- Henry Abbott, TrueHoop, NBA
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Close your eyes.
I took four pages of notes during last night's Celtics loss to the Magic. Mostly it's really boring stuff. But there's one thing in all caps, and underlined: VINCE CARTER SUCKS.
I'm not talking about the man. I have met him, and found him to be amazingly nice. I have talked to his mom, his high school coach and all kinds of other people. Nothing wrong with that guy.
I'm talking about his play last night. His defense was OK, but on offense he almost killed the Magic single-handedly. It's hard to remember any player have a worse game.
Where to begin? How about at the beginning? Some moments of Vince Carter's night:
Right out the gate, the Magic get an offensive rebound, and work the ball back to Carter, who seems determined to prove that he can score at will on Ray Allen. He catches the ball, sizes up Allen and ... travels.
Moments later, the Celtics are called for defensive three seconds. Carter shoots the technical. And misses. The Magic have not scored.
The next time he touches the ball, Carter drives past Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce comes to help. Matt Barnes is in Carter's field of vision, as open as NBA players ever get, standing all alone in the corner. He is literally waving his arms in the air, calling for the ball. Lacking any explosion or creativity, Carter instead takes one of the strangest options, for a double-teamed player. He puts up a low-energy set shot, which misses badly. The Magic still have not scored. Dwight Howard still has not touched the ball (and the Magic wouldn't score a field goal until Howard finally did have a play run for him).
The score is 10-3 when Carter drives slowly into the lane, draws a double, and throws up a hook shot. Carter apparently didn't notice Howard under the hoop, who was so open he was able to get the offensive rebound without being touched. Paul Pierce fouled Howard to prevent a wide-open dunk. This establishes Carter's main approach to getting a wide-open Howard the ball: Off the rim.
In the second quarter, Carter gets the dribbles lackadaisically, and Pierce easily pokes the ball away cleanly, only to have it go out of bounds. This speaks to Carter's energy level and provides a certain measure of foreshadowing.
Shortly after that, Carter runs a screen and roll with Marcin Gortat. The Celtics, apparently working to the theory that Carter is going to keep shooting no matter what, trap Carter, leaving Gortat with a wide open lane to the rim. He's one shovel pass from a dunk ... but Carter won't give up the rock. At a moment like this, Magic fans might be noticing that Hedo Turkoglu had one of his best games as a Raptor last night.
Halfway through the second quarter, Carter actually hits a shot! A runner from the left side. He would finish 2-13 from the field on the night.
Carter follows up that play by once again getting doubled on the pick and roll, and once again ignoring Gortat open by the rim.
In the third quarter, Vince Carter commits a fatal sin of basketball. He drives into Ray Allen and Kendrick Perkins. Meanwhile, it's the moment the kids in the front row, the basketball gods, David Stern, Stan Van Gundy, Otis Smith, Aaron Goodwin, the people at Vitamin Water and adidas ... this is the moment everybody has been waiting for. DWIGHT HOWARD IS ROLLING DOWN THE LANE WIDE OPEN! (Somebody's about to make Sports Center!) But ... Carter keeps it, and puts up a lame reverse that Pierce quickly gathers up. The Celtics are so unworried about Carter passing that by the time this shot actually goes up, all of the Celtics have collapsed on him. Literally ever Magic teammate of Carter's is wide open.
Seconds later, Carter goes into severe karmic debt as Barnes drives into the paint and kicks it out to an open Carter for a 3. If that guy in the third row hadn't sneezed at just the right time, this would have been an airball. The home crowd starts booing.
On the next possession, in response to the boos, Carter forces another shot -- this one with one leg kicked almost entirely out in front of him. Somehow it goes in, for his second (and last) make of the night.
As the third quarter draws near a close, Carter and Barnes collide under the basket. Barnes is fine. Carter looks like he has been shot, and crumples to the floor, allowing his teammates to try to defend against the Celtics with just four players. Eddie House hits a 3. Vince Carter goes to the bench for a long time, but not long enough for Magic fans.
Carter returns to the game with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter of a close game. This is a bold call on Stan Van Gundy's part. There is no player in the building who has played with less energy. But the play is for Carter. He once again is doubled on the pick-and-roll. Believe it or not, Howard is alone in the lane again, with room to dunk. Carter keeps the ball, and has it knocked out of bounds.
The Magic change the play on the inbound, and call for Howard to catch it in the post -- it's not nearly as good as catching it wide open on the run in the lane, but at least it's a way to get their best player the ball. Or ... is it? Before Carter can make the entry pass, he has the ball poked away by Rasheed Wallace. It rolls toward midcourt. Rondo beats Carter there by about half an hour. Carter jumps right on top of him. A blatant foul, only Carter got there so late, that he is saved by the fact that Rondo has already called timeout.
On Orlando's final play, the Magic apparently want to get the ball to Carter again. Pierce is aggressive in denying him, though, and Carter is helpless to free himself. The play is broken, which works out beautifully for the Magic. The rest of the team just plays basketball, and Rashard Lewis gets the game-winning layup. Carter's night, mercifully, is over.