Orlando Magic 97, Charlotte Bobcats 91

Despite not playing well as a team, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats by the score of 97-91 to stretch its record to 8-3 for the regular season. Rashard Lewis made his season debut for the Magic and did okay, scoring 10 points (4-15 FG, 2-2 FT) in roughly 34 minutes of action. Not an efficient offensive performance for Lewis, but he did make some plays in the second half. Lewis, as well as six other Orlando players, finished the game in double-figures. Jameer Nelson led the way, with 15 points (5-10 FG, 2-6 3 PT, 4-6 FT), 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. But the player of the game was, arguably, Flip Murray, who seemingly couldn't miss a shot and finished the contest tying a career-high in points with 31 (13-21 FG, 2-6 3PT, 3-6 FT). What is it with guards and career-highs?

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Bobcats 87 104.6 53.5% 21.1 12.5 19.5
Magic 111.5 50.0% 26.0 30.2 14.9

In the opening period, and with Lewis back in the lineup, the Magic were finally able to begin a game with its starters for the first time in the regular season. Nelson and Dwight Howard got things going, offensively, by executing a 1/5 pick & roll. Nelson missed the jump shot but Howard was able to grab the offensive rebound and draw the foul. Albeit, Howard missed both free throws. A few possessions later, Nelson was able to probe into the lane and kick the ball out to Vince Carter, who proceeded to nail a three. Lewis kept things going, feeding Howard with an excellent entry pass, who was able to draw a foul on Tyson Chandler as a result. Howard wasn't done, after a few minutes passed by, he was able to post up in a 4-out/1-in offensive set and draw a second foul on Chandler, which forced him to take a seat on the bench and bring in Nazr Mohammed. Unfortunately for Howard, he got into foul trouble himself and was forced to ride the pine the remainder of the period after picking up a second foul.

 

Because Marcin Gortat was out due to an illness and unable to play, Brandon Bass became the de-facto back-up center for the night and performed admirably at the position. With the first quarter winding down, Carter and Bass executed a 2/5 pick & roll which led to an extremely easy dunk for Bass. That wasn't all, as Bass was able to tip-in a shot off his own miss and connect on another dunk on the fast break after a Jason Williams steal. A solid quarter for Bass, as he was able to be active on both ends of the floor. Particularly on offense. On defense, the Bobcats weren't afraid to test him, as Stephen Jackson attacked the basket against Bass immediately after Howard checked out of the contest. Even though Jackson missed the shot, that's what teams will do - test the Magic's interior defense even more when Howard isn't playing.

 

Stan Van Gundy wanted to play Lewis at small forward and tried to do so midway in the period while Ryan Anderson was at power forward and Bass was at center, but that plan was foiled quickly after Lewis picked up a second foul literally a few seconds after checking back into the contest. It's intriguing to note, though, how the Magic have the ability to play three power forwards at once because of the versatility each individual brings to the table.

 

Carter ended the first quarter strong for Orlando, making a jumpshot in an isolation set and and a three off a 2/4 pick & roll with Anderson.

 

The Magic's bench was able to continue the momentum at the start of the second quarter during a four minute span. Anderson picked up a steal and Jason Williams proceeded to hit an open three. On the next possession, Anderson was able to find J.J. Redick in the corner for another three. Matt Barnes was able to get in on the fun with some free throws and a jumper. And Anderson was able to make a three of his own. After the two teams traded baskets (punctuated by a Howard dunk), Orlando was up by seven and seemed to be in control of the game.

 

The problem was, the Magic weren't stopping the Bobcats on the other end of the court. It all started with Murray, who began the period with a jumpshot and after that, couldn't seem to miss even with a hand in his face. The problem was exacerbated as Orlando kept giving up layup after layup to Boris Diaw due to defensive breakdowns and just like that, Charlotte dropped 31 in the second quarter. The majority of the points came from two players named Boris and Flip.

 

Yikes.

 

But the Magic, as expected, were able to tighten up its defense considerably in the third quarter. Murray was immune to this, of course. The adjustment wasn't earth-shattering; Orlando did a better job of contesting shots and forcing Charlotte to shoot from the perimeter. When one thinks about it, that's all the Magic needed to do because the only credible three-point threats on the Bobcats are Jackson and Murray. That's it.

 

As for the offense, as the period unfolded, the Bobcats were treated to a number of 4-out/1-in offensive sets.

 

THIRD QUARTER

- [9:26] Howard posts up, kicks it out to Nelson for a three

- [8:45] Howard posts up, kicks it out to Lewis, who swings it to Nelson for an open three

- [7:20] Howard posts up, attempts a hook shot, and draws the foul on Chandler

- [2:48] Howard posts up, dumps it to Anderson in the post, Ryan draws the foul on Gerald Wallace, makes the shot, and converts the and-one

 

Near the tail end of the quarter, Lewis was finally able to play some small forward (mainly alongside Anderson at power forward) and looked good doing it. Lewis was able to post up Wallace on his first touch and proceed to convert a fadeaway jumper. Next trip down the floor, Lewis drove to the basket from the top of the key and made the layup. Before the period ended, Lewis once again got the ball on the block against Chandler and was able to kick it out to Mickael Pietrus, who missed the three but was able to get to the charity stripe once he attacked the basket on after a Dwight offensive rebound. Returning the favor, Pietrus was able to find Lewis for a layup after driving into the lane.

 

The combination of Lewis and Anderson continue to do damage in the beginning stages of the fourth quarter, as the Magic were able to build up its biggest lead of the night at 12. Unfortunately for Orlando, the offense got stagnant and that allowed Charlotte the opportunity to cut into the lead, getting to as close as two with 3:25 left in the period. But the Magic were able to make some key plays offensively, including a clutch three from Vince Carter that extended the margin to six, and that ended up being the difference in the game.

 

As I stated before, it wasn't pretty but it was a win for Orlando. 

 

Question is, and it's something the ol' coach is wondering, when will the Magic start playing well? The defense has been great, at times, but not for 48 minutes. As for the offense, it seems like the team is in a bit of a dry spell at the moment. Will it happen against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a payback game? Or the Boston Celtics in a marquee matchup? Who knows. That'll be something for Orlando Magic fans to keep an eye on as the schedule begins to get considerably tougher as the month of November winds down.

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