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#2 Orlando Magic (59-23) vs #7 Charlotte Bobcats (44-38)
Season Series: Magic 3-1, Orlando Magic 93 @ Charlotte Bobcats 81, Orlando Magic 97 vs Charlotte Bobcats 91, Orlando Magic 106 @ Charlotte Bobcats 95 OT, Charlotte Bobcats 96 @ Orlando Magic 89.
Relevant Statistics: Orlando: 92 possessions per game (18th), 111.1 points scored per 100 possessions (5th), 103.0 points allowed per 100 possessions (2nd). Charlotte: 90.4 possessions per game (26th), 104.5 points scored per 100 possessions (24th), 102.7 points allowed per 10 possessions (1st).
Hit the jump to see the individual match-ups for the Magic and the Bobcats…
Point Guard: Jameer Nelson vs Raymond Felton
This will be one of the most intriguing match-ups of the first round. Both guys are around six feet tall and both are thick. Nelson is going to make a big difference on this Magic team. They missed him last season in the Finals but they were able to get to that point without him. With Jameer back, they’ll have a lot more flexibility with their offense, as Nelson can attack the rim, get the ball inside to Dwight and is a good three-point shooter, making him a perfect fit for Orlando’s offense. Felton is no slouch himself, though. He’s shooting the ball from deep at a better rate this season than Nelson is, ranking 36th in the NBA at 39%, is a great defender at the point position and is capable of running an offense.
Shooting Guard: Vince Carter vs Stephen Jackson
Another tight battle. One of the big questions entering the post-season is whether or not Vince is gonna show up and play like Vincesanity or if he will under perform dramatically. If he does, Orlando’s almost unstoppable offensively. If he can attack the rim and get to the line while the rest of the offense is in sync from behind the arc, that’s a hard team to compete with and that’s without mentioning what Dwight Howard does by just being in the game. However, if he settles for too many long jumpers, doesn’t have an aggressive mindset and doesn’t match the intensity that Charlotte brings, this could be a series. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but if the Magic could go down 3-1 to the 76ers last season, the Bobcats can at least make it tough on Orlando by taking a game or two. Jackson is not the most efficient offensive scorer in the league, but he can still light you up on any given night if his shot is falling. And if it isn’t, he gets to the line six times a game and seems to be more aggressive in big games.
Small Forward: Matt Barnes vs Gerald Wallace
I think its kind of funny to see these two going against each other. Each one is a defensive minded forward that normally sticks to the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer. But with the lack of a dominant offensive two guard or small forward on either team, these two will likely spend time roaming off one another. Wallace is the more complete player, though, and even though Jackson is the primary scorer on the Bobcats, Gerald is a capable offensive player and is an explosive athlete in transition. Wallace has the edge in overall defense in my opinion and he is a much better rebounder as well.
Power Forward: Rashard Lewis vs Boris Diaw
This is where the Magic will start killing Charlotte. Lewis is a perimeter first player that makes his ridiculous amounts of money with his great three-point shot that he can get off over anybody at six-foot-11. Diaw will have a hard time keeping track of him out there and doesn’t offer much offensively when it comes to making Lewis work on the other end. Despite being four inches shorter, Wallace may see some time on Lewis during this series.
Center: Dwight Howard vs Theo Ratliff
Everybody should know that this isn’t going to be a contest. Dwight is going to manhandle the Bobcats down low offensively, defensively and on the glass. It’s not going to be fun. If there was one team the Bobcats didn’t want to face in the East it was Orlando simply because they have nobody to even slow Superman down. In four games against Charlotte during the regular season, Dwight averaged 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks on 62% shooting. We should expecting nothing less, if not more, from Dwight in this series.
Bench: Mickael Pietrus, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, and Marcin Gortat vs D.J. Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, Larry Hughes, and Tyson Chandler
Augustin is one of the best three-point shooters in the league but the Orlando reserves have a lot more fire power. The energy and shooting ability that Pietrus, Anderson and Redick all bring is fantastic for the way Orlando plays and Gortat protects the rim very well when Howard gets rest.
Charlotte had a great season. They really did. This team would have had a good shot at taking out the Cavs had they gotten the eighth seed, but instead they are faced with a problem they haven’t had an answer for all season long. It’s like mastering geometry but getting an F in Algebra all year long and then getting a chance to test out of the class altogether, only to learn that in order to test out you have to recite 1,000 digits of Pi. The Bobcats, while maintaining the numbers and prowess to call themselves one of the best defensive teams in the league, which is something Larry Brown deserves a lot of credit for, have struggled with interior post defense all season long and now they are forced to go up against the best center in the entire league.
Dwight’s going to have a field day. Maybe in one game, Wallace and Jackson will attack the rim, get Howard into foul trouble, and at least get a chance to compete on the perimeter. But still, Howard is going to impose his will on Charlotte and that will make all the difference in the end, even if Carter doesn’t show up and Lewis and Nelson clank three’s. He’s too good. A line of 25/20/5 is something we could see from Dwight in this series.
Pick: I’ll take Orlando in five games. Charlotte will get lucky with a few calls against Dwight in at least one game and Jackson will carry them to a win offensively. I can’t wait to watch Howard in this series.