As the Orlando Magic await their next opponent in the NBA playoffs, OPP glances back at their first-round series with the Charlotte Bobcats to review some key storylines.
Much of the attention focused on Dwight Howard for his performance in the Orlando Magic's first-round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats is due to his constant foul trouble, and that's probably justified. He picked up 22 personals in the 4 games, just 2 less than the maximum, and as a result never exceeded 29 minutes in a single contest. Each of his companions in the starting lineup played more minutes than he did. In short, it was a forgettable series for him--in the midst of a divorce from his agent and word that he might skip the World Championships this summer in order to star in a reality television series, no less. Additionally, he shot only 48.1% from the field and 37.1% from the foul line, well off his marks of 61.2% and 59.2%, respectively,in the regular season.
But let's not lose sight of the good he did when he was on the floor. Like blocking 16.9% of Charlotte's shots, more than one-in-six. Like being a big reason why the Bobcats scored only 184 points in 189 possessions when he was on the floor. Like grabbing 22.6% of available rebounds, a shade better than his 22% figure in the regular season. Like finishing second on the team with 9 assists, which translates to 2.3 a game. He worked well out of double-teams, making Charlotte pay for the extra attention it afforded him. And those assists went to the most efficient areas on the court: 6 went for three-pointers, and another 3 went to shooters at the rim. For all his faults in this series, he still made things happen, and his Player Efficiency Rating of 18.3--in spite of the turnovers and fouls--attests to that. Jameer Nelson and Mickael Pietrus are the only Magic players whose PERs bested Howard's in that series.
So concern about Howard's foul trouble, and inability to adjust to the calls levied against him, is valid, though I'm not sure if the same can be said for the idea that the Bobcats have "exposed" Howard in that way. Saddling the opposition's best player, particularly if he's a center, with fouls is hardly a new strategy. But let's not act like he turned into a stiff overnight, OK, because guys like Francisco Elson aren't doing what Howard is. Few people are.