Before last night's matchup between the Orlando Magic and the Indiana Pacers, there were questions as to whether or not Vince Carter would suit up and play. The issue for Carter was that he was dealing with not only knee and hip pain following last Friday's game against the Phoenix Suns but a stomach ailment as well. However, Carter played against the Pacers and the Magic reaped the benefits.
Orlando didn't particularly get off to a good start against Indiana, especially on the offensive end. The starters for the Magic, sans Carter and Dwight Howard, didn't appear to play with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball and it's no coincidence that the Pacers jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter. One of the reasons why Indiana wasn't able to build a more sizable margin on the scoreboard was because of Carter's offensive efforts for Orlando. To put it simply, Carter kept the Magic within striking distance during the period.
How was Carter able to do so?
In the first quarter, Carter got some of his points on offense from the 2/5 pick & roll with Howard. On two separate instances, Carter was able to get easy buckets in the paint off the pick & roll. When Carter wasn't attacking the basket, he was able to get his shot going from the perimeter. On one possession, Carter was able to make a three in rhythm off a pass from Anthony Johnson. On the ensuing possession, Carter received an outlet pass from Johnson and proceeded to make another three on a 1-on-5 fast break. I couldn't help but chuckle when I heard Matt Guokas say "oh, no" when Carter put up the shot and once he made it, David Steele proceeded to remark "why not?"
As if to validate the decision, no less.
For the period, Carter accounted for 14 of Orlando's 17 points and did his job - efficiently - in keeping the team afloat. Had it not been for Carter's efforts offensively, Orlando could have been in a much deeper hole against Indiana as the game progressed. Luckily for the Magic, that wasn't the case.
Carter didn't see many minutes in the second quarter - no thanks in large part to the good play of Orlando's bench - but in the third quarter, he was able to make a positive impact for the team on offense. Again, Carter got things going in the 2/5 pick & roll with Howard, making a few jumpers and even a floater for good measure. When Carter wasn't scoring, he was doing a nice job of getting his teammates involved with nifty passing - whether it was a no-look lob (whether or not it was intentional is up to your own interpretation of the play) to Howard for a dunk or a smooth pass to Mickael Pietrus for a layup.
It was more of the same on the offensive side of the ball in the fourth quarter for Carter. Well, almost. Because J.J. Redick had played so well throughout the evening for the Magic, head coach Stan Van Gundy was forced to leave him out on the floor. As such, Carter saw minutes at small forward.
Two plays in particular stood out for Carter, both in the 3/5 pick & roll with Howard. On one play, Carter made an excellent pass to Redick, who was cutting into the lane. In an instant, Redick found Johnson in the corner, who proceeded to make an open three. A classic example of a hockey assist for Carter. The other play, Carter saw Redick in the corner and passed it to him. Redick made the three and iced the game for Orlando.
You had to be impressed with the fact that Carter played, despite his body being banged up and stricken with an ailment. Carter gutted it out and the Magic were fortunate that he did because there's no telling what could have happened yesterday had he not done so. Now, this isn't to say that Carter was perfect last night because he wasn't - his defense, at times, left a lot to be desired - but there's no denying that Carter was a playmaker on offense, getting his teammates involved and scoring with efficiency.