By John Carroll, Scouts Inc.
The Orlando Magic have a commanding 3-0 lead over the Charlotte Bobcats in this series, but the Bobcats have the full respect of the Magic. The Magic players and coaches know that this series is several plays and points from having a different look. The Bobcats have pushed the Magic in each game and although they have not won a game yet, they have made it very hard on Orlando. The Bobcats defense forces opponents to execute, they give you nothing easy. They play with a purpose, playing offensively through their two most talented players Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they do not have shooters with range, they cannot stretch defenses and make teams pay for loading up on their scorers. Thus Orlando has been able to load up, protect the paint and make Charlotte work hard to score.
Dwight Howard fouled out of Game 3 with 3:32 and the Magic down one point. The Magic outscored the Bobcats down the stretch by getting stops, rebounds and getting to the free throw line. This is how you win playoff series and advance from round to round. The Magic have not been pretty but they have done what they need to do to win. They have defended, they have beaten the Bobcats from the perimeter with their 3 point shooting, and they have found ways to win without Dwight Howard on the floor due to foul problems.
Game 4 Adjustments
The Bobcats have done so many good things in this series, but they must learn how to close out games and grab a win. They had the Magic on the ropes earlier in the game when they were up 9 points and let the Magic back in the game. They had the Magic down one with 3:22 and could not get the stops or scores to win the game. If the opportunity arises in Game 4 where they get a lead they must learn how to close out the Magic.
The Bobcats have made a slight adjustment in their pick and roll coverage. They started the series switching all pick and rolls 1-4. That means any pick and roll with the point guard, 2 guard, small forward and power forward was a switch. They have changed that up and are now only switching same size pick and rolls. In addition they are doubling the post on Dwight Howard. They are mixing up when they are coming and when they are not. Unfortunately, their doubling of the post in Game 3 allowed Jameer Nelson to get off to a hot start when the Magic went inside to Howard and came back out to Nelson on the double.
Dwight Howard has been in foul trouble throughout this series and if the Magic are going to get to the NBA Finals this problem must be corrected. Yesterday Howard picked up two of his fouls on in post up situations, and then another on a pick and roll was where he was called for a charge.
Dwight is bigger and stronger than his opponents, and there is no question he gets picked on by the officials because of his size and strength. However for him to stay on the floor and the Magic to be the best team they can be Howard must become a more mature player on the court. He gets frustrated by opponents who grab, hold and get tangled up with him. His answer many times is retaliation. In the case of the Bobcats they are not worried about Theo Ratliff, Tyson Chandler or Nazr Mohammed picking up fouls and they love to trade their fouls with those on Howard. This has happened to all of the young big men in the NBA, Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming. Howard must learn not to get frustrated and have the patience to deal with teams trying to draw senseless fouls on him.
On a side note Macin Gortat has been a very important reason that the Magic are up 3-0. He has filled in for Howard in this series and has provided the Magic with size and defense.
Prediction: Bobcats win Game 4