This is quite a mountain that the Charlotte Bobcats have to climb here. Orlando is probably the second worst matchup for them behind Boston and it's easy to see why, the Magic do just about everything that Charlotte does equally or better. I won't steal the thunder from our breakdown by the numbers but Orlando is Charlotte's true equal on defense, the Magic don't turn the ball over as much and shoot much, much, much better from the field.
The Bobcats do a much better job forcing turnovers though, but that only counts if they're not giving it away on the other end. That I believe is the key to the series for Charlotte, keeping the unforced errors to a minimum and finding a way to get a decent look on every trip.
As for Dwight Howard it would be great if the Bobcats could find a way to get him in foul trouble or simply frustrate him into a few technicals as well, but here's the thing Orlando is still good enough to beat Charlotte with Howard not playing at his best. Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter can both get hot from the field and give Raymond Felton and Stephen Jackson a long day chasing them around picks and screens. Marcin Gortat can be just as solid on the interior both offensively and defensively and with the Magics depth it seems like every substitute is capable of knocking down a few three-pointers and playing solid defense from Jason Williams to Ryan Anderson.
A Bobcats upset starts with a win in game one and if you read that quotes piece I think it's rational to expect a few jitters from some of the first timers before they settle in. Charlotte's road record doesn't help as they've had a harder time making shots away from the cable box so game one will be a tough one to pull out.
I expect the Bobcats to give Orlando a really tough fight in game two, but I don't think they'll earn a victory until game three back in Charlotte. At that point it will be too tall an order for the Bobcats to spring the upset, which would likely mean winning four straight. However I expect the team will be well prepared and show off a few new wrinkles in the offense thanks to Larry Brown's mastery of the playbook.
I expect Orlando to win in five, with four of them being really tough, close 75-80 point games. The upside to this tough matchup is that it will show the front office exactly where the team's weaknesses are because Charlotte will struggle to score throughout and I expect them to have some trouble holding on to the ball in a game or two. The latter point should really help Raymond Felton, DJ Augustin and some of the other ball handlers understand the importance of not making silly turnovers.
It will be an exciting series to watch though it won't be pretty.
And for a bit of Brett's take on the series, check out these two interviews he has done for Orlando Magic blogs:
Magic and Bobcats preview on MagicBasketball dot net – “A winning season and some bonus basketball are a good start to winning the city over, as evidenced by the significant increase in attendance this season.”
Magic and Bobcats preview on Orlando Magic Daily – “Because of the Bobcats defensive intensity and post depth, I think they can manage to get Superman into foul trouble a game or two…but no more. Can I say 4-1.5 Orlando?”