This series is not an easy draw for the defending Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic. The Bobcats seem to be a team on a mission directed by crusty old Larry Brown who knows how to win the big one. Here are a closer look at the matchups in this series:
Point Guard: Raymond Felton is not a great player by any stretch of the imagination but he’s more than good enough to get the job done. He played in 80 games (all starts) for the Bobcats this season and he averaged 33.0 minutes, 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game. His game is almost identical to Jameer Nelson’s.
Jameer Nelson makes the Magic’s offense go despite being a shoot first player. He played in 65 games (64 starts) for the Magic this season and he averaged 28.6 minutes, 12.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Nelson will need to keep his teammates heavily involved in the offense because the Bobcats are a pretty good defensive basketball team.
Shooting Guard: Stephen Jackson has icewater in his veins. He has never seen a big shot he wasn’t willing to take. When the Bobcats traded for him early this year it signalled that they were going to play to win this season. Jackson played in 72 games (all starts) for the Bobcats this season and he averaged 39.3 minutes, 21.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game. With Vince Carter’s failures in playoffs past I look for Jackson to have a big series.
Vince Carter has never in his NBA career saved his best for last as he has struggled in the playoffs in the past. Carter played in 75 games (74 starts) for the Magic this season and he averaged 30.8 minutes, 16.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. The Magic don’t need Carter to go off in this series but if he could average at least 15 points per game and hold Jackson down a bit the Magic will be happy.
Small Forward: Gerald Wallace is the best player on the Bobcats as he plays all out on both sides of the basketball court. He should abuse Matt Barnes in this series. Wallace played in 76 games (all starts) for the Bobcats this season and he averaged 41.0 minutes, 18.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocked shots per game. He is the most likely player on the Bobcats to posterize Dwight Howard as he backs down from no one.
Sure, Matt Barnes is the Kobe “Stopper”. He will have his hands full with Wallace. Barnes played in 81 games (58 starts) for the Bobcats this season and he averaged 25.9 minutes, 8.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. The Magic just want him to play hard and make Wallace work for everything he gets.
EDGE: HUGE FOR BOBCATS
Power Forward: Boris Diaw won’t be overmatched physically like he is on most nights as Rashard Lewis is a soft power forward also. Diaw played in 82 games (all starts) for the Bobcats this season and he averaged 35.4 minutes, 11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Diaw is a defense first player who will get in Rashard Lewis’ face.
Rashard Lewis just never seemed to get into gear this season after his 10-game suspension to start the year (PED related). Lewis played in 72 games (all starts) for the Magic this season and he averaged 32.9 minutes, 14.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Lewis is still a good shooter and the Magic hope he’s on in this series.
Center: The Bobcats will likely be fouling Dwight Howard a lot with Tyson Chandler, Theo Ratliff and Nazr Mohammed sharing time in the middle. That’s 18 fouls to play with. Tyson Chandler will be the first center in for the Bobcats. He played in 51 games (27 starts) for the Bobcats this season and he averaged 22.8 minutes, 6.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 1.1 blocked shots per game. Chandler is no match for Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard will be fouled a lot in this series and it’s a good strategy for the Bobcats to take. Howard played in 82 games (all starts) for the Magic this season and he averaged 34.7 minutes, 18.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.8 blocked shots per game. If Howard can keep himself from getting frustrated due to the fouling he should have a big series.
EDGE: HUGE FOR THE MAGIC
BENCH: Both of these teams use their benches a lot. Tyrus Thomas (10.1 points, 6.1 rebouds, 0.9 assists and 1.5 blocks) will be a force in this series as he will push Rashard Lewis around when he is on the court. Nazr Mohammed (7.9 points, 5.2 rebounds) and Theo Ratliff (5.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots) will both be needed down low to counter Dwight Howard in this series. Larry Hughes, D.J. Augustin and Stephen Graham will also all likely get some P.T. in this series for the Bobcats.
J.J. Redick (9.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists) and Mickeal Pietrus (8.7 points, 2.9 rebounds) will be the two reserves used most in this series against the Bobcats. Don’t forget how solid Marcin Gortat played for the Magic last season as they can go with a Twin Tower look at times. Ryan Anderson, Jason Williams, Brandon Bass and Anthony Johnson are all capable players who could get some P.T. in this series.
COACH: Larry Brown is one of the better coaches in NBA history. He led the Bobcats to a 44-38 record (53.7%) this season. He has a two year record with the Bobcats of 79-85 (48.2 %). Brown has now compiled a 1,089-885 record (55.2%) as a NBA head coach during the regular season and his teams are 100-89 (52.9%) in the post season. He led the Pistons to a NBA Championship during the 2003-04 season.
Stan Van Gundy is a great coach in his own right. He led the Magic to a 59-23 (72%) record during the regular season. He has now been in Orlando three years and he has a 170-76 record (69.1%) and he is 18-16 (52.9%) in the post season with the Magic.
PREDICTION: I see home court advantage being big in this series and I like the Magic in 6 games.