Though I'm a huge Orlando Magic fan-- Charlotte reigns as one of my favorite cities. So it's fitting that my favorite professional franchise, will begin its attempt at becoming NBA champions with the team from the Queen City.
I read Hadarii Jones article about Bobcats beat the Orlando Magic, by Hadarii Jones." target="_blank">how the Bobcats could pull the upset. He and I agree that Head Coach Larry Brown can-- and most likely will make this series interesting. As Coach Brown would say, if the Bobcats “Play the right way...” they can win games.
Jackson, Wallace and Diaw Must Show Up
In terms of match-ups, the addition of Stephen Jackson coupled with the presence of Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace gives the Bobcats some hope.
The key will be Jackson, Wallace and Diaw taking advantage of their inside game. Taking the game to Howard early, usually pays dividends for opposing teams. Two quick 'cheap' fouls, and the Bobcats will now have at least a quarter to play even basketball.
With Magic forward Matt Barnes most likely covering Jackson, Van Gundy will be forced to put Lewis on Wallace. That can help slow down 'Sweet's potential to put up quick points from 3pt range.
Both Jackson and Diaw can get hot from the arc. With good ball movement, the Magic have trouble closing out on second and third options on defense. A couple of outside shots could open up more opportunities on the inside.
Rebounds, Turnovers and Good Shots
By now we all know Orlando won the season series 3 – 1. In that loss the Bobcats out-rebounded the Magic by 12, shot 50% from 3pt range and shot more free throws than the Magic. Thirty-six percent of their 75 shots were taken in the paint. No coincidence Howard ended the game with 5 fouls.
So this makes sense, “Play the right way...”, rebound, limit turnovers and take good shots. Tyson Chandler doesn't have to score huge points, but he'll have to rebound to give the Bobcats a chance. Turnovers speak for themselves. Good shots could be three pointers, if someone gets hot.
Good shots work both ways. In the loss, the Magic attempted 32 three pointers. Get Howard in foul trouble, or pressure entry passes down low-- and the Magic have a tendency to settle for long threes. Sometimes that works, other times it doesn't.
The Magic legitimately go 11 players deep. JJ Redick's game has improved. Jason Williams directs the second team well, and can create points with his passing. Now that Brandon Bass has hit the rotation, the Magic better match up with big lineups. Bass even brings the threat of a 12-foot jumper on good nights.
All this to say, I don't know if the Bobcat bench can match the output night-in-and-night-out over a seven game series.
The Bobcats have quietly been one of the better defensive teams all season. Their key stats differ very little from those of the Magic. Defense always plays a big factor in the playoffs. Who plays better defense consistently has the advantage.
Dwight Howard sometimes struggles when challenged by physical players. Jermaine O'Neal fought Howard hard in the post, getting five blocks to boot. Howard only scored 10 points with 11 rebounds. Both numbers below his season averages.
For the Bobcats, Ratliff and Mohhmed shouldn't be afraid to challenge Howard with a hard foul. They will have to frustrate him, to help slow him down.
The Final Prediction
Larry Brown is a good enough coach to make things happen in the playoffs. Charlotte has good talent. The East looks to be much more competitive next season, with the Bobcats being a player.
In spite of what many people think, the Bobcats could win this series. They have to win one of the first two to do it.
The Magic are 22 - 5 since the All-Star break, that's the best in the NBA. They are on a roll, and will be tough to stop. They are my pick to win the Eastern Conference.
When it's all said and done, Charlotte will get two hard wins to push the series to six games.
Magic win the series 4 – 2.