thing for Jameer is to cut the one-on-one play. Get into the teeth of the defense, kick the ball out. He has to take enough of those 18-footers in pick-and-roll situations, but he can’t keep settling for them. Vince has to avoid that as well, but you and I both know that Carter’s much more likely to put his head down and draw contact than Nelson is.
So now I’ve talked myself into believing Nelson is more crucial. Fair enough, but it’s not a huge margin.
What makes this discussion easier is that J.J. Redick and Jason Williams have been so reliable off the bench. I trust them more than I did, say, last year’s version of J.J., or Anthony Johnson. If Vince and Jameer don’t have it some nights, I’d be comfortable counting on their backups if I were Stan Van Gundy.