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Bobcats vs Magic: Game 2 Recap

Boxscore of Magic and Bobcats – Game 2
Score: 92-77 Orlando
Bobcats record: 0-2
Offensive Efficiency: 92.8
Defensive Efficiency: 109.5
Meritorious Player: Gerald Wallace with 15 points on 7 field goal attempts and 8 of 10 from the free throw line. Crash also had 6 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1 steal, and 1 assist against 1 turnover. Gerald maintained his aggressiveness from game one, drawing nine more fouls last night and matching his game one total in the category. Most surprising is that Gerald's total exceeds even Dwight Howard's, who has drawn 15 as the Bobcats have employed a bit of Hack-a-Howard so far.

Too little, too late? The Bobcats again won the fourth quarter of their playoff game against the Magic – and, again, it did not matter. The Bobcats fell behind by as many as 20 points as Orlando dominated the third quarter, winning the frame 34-25. Even more galling is when you consider that number in terms of the number of possessions the Magic had, which was just 21 – meaning that had an offensive efficiency of 161.9 in the third quarter. Yes, that is a crazy number and here it is to compare against the rest of game:
Quarter      Eff
1st          81.8
2nd          109.5
3rd          161.9
4th          85.0

What was special about the third quarter? Well, Dwight Howard dominated the post for the first few minutes, scoring 9 straight points for the Magic. And then Vince Carter (yes, the much maligned Vince) took over, attacking the rim for 3 layups and 3 more foul shots to finish with 8 points for the quarter. All that penetration led to a sagging Bobcats defense and the Magic capitalized by hitting 3 three-pointers in the final 3 minutes of the quarter to balloon their lead to 20, and for all purposes sealing the victory. Again – thanks to Vince Carter working the pick and roll to get to the rim.

While that defensive let down in the 3rd sealed the game for the Magic, the Bobcats offense was what gave them the initial cushion – and I do mean gave them. The Bobcats finished the game with 21 turnovers…on 84 possessions. Yes, a full quarter of their possessions ended in giveaways. Stephen Jackson led the charge with 7 miscues, which did a lot to undermine an otherwise very strong game, as Captain Jack finished with 27 points on 20 attempts. The next most giving Bobcats was Boris Diaw, and I cannot couch this criticism with much praise – Boris had another disappointing game with 5 points on 6 attempts, 7 rebounds (not bad), 4 assists, and those 5 turnovers. For both, it was a matter of forcing the issue, Jax driving into traffic and Boris in passing into it, with attempts to teammates that, from the tv screen, never appeared to have a chance of slipping through. The Bobcats would be well served if Boris would employ a couple of his herky-jerky post moves against Dwight Howard throughout the course of the game – his erratic, unorthodox style might induce Howard to pick up another foul, which can only help.

Final thought: All the defensive attention paid to Howard is paying off for the Bobcats – he finished with 15 points on 10 field goal attempts, 12 free throw attempts, and 6 turnovers. That is not a good return on investment. Thanks to that inefficient showing, the Bobcats were only outscored by 3 with Howard on the court. Unfortunately, what was true for much of the regular season applied again last night – the Magic were better against the Cats without Howard. The ball moved around better and the Magic shooters were a bit more apt to let it fly from downtown, making 10 from deep to the Bobcats 6. While that is an improvement in the long-range shooting gap from game 1, it still proved too much to overcome. With Tyson Chandler fouling out in just 13 minutes, plus Theo Ratliff and Nazr Mohammed combining for another 7 fouls in a combined 29 minutes of action, Charlotte's decent big man depth is taking a beating. Nazr managed 10 points on 5-6 from the floor in his burn and Tyson added 6 points – but with such limited court time, their contributions were severely limited. As the series moves back to Charlotte, do the Bobcats content themselves with their strong play of Howard so far and count on the away rims being less friendly to the Magic shooters, or could we see a defensive adjustment that allows Dwight a bit more freedom while the perimeter is more tightly secured? Saturday will tell (and remember, the Bobcats want it to be a white-out).

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