Playoff Preview: Breaking Down Orlando Magic Vs. Charlotte Bobcats
The NBA regular season has come to an end and the postseason is here. After locking up the two seed in the East, the Orlando Magic have been matched up with the Charlotte Bobcats in the Eastern Conference first round.
The red-hot Magic decided against sitting any of their starters in the final week of the season and have won nine of their last 10 games.
Charlotte, on the other hand, finished the season 2-2 in their final four games.
In four meetings between the Magic and Bobcats this season, Orlando has won three of four. The one win for Charlotte came in Orlando. All four games were fairly close, with one going to overtime.
Let's break down this first round matchup, position-by-position. We begin at the point.
PG: Jameer Nelson Vs. Raymond Felton
Jameer Nelson: Stats (per game)-12.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 0.74 steals, 0.03 blocks
Raymond Felton: Stats (per game)-12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.54 steals, 0.28 blocks
Some will say that stats don't lie. If that is the case, Felton has the leg up on Nelson. With similar numbers offensively, Felton leads the way with more impressive defensive stats.
What the stats don't tell you is Jameer Nelson has been named an NBA All-Star, competed in last season's NBA Finals and has battled back from an injury that affected his output early in the season.
Slight Advantage: Jameer Nelson
SG: Vince Carter Vs. Stephen Jackson
Vince Carter: Stats (per game)-16.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.71 steals, 0.24 blocks
Stephen Jackson: Stats (per game)-21.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.64 steals, 0.51 blocks
These two players are more similar than they would probably like to admit. Both are extremely talented, but held back by their strong personalities. Carter and Jackson have bounced around the league, often for far less than their actual value.
Jackson's numbers are more impressive than Carter's, however Jackson is relied on for more offensive production than VC. If Vince can play like the player he once was, he could push the Magic over the top.
Jackson will have to play at his peak while looking for help from his supporting cast. This will probably be the biggest series of S-Jax's career in terms of his importance to the team.
Advantage: Stephen Jackson
SF: Matt Barnes Vs. Gerald Wallace
Matt Barnes: Stats (per game)-8.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.74 steals, 0.37 blocks
Gerald Wallace: Stats (per game)-18.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.54 steals, 1.09 blocks
Wallace has had a breakout season for the Bobcats, averaging a double-double on a nightly basis. Gerald is the only player that has been with Charlotte since the inaugural season in 2004-05.
Matt Barnes was brought into Orlando as a change-of-pace guy that could bolster the defense. Midway through the season Barnes earned a starting spot and has flourished as an integral piece on this Orlando squad.
Advantage: Gerald Wallace
PF: Rashard Lewis Vs. Boris Diaw
Rashard Lewis: Stats (per game)-14.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.08 steals, 0.39 blocks
Boris Diaw: Stats (per game)-11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.73 steals, 0.70 blocks
Lewis had a rough go this season, seeing his numbers decrease significantly. Much of the decline is due to the addition of Vince Carter into the lineup.
Diaw has a well-rounded game that often goes unnoticed around the league. Though his numbers aren't eye-popping, they certainly get the job done.
If 'Shard can return to the form he took on in last season's playoffs, we should see a noticeable improvement in his stats. Lewis plays with a comfortable poise in pressure situations.
Bigger Than You Would Think Advantage: Rashard Lewis
C: Dwight Howard Vs. Theo Ratliff
Dwight Howard: Stats (per game)-18.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.91 steals, 2.78 blocks
Theo Ratliff: Stats (per game)-5.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.32 steals, 1.54 blocks
If not for the absolute dominance of LeBron James, Howard would be in MVP discussions. No player in the league compares to Dwight's defensive prowess, leading the league in rebounds and blocks.
Ratliff could easily be replaced here by Tyson Chandler or Nazr Mohammed, considering that the three centers all take part in a timeshare in Charlotte. None is even close to comparing to Howard.
Ridiculous Advantage: Dwight Howard
Depth: Orlando Bench Vs. Charlotte Bench
Orlando: JJ Redick, Mickael Pietrus. and Ryan Anderson are all capable of putting up big points off the bench and filling in on the starting rotation if needed. Marcin Gortat is the best back-up center in the league and would be a starter on many teams in the NBA.
Jason Williams showed flashes of brilliance in relief of the injured Jameer Nelson early in the season and provides a change of pace. Brandon Bass has not been able to show off his ability due to being buried deep on the stacked Orlando bench.
Charlotte: The Bobcats bolstered their bench with the addition of Tyrus Thomas from Chicago, bringing with him a great deal of athleticism. DJ Augustin is a suitable replacement for Raymond Felton when called upon.
Larry Hughes signed with the team and has looked good in his 14 games with Charlotte. As mentioned earlier, the three centers on the team, Mohammed, Chandler, and Ratliff are interchangeable pieces.
Considerable Advantage: Orlando Magic
Coach: Stan Van Gundy Vs. Larry Brown
Stan Van Gundy: Often picked on for being too negative and overreacting to minor setbacks, Van Gundy never quite gets his due. After leading the Magic to the NBA Finals and the Miami heat close, critics focus on the fact that he has not won a ring despite coaching greatly talented squads.
Larry Brown: Without a doubt, Larry Brown is one of the most respected coaches in basketball. Brown won an NCAA championship with Kansas in 1988 and an NBA championship with Detroit in 2004. Enough said.
Advantage: Larry Brown