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NBA Playoffs: Magic complete the sweep

Apr 27, 2010, 12:33 AM EDT

The Magic still didn’t put together a dominant single-game performance against the Charlotte Bobcats, but their combination of defense and timely three-point shooting was enough to get them a first-round sweep. 

Charlotte once again did all the right things. They outscored the Magic 34-16 in the painted area. They matched the Magic in offensive rebounding. They only turned the ball over three more times than their opponent. They held Dwight Howard to six points in 23 minutes of floor time, and even managed to slow down Jameer Nelson to some degree. 
In the end, though, Charlotte couldn’t find enough scoring to get a win in this series. Stephen Jackson, Raymond Felton, and D.J. Augustin couldn’t make the Magic pay for packing the paint, combining to go 6-26 from the floor. 
Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw gave the Bobcats some offense by slashing and hitting open jumpers. But as has been the story all series long for Charlotte, neither of them were able to carry the offense when the game was on the line. Ty Thomas led the team with 21 points off the bench, with most of those coming on baseline jumpers. Like I said regarding Larry Hughes in game three, there is a serious problem when Ty Thomas jumpers are your most reliable source of offensive production. 
Orlando had their usual peaks and valleys offensively, following up three-point barrages with prolonged droughts. Normally Howard gives the Magic offense stability when their threes aren’t falling. In game four, however, he was once again rendered completely ineffective by foul trouble and Charlotte’s interior defense. I’m also perplexed as to why Larry Brown didn’t go to hack-a-Howard earlier in the forth quarter. The Bobcats were a few fouls away from the bonus, but the Magic were starting to make baskets and Howard has no idea which way is up on the foul line right now. 
Just how streaky is Orlando’s offense? They started the game off by hitting four three-pointers en route to scoring 21 points in the first eight minutes of the game. They then went on to score four points in the next seven minutes of play. Orlando continued to trust the three-ball all game long; eventually, it worked out for them. As the Bobcats made their final push of the series, Mickael Pietrus hit two quick threes to stretch the lead from one to seven and put the Magic in control. After one more three by Jameer Nelson to put the Magic up double-digits, they were able to hold onto the lead without needing a field goal for the last five minutes of the game. 
Give Charlotte credit for competing for the full 48 minutes. But in the end, the Magic were too much for them to handle in this series. Sometimes, grit and good coaching aren’t enough against a team as deep and talented as the Magic are. 
Going forward, the best news in this game for Magic fans may be that Vince Carter finally got it going. He continued to struggle with his jumper early, but made some hard drives to the basket to put himself on the board. In the second half, Carter finally hit his first three of the series. He was able to splash in some mid-range jumpers after that, and ended up leading the Magic with a 21-point night.
There’s a glass half-empty/half-full way to look at this series for the Magic. On the one hand, they were able to sweep a pretty good team with their franchise player on the bench half the time and giving them nothing offensively. Their second-leading scorer struggled mightily as well. If the Magic can play this well without solid contributions from Howard and Carter, imagine what they can do if both of them play like they’re capable of playing. And don’t forget that not every team defends the paint like Charlotte does. 
On the other hand, it is a little troubling that Howard is capable of playing so badly over four straight games. The free throws are particularly disturbing; if he’s not going to make 40% of his attempts from the stripe, teams are going to wrap him up every time he makes a move. The Magic were talented enough to get through the Bobcats with Howard playing like this, but they won’t make it very much further if he doesn’t start playing like the best center in the league. 
Only time will tell if the optimistic or pessimistic view of the Magic after the first round is the correct one. As bad as the Magic looked offensively in this series, it’s clear that teams will have to do three things to knock the Magic out of the playoffs: Defend Howard, find a way to score in the paint consistently, and stop the Magic from raining threes. When Howard can’t score inside, the Magic can get quick points by hitting quick-trigger threes. When the threes aren’t falling, the Magic can dump it into Howard. When neither of those options are working, the Magic can weather the drought thanks to their defense. All of those things are going to make the Magic an extremely tough opponent for any team that faces them this postseason. 
  1. Bobzilla - Apr 27, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    Dwight Howard is a monster in the paint, which can be great when he’s directing that intensity at the ball and rim, but when he directs it at his opponents, his misdirected aggressiveness can bring him down, and subsequently bring the Magic down.
    Vince Carter has amazing talent, but for some reason he only brings that out when the Magic are behind or on the verge of losing a game. I understand he’s doesn’t have the same physical strength and leaping ability that he did back when he won the slam dunk competition, but he should be much more involved throughout the entire game if the Magic are going to beat Cleveland and even more so if they reach the finals. Never-the-less, he’s an outstanding clutch player, so he should always be on the court in the final minutes of every game.
    I am surprised by Jameer Nelson’s play during this series, because he has not been this consistent during the entire regular season. I hope he can keep it up, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. He has great talent, but he’s very streaky, and I doubt this streak will last all playoffs long.
    Go Magic!

  2. Dolph T - Apr 27, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    When the going gets tough, Vince Carter will choke — as he always has, throughout his career. That and Howard’s inability to make FTs are the weak underbelly of the Magic that will be exposed as soon as they play a decent team. They won’t be able to close out games. Atlanta may be too weak on the road to take advantage, but the Cavs are plenty strong enough to take out the Magic, perhaps easily.

  3. WinDelRoj - Apr 27, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    You cant say that Dwight Howard played that horribly when you consider that hes playing 5 guys on the other team and the officials. They want this guy to flop like 90% of the NBA and not play physically. The guy is a monster and weighs 260-270 what do you want him to do?

  4. Mike F - Apr 27, 2010 at 11:10 AM

    This series was real hard to watch – the calls on both sides were horrible and I swear there was a whistle any time anyone touched the ball.
    Yes: the fouls were fouls, but….seriously – two hours of free throws is real boring to watch.

  5. FamousAtticus - Apr 27, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    Dolph T…
    That is near verbatum of what EVERYONE said about the Magic last year and look what happened(exchange Carter for Turkoglu “will choke”)…they sent Lebron to his couch to watch the Finals from the comfort of his home. This Magic team is even better than last years Eastern Conference Championship team(alot deeper).
    You can’t compare Playoff series to eachother, the Bobcats series is over and now onto the next(Howard’s funk). I think the Hawks will beat the Bucks(eventually) and will lose in 5 or 6 games to the Magic, the Hawks don’t have all the fouls to give up that the Bobcats had. I think the Magic and Cavs series will be great, I think it will go one game longer than last years series(from 5 to 6 games) but the Magic will prevail(Lebron will pack his bags for NYC). Re-peating as EC Champs will place the Magic in a great spot in the Finals already clinching home court, which will lead(i believe) to their first NBA Championship…if David Stern lets it happen.

  6. Mike F - Apr 27, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    Also – didn’t Dwight have something like 15 rebounds in the game last night? In….25 mintutes? He also got how many blocks?
    Dwight’s never been a high point scorer – with his shooters, he doesn’t need to be. Would be nice if he started hitting his free throws, though, or he better get real used to staring at the ‘charity stripe’ late in games.

  7. Sguy2130 - Apr 27, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    I’m sick of hearing Magic fans complain about refs…you went the the finals last year…there is no conspiracy…
    Until you said that your post was completely reasonable FamousAtticus. Every team deals w/ bad calls, some just man up and don’t cry about it every other day.
    If the Cavs and Magic meet up in the ECF it will be a great series. Both teams are deeper than last year. The Cavs are now much more versatile so the major matchup issues of last season’s series will not be there.

  8. mrbassbone - Apr 27, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    I do not think that it is just “Orlando Fans” crying foul. Not when every TNT, ESPN & ABC commentators making the same statement. All you have to do is look at some of the Western Conference slugfest and the fouls that are NOT being called. Yes…there were some Flagrant 1′s & 2′s handed out but you did not see ANY ticky-tack fouls being called on Dirk, Tim, Kobe, Derek, Pao or any OTHER western conference stars. You do not see Garnett, Pierce, Allen, Lebron being hit with “phantom Phouls”.
    It seems that David Stern HAS buried his head deep in the corporate pockets of Nike and Adidas because of his comment about the Lucrative tv contracts. The Nike puppet show may be on hold for the moment, but do not be deceived…THEY are calling the shots. Last year the Magic spoiled their commercial spots and THEY want to make sure it does not happen again.
    We shall see tonight with game 5 of the Laker vs OKC series. IF the refs start hammering the Thunder like everyone expects will happen, then you know the “so-called” fix is in. OKC outplayed them in both games on their home court and had it not been for the slow starts in games 1 & 2 in LA…they could possibly be UP in that series instead of tied.

  9. bwood - Apr 27, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    Ah yes, the “magic crying foul” statement. Yes, Dwight and the Magic are complaining about the foul calls because Dwight is being called for the most ludicrous fouls thus far in the playoffs. The minute pre-madonna Lebron ever got called for a foul he would freak out as well as the rest of the world. The NBA is a superstar driven league (dwayne wade won a championship alone), and when one superstar is being treated differently it stands out pretty noticeably. And is it really that hard to believe the ref’s are aware of what’s going on here? Tim Donaghy anyone? Or do the ref’s live a vaccuum that prevents them from having any kind of bias in games. As Bassbone said, the West is getting to play hard, the ref’s should let the East do the same.

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