Magic/Bobcats Game 3 Recap
Charlotte has a simple problem.
by Sean Sweeney
Everyone knows Charlotte’s problem. Larry Brown has taken eight teams to the Playoffs. But, he’s no miracle worker. No way is he going to fix Raymond Felton’s jump shot. And he can prod all he wants to, but Nazr Mohammad will never be a 15 a game scorer. When you have just one player- Stephen Jackson- who can create offense, it doesn’t matter how great you are on the other end.
The Bobcats need an intervention to win this series. Realistically, they will be ecstatic with a Game 3 win.
Some storylines to watch for:
- Dwight Howard is averaging just 10 and 8 through the first two games. He’s been in foul trouble throughout. Yet, the Magic has done whatever they’ve wanted to. A big night from Superman and it’s all over.
– Jameer Nelson has destroyed Felton in their matchup, including 32 points in Game 1. Over the past two years, Nelson’s play has been a barometer for Orlando. When he is on, they are extremely tough.
– This will be the first home game in franchise history for the ‘Cats. I can almost guarantee they will jump on the Magic in the first quarter. The question is can they keep it up? Like Charles said in the pregame, someone unexpected needs to have a big night.
Slow starts, a result of too many jump shots, killed Charlotte in Orlando. So their first three possessions all end up at the rim. Great sign. This looks like an entirely different team.
Yet, despite the energy in the building, the Magic is finding great looks. Within the first four minutes, they have already hit 3 threes: two by Nelson, one from Rashard Lewis. Kevin McHale notes, “Charlotte needs to play with the lead.” First smart thing he’s dubbed all series.
While it may not matter in this series, Howard really can’t afford to consistently get in foul trouble. Offensively, he’s way too mechanical and runs into trouble. Within the first eight minutes, he’s already on the bench with 2 fouls. The only reason Orlando has the lead is because they have already made five treys.
On the quarter’s final possession, Nelson completes a crazy four-point play, hitting a floater from a step beyond the line while being intentionally fouled. He has 19 points, a franchise Playoff record for one quarter. Orlando ends the see-saw frame up 29-27.
Howard picks up his third foul and a tech just over a minute into the second. It seems like the Magic is teetering on the edge in this game.
JJ Redick hits a nice pull-up and gets blasted by some booing. I forgot for a second where Charlotte is. That’s the only bucket the visitors have in this quarter in over four minutes.
On the other end, Larry Hughes hits a transition three to push the Bobcat lead to 41-33. He has 7 big second quarter points off the bench. The energy in the building seems to be wearing the Magic down. From Howard’s technical to Redick’s frustration to their 10 turnovers, Orlando better hold it together for the last few minutes of the half to have a chance.
Despite a dozen Orlando turnovers, 21 points off Charlotte’s bench and basically nothing from Howard, the Bobcats lead is just 46-41 at the half. Larry Brown talked pregame about how hard his team is playing in this series. Their problem is they don’t have the firepower to shed the Magic. They have to muddy up every game.
Cheryl Miller opens the second half with a report on Howard where Pat Ewing says it may be time for the big man to change his approach due to foul problems. ‘Ya think? 2 points and 2 rebounds in the first half.
Charlotte opens with 3 straight possessions ending in Orlando seals. I’ve talked about the carelessness the Magic has had with the ball today, but the Bobcats have 11 turnovers themselves. Nelson gives the visitors a lead, capping an 11-0 run with a slick step back J. He is abusing Felton, going at him like the UNC product is a journeyman. Take his 26 points away and this has to be the most ugly Playoff game so far.
Later in the third, Howard picks up another stupid personal on a loose ball foul right in front of Joey Crawford, swinging his arm to throw Gerald Wallace off his side. You know Crawford is not going to miss the chance to make that call. Almost all of Howard’s problems this series have been self-inflicted.
After three quarters, it’s knotted at 66. Both teams are really doing all they can to loose it though.
With MJ the owner-version actually showing he cares — at one point frantically jumping out of his seat to protest a goaltending call- the Bobcats get a little separation. Hughes hits an unintentional bank shot to continue his great night off the pine, putting Charlotte up by 3.
Midway through the fourth, Orlando starts running their offense through Howard, getting a mix of awkward post moves and missed free throws. Yet, it does seem to ignite him on the other end. On one possession, Mohammad puts up a hook that Howard throws out to a teammate at the three-point line. Despite playing just 23 minutes, the big man still has 6 blocks, his average for the series.
With less than four minutes to go, Howard picks up 2 consecutive fouls, the second one on a three-point play by Felton that gives the Bobcats the lead. With Howard sent to the showers, Charlotte should be able to win these last few minutes.
But, down the stretch Charlotte shoots itself in the foot with offensive mistakes. Sense a theme in this series? Magic free throws lead to a boring finish in an otherwise ugly, yet exciting game.
Howard fouled out and was non-existent for the first three quarters. But, during the fourth quarter, he was huge. Five blocks in the final frame alone and multiple trips to the line, he was aggressive on both ends. But, if he could’ve made a few more free throws, the game wouldn’t have been so close in the end. These performances from the defensive player of the year will slide against Charlotte…not against Atlanta and Cleveland.
Howard’s no-show was offset by a big night from Nelson. No one thought the point guard matchup could get any more one-sided after Nelson lit up Felton throughout most of the first two games. But, tonight it did: 32 points versus just 13 from Felton. Without the Chester, PA product’s first quarter display, Charlotte would’ve been up double digits at the half.
Lastly, the energy Charlotte played with was awesome. But, down the stretch they took stupid shots and made dumb fouls. For the game, they had 14 turnovers and shot just 5-23 from deep. They did get a big game from Hughes off the bench. But, it didn’t matter because neither Jackson nor Wallace had very good shooting nights. Combined, they went 10-30.
Add all of that up in the Magic’s 90-86 win and Charlotte’s season is basically over.