Magic/Bobcats Game 2 Recap
Orlando made it look too easy.
by Nada Taha Moslehy
Looks like the Magic didn’t need to practice on Monday.
All five of Orlando’s starters scored in double figures, the Magic shot 68 percent from the stripe and 45 from the field and held the Bobcats to just 30 first half points.
Maybe Larry Brown will eat his words for breakfast after the 92-77 loss to the Magic, giving Orlando the 2-0 lead going into Game 3 in Charlotte. Vince Carter, who had a pretty dismal Game 1, led the way with 19 points and 5 rebounds.
Despite a few big plays and blocks in the opening minutes of the game, it soon became clear the Bobcats, who talked like they were going to slug it out, were just being sluggish.
The ‘Cats were held without a field goal for seven minutes and 15 seconds in the first quarter and the Magic capitalized by taking an early lead, that this time, wasn’t going to be cut down.
With such a low-scoring, slow start, it seemed the first half would never end. Many of us in the media section were more intrigued with talk of VH1’s Basketball Wives show and even chose to watch Shaq in a wig singing his rendition of “Fire and Desire.” (Click here if you really want to watch it.)
But opening up the second half, the Magic decided they were going up two games and were going to do it convincingly. They gave the Bobcats no chance to take a breath and held them under 50 points for the half.
The game was a showcase of what amazing NBA defense is all about. The top two defensive teams played to their respective reputations – the Magic holding the Bobcats to 43 percent in field goals and the Bobcats keeping the Magic at only 92 points. It looked like instead of watching Magic tape, Gerald Wallace spent the past two days studying the “Art of LeBron James’ Blocks” video, knocking shots from Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter into the crowd.
The Bobcats, who wanted to send the two-time Defensive Player of the Year a message that they weren’t “intimidated” by Superman, were scrapping, blocking and fighting.
Although it didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the game, Howard was in foul trouble for both games of the post-season. While the Magic’s best player was watching the game from the bench, backup center Marcin Gortat stepped up in his 20 minutes of play, making the absence of Howard less evident.
It was evident, however, to many of the Magic players that Howard wasn’t getting the benefit of the doubt with calls on the court.
“Dwight gets no respect. No respect from the refs, from the League as far as not being mentioned for the MVP,” Matt Barnes said. “You know it’s crazy to see what they do to him every single play and he puts his arm up and they call a foul.”
Phantom calls and the outcry of respect – or lack there of – is nothing new to hear coming from the Magic. But with all that aside, the calls in the first two games of the post-season are startling for both ends, so much so that both coaches got T’d up and Stephen Jackson used his headband-in-the-face as evidence when taking his case to the refs.
I can say that because I won’t be fined $25,000, but Howard didn’t want to elaborate when asked, only saying he was “frustrated” and concerned about how the calls were going to affect future series (ie. ones with superstars like LeBron James).
“You guys see what goes on throughout the game,” he said during the postgame press conference. “…I just want to try not to get frustrated. It’s very tough when you’re out there playing, trying to block shots, be physical and sometimes a whistle doesn’t go your way.”
Of course whining seems like the proper term to describe what the Magic players and head coach are doing, but Stan Van Gundy may have a point.
“There’s certainly nothing blatant, there’s nothing where it’s obvious to everyone that that was a foul,” Van Gundy said. “I just don’t see the other great players in this league on the bench all the time for foul trouble.”
In fact, of the top players in the League, Dwight averages about 1.5 more personal fouls this season (LeBron James: 1.6, Kobe Bryant: 2.6, Dwyane Wade: 2.4 – obviously these are players in different positions, but superstars nonetheless). Even Tim Duncan averages less personal fouls than No. 12.
But the Magic won’t dwell on that for too long. They know they have to face a town filled with fans ready to see their team in the Playoffs at home for the first time. And while the Bobcats are ready to have a little home court advantage playing in Charlotte Saturday, they also know they have a lot of work to do to not get swept.
If the Bobcats can hold Dwight to 20 points in two games and still lose, there’s little they can do to get out of this series alive, especially with no jump shooters, making it hard to avoid Superman in the paint. It’s just a matter of if it will happen with Charlotte stealing one game or not.