When the Orlando Magic head into Time Warner Cable Arena tomorrow afternoon to take on the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series, they'll have a 2-0 series lead and a 24-point differential. These are reasons for optimism.
But not all is well for Orlando, which has several key players struggling right now. Consider:
Dwight Howard is shooting just 50% from the field and averaging 10 points per game--that's 5th on the team, 1.5 points back of role-playing reserve Mickael Pietrus--unable to establish any sort of offensive rhythm due to foul trouble at the other end;
Vince Carter is shooting a chilly 31% from the floor even after his 5-of-10 performance in Game 2, and has missed all 8 of his three-point attempts;
the hard-cutting Matt Barnes isn't getting enough touches, and when he does, he's turning 'em over, with 29.1% of his possessions ending in that way;
backup center Marcin Gortat, pressed into heavy minutes with Howard in foul trouble, is posting a mere 2 points, 3.5 boards, and 0.5 blocks in 20 minutes per game;
and Jason Williams, who played so in relief of Jameer Nelson at point guard all season, has missed 5 of his 6 shots and tallied just 1 turnover in 26 minutes. Moreover, he's been unable to push the ball against the Bobcats' stellar transition D.
Thankfully for Orlando, the Bobcats have an offense that one can charitably describe as anemic. Were the Magic facing a more competent offensive team, they'd be in much worse shape.
So, which player most needs to improve his game as the series continues? Put another way, which player's improvement would be most likely to secure at least one win in Charlotte?