NBA Playoffs: Bobcats still unable to mount any offense against the Magic

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It’s not that the Bobcats scored 30 points in the first half against the Magic. It’s that it’s surprising they managed to score 30 the way they were playing. 
Larry Brown promised that his team would be more aggressive attacking the basket against Dwight Howard and co. on Wednesday night. To put it mildly, that did not happen. In the first eight and a half minutes of the game, the Bobcats’ only field goal was a contested jumper by Stephen Jackson and their only free throw came from a defensive three-second violation. That’s not ideal. 
In game one, the Bobcats settled for getting their forwards open looks from mid-range, but they weren’t even able to do that effectively on Wednesday. They were a mess. Charlotte doesn’t have a ton of talent on the offensive end; if they don’t at least play with discipline when they have the ball, they have no chance. 
Charlotte was finally able to turn defense into offense late in the first, and had some success getting to the rim later in the game when Gortat was in for Howard. It still wasn’t enough to make the game competitive, and the Bobcats are going to have to find some way to score in the half-court against Howard if they want to make it a series. 29 field goals and 19 turnovers is not the recipe for wins in the playoffs. 
The Bobcats kept the game close by playing good defense on Dwight Howard. The Magic went to him early and often in the post, as Stan Van Gundy promised they would. It ended up playing into the Bobcats’ hands, as they did a great job frustrating Howard with quick doubles, rotating when he passed out, and putting him on the line instead of giving him easy dunks and layups. It took Howard 10 shots and 12 free throws to get his 15 points, and he turned the ball over six times. He looked like he finally got comfortable on the block at the beginning of the third quarter, but promptly picked up his fourth foul and was forced to sit. 
Howard was again in foul trouble thanks to some cheap loose-ball fouls, and only played 29 minutes. The surprising thing is that during the 19 minutes Howard sat, the Magic actually managed to out-score the Bobcats by 13 points. Howard is a great player who makes the Magic much better on both ends of the floor, but the Magic seemed more comfortable offensively when Howard sat on Wednesday.
It’s not a question of how good Howard is or isn’t in the post; it’s that challenging Charlotte’s interior defense plays into their greatest strength. When Howard sat, the Magic started making hard drives and taking quick three-pointers, putting the Bobcat defense on their heels and giving the Magic enough of a cushion to cruise to a victory. All of the Magic’s starters scored in double figures, and Mickael Pietrus came off the bench to nail three of the Magic’s 10 made threes. 
As much attention as the Magic’s love of the three-ball gets, the Magic win with defense. They’ve shown that in the first two games of this ugly, ugly, series. When they get Howard going on the block, Carter and Nelson running the pick-and-roll offensively, and their octet of three-point threats making shots, they’re frightening. When they don’t have it going offensively, they can still ride their defense to wins over teams like the Bobcats. 

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.

LeBron James beautifully pass-fakes, makes layup in transition (video)

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LeBron James is a treasure.

Shaquille O’Neal’s big toe is seriously jacked up (PHOTO)

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Remember how we we all freaked out when we saw pictures of LeBron James‘ feet back in 2013?

You probably didn’t want to be reminded that it existed, but it does. Still. And apparently jacked up feet is the consequence of a lifetime of playing professional basketball. Once can only assume it has something to do with tight shoes and constant, hard changes of direction in said tight shoes.

We got yet another vision of what basketball shoes can do to feet on Thursday when TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal showed off his, er, little piggies.

Much to the horror of the Internet in general, it was Shaq’s right big toe that took social media by storm. Mostly because it’s not even close to pointing in the right direction.

I’m going to show you what it looks like. Be forewarned, it might just be NSFL.

Via Twitter:

Oh. Oh … why?

Social media reacted appropriately and proportionately:

Shaq did have issues with that toe during the course of his career, and at one point it was so bad that he had to have surgery to remove bone spurs from the toe in 2002.

That still doesn’t explain why it’s all over your TV and the Internet, but here we are. I am sorry.