On the bright side, the Orlando Magic made quick work of the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of these playoffs, dispatching them in four games to become the first team to advance as well as the only team to do so via a sweep.
On the down side, the Orlando Magic made quick work of the Charlotte Bobcats.
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel begins the "rest versus rust" debate here, and some commenters in these pages have wondered if the Magic would have been better off if the Bobcats gave them a rougher go of it in the first round. Could the Magic have used an additonal 48 or 96 minutes as they gear up for their championship run? Will the long layoff between series work against them?
These are valid concerns, but ultimately, the Magic should be just fine. Consider the scoring stats the top 10 guys in their rotation compiled in the regular season with at least 3 days of rest:
Howard, their go-to guy, has been monstrously efficient. Lewis, Carter, Barnes, Pietrus, and Williams have been on fire from the outside. Lewis doesn't score much, but does it efficiently. Carter hasn't scored much relative to most other high-profile wing performers, but he's still putting up better than a point every two minutes on reasonable percentages, which is in line with his season averages. Nelson, on whom the Magic leaned heavily in the first round, and Redick are the only two players in the Magic's top ten who have struggled after long rests.
UPDATE (this paragraph only): Eddy took a look at the team's efficiency differential after long layoffs at his site.
Beyond the stats, though, is the simple fact that the Magic played their best stretch of ball, and the best ball of any team in the league, immediately following the All-Star break. It's not a coincidence. Carter had time to rest nagging ankle and shoulder injuries, Nelson continued to work himself back into shape after the knee operation that cost him 16 games earlier in the year, and everyone had a chance just to relax a bit. Except for Howard and the coaching staff, who had All-Star Weekend obligations. But obviously, those commitments didn't harm their performance in the second half.
As for the idea that the Bobcats didn't "test" the Magic enough... I'm not sold on it. Charlotte made each game fairly competitive, yet Orlando swept despite Howard's foul trouble (22 through four games, fouling out twice) and Carter's inability to find the range from outside 15 feet (8-of-23, including 1-of-17 on three-pointers). If brooming an opponent under those circumstances isn't passing a test, I'm not sure what is.
So yeah, that's what I think. Now, it's your turn. Please vote in the poll below and make yourself heard on this topic in the comments section.