Magic/Bobcats Game 4 Recap
Magic still sweep, despite off night.
by Sean Sweeney
Foul On You. That has as much appeal to it as Plastic Man Augmon or the Webster University Gorloks. Yet, it works.
After fouling out in Orlando’s Game 3 win, continuing a trend that has seen him on the court for just 56 percent of this series so far, Dwight Howard’s teammates figured the time was right to blanket Superman with a new nickname. Perhaps a little ribbing will keep him whistle-free.
Actually, it might be a good thing for Charlotte if Howard stays on the floor. The alternative hasn’t worked out too well for them. Zero for three. One more inconsistent shooting game away from vacation. One more turnover-plagued contest away from Larry Brown possibly taking a permanent trip back to Philly.
What can Charlotte do to avoid a sweep? Suit up Money. At least, that’s what Chris Webber said in the TNT pregame.
The Charlotte crowd is noticeably quiet after the ruckus that was the third game. You get the vibe they are that little kid on Christmas who opened their last present, knowing it’s not what they wanted. And it doesn’t help the shooting is horrible to start from both sides. When was the last time an NBA Playoff game had two awful air balls in the first minute and a half?
Orlando settles down quickly. Matt Barnes and Jameer Nelson bang back-to-back threes to push the Magic to a quick 15-8 lead. Orlando is playing so relaxed right now; contrast that with the home team, missing lay-ups and throwing the ball away.
At the 2:51 mark, Howard picks up two straight fouls. It’s clockwork. That gets a rise out of the crowd. And for the first time all series, Charlotte really capitalizes on Howard’s absence.
Gerald Wallace, who didn’t get up a single shot in the fourth quarter of Game 3, hits a corner three and then takes a charge on Nelson. Then, Raymond Felton gets his first real shine of the series with a deep three at the quarter buzzer. 15-2 Bobcats run. 25-23 Charlotte lead.
Charlotte is working really hard defensively. But, the points are hard to come by. Larry Hughes gets a break when Vince Carter sends him to the line on a three, but makes just one. Then, on the other end, Mickael Pietrus drops a trey from the corner.
Could this series get any more predictable? Just a few possessions after he returns from the bench, Howard gets another foul. It’s almost comical at this point. A quick minute after I type that, JJ Redick shoots an air ball. This is the Mecca of fundamentals.
Shortly after, Brown says in the huddle to DJ Augustin: “DJ… just get us into stuff.” I don’t think the Bobcat coaches even know what they are doing.
Yet, it isn’t like the Magic is killing it either. Vince Carter still hasn’t hit from deep all series: he’s now 0-15. In the second quarter, their best offense has come from Marcin Gortat pick and rolls.
Charlotte has a five-point lead because their bench has really stepped up. Tyrus Thomas has made a few jump shots. Two thirds of their center group- Tyson Chandler and Nazr Mohammed- are playing well. Their problems in finding the hoop have overshadowed just how hard they are competing defensively. In fact, Nelson is really the only one all series who has it going.
And with Stephen Jackson having an off night shooting the ball — he’s just 1-7 in the first half — the Bobcats are getting a little help here and there from everyone else. In fact, seven guys have at least 4 points by the break. Their scrambling has worked thus far. Charlotte leads, 45-43 at the half.
Orlando, which took 18 first half threes, continues to put them up. Matt Barnes, who is doing a spectacular job on Jackson so far, hits a corner three to push the Magic back up 58-52. Somehow, Tyrus Thomas is Charlotte’s best shooter right now; he just made another 18-footer.
The Bobcats are hanging around in part because Nelson has come back to earth. He’s made just three shots tonight, one game after going 7-7 in one quarter. It’s still just a 67-63 Orlando lead, but it’s starting to look like someone from Charlotte is going to have to produce a big second half to pull this one out. A couple Thomas buckets get the Bobcats to within 3 at the start of the final quarter.
Vince Carter has finally found his shot. He hits back to back pick and roll jumpers from the same spot to start the fourth. He has 18 points. Next time down, Wallace and Chandler combine to drop VC. On second look, I quickly realize it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked live. C’mon Vince.
After Chandler gets Charlotte within one, Pietrus comes back with two straight threes putting Orlando back up 83-76 with under six minutes left. After the second shot went down, the building dies. MJ looks like he wants to go to bed and Jackson gets a tech for running his mouth. That might have been the finisher.
In desperation, Brown resorts to putting Howard on the line with 2:13 left, down 91-82. Howard is just 2-7 for the game on free throws, but the tactic doesn’t really work. Jackson and Wallace end up coming out with 53 seconds left as Brown raises the white flag in Orlando’s 99-90 sweep-clinching win.
Thomas’ 21 and 9 rebounds off the Charlotte bench are countered by Carter’s 21 points, his best game of the series. Five Magic players score at least a baker’s dozen.
Before the series, if someone said Vince Carter was going to shoot 1-17 from deep and Dwight Howard would score 39 points the whole series, I think most would’ve agreed this series was going a minimum of six games. Charlotte was in every game. The Bobcats just couldn’t muster enough buckets to pull them out down the stretch.
Still, Charlotte has to be pleased with their season. It’s starting to sound like Brown will be gone, but they still have some pieces. In the east, all you need is a couple of breaks.
Orlando has now won 10 games in a row, dispatching Charlotte rather easily.
But, starting in the next series, they better pray Foul On You doesn’t stick around.