Tag: Magic-Bobcats Game 1

NBA Playoffs: Vince Carter's shot selection not the problem in Game 1 against Charlotte

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nba_Carter.jpgThere are players in this league for whom there is some sort of general consensus. LeBron James is the MVP, Tim Duncan is awesome (but not as awesome as he used to be), Tracy McGrady is not very good. We may not agree on the specifics of those general classifications, but I would say that for the most part, a vast majority of NBA fans have ended up at the same, basic conclusions.

That’s clearly not the case with Vince Carter. VC has never been as polarizing as, say, Kobe Bryant, but he remains a figure whose value and significance are certainly debatable. His place in today’s game can be argued just as his place in history can be.

However, in terms of his unique value to the Orlando Magic this season, there seems to be little room for argument: Vince Carter is the second most important player on Orlando’s roster. When producing at a high level, Carter is the difference between a solid but very beatable Orlando team and the titan we’ll see play tonight. The Magic are a completely different team when Vince is effective (and selective; his shot selection is typically paramount for this team), but as we learned on Sunday night, they’re still capable of winning against lesser playoff opponents on one of his off-nights.

Carter’s line from Sunday reads 14 points on 4-of-19 shooting, which is pretty awful. He attempted more shots than anyone on the team, and almost five times more shots than Dwight Howard, who was being smothered in the post by the Bobcats’ defense. Not exactly Vince’s finest hour, especially when his performance is held up for comparison against that of Rashard Lewis (19 points, 8-of-11 shooting, five rebounds) or Jameer Nelson (32 points, 10-of-18 shooting, six assists, four rebounds).

The easy thing to do on nights such as these are to look at Carter’s stat line and mumble something about Vince being Vince. Some nights you’d be right, and the tape would show Carter chucking up contested jumper after contested jumper. Not on this one, though, as Eddy Rivera of Magic Basketball broke down Carter’s Sunday evening and offers a convenient video featuring each of Vince’s 19 shot attempts (click over to MB to watch):

A vast majority of Carter’s shots were quality looks. Granted, there
were some possessions when Carter should have attacked the basket (as
he did a few times in the game, looking to draw contact and get to the
free-throw line) when he was matched up against Boris Diaw on a switch
instead of settling for jumpers and making life more difficult for
himself but those situations were, surprisingly, few and far between.
Also, it should be taken into account that there were a couple of times
when Carter was given the basketball with the shot clock winding down
and forced to put up some high degree of difficulty shots, which did
nothing but exacerbate his inability to make a shot and further hurt
his stat-line.

It’s so easy to paint players into little boxes, and to say that whenever Kobe’s field goal attempts run high he was being selfish, whenever LeBron’s shooting percentage sags he’s taking too many jumpers, or whenever Dwyane Wade racks up six turnovers he’s just not taking care of the ball.

Rarely in basketball is it ever so simple, and when players do step outside those lines — like when Vince had a miserable shooting night in Game 1 against Charlotte — the most predictable explanation isn’t always (or even usually) the best one. The problem wasn’t Vince being Vince, it was that on this particular night, VC couldn’t buy a bucket with a check made out to “CASH.” This is a case where Carter’s overall line was misleading (and as Rivera pointed out, the shot chart equally so), not because he had some added value in an incalculable aspect of the game, but because the most predictable culprit (Carter’s shot selection) was a red herring.

NBA Playoffs: Bobcats lost game one, but won matchup against Dwight Howard

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Dwight Howard had a rough game against the Charlotte Bobcats to kick-start Orlando’s playoff run, even if his defense met his own unusually high standards. Howard finished with just five points and seven rebounds to go along with his nine blocks, in a performance that seems easily attributable to the Bobcats’ stellar team defense. Charlotte has never scored particularly well, but the one thing they’ve been very effective in doing this season is containing and frustrating their opponents.

From Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel:

Even when they weren’t fouling Howard, they used small jabs to annoy him

…”He picked up the one sort of in retaliation,” Magic coach Stan Van
Gundy said. “That’s all they’re trying to do. Their big guys are going
to hit him every chance they get and if he gets one foul retaliating,
they did their job. … He’s just going to have to understand no matter
how many times they hit him, he can’t hit back.”

The Bobcats were certainly successful in getting under Howard’s skin, and Dwight picked up five fouls while trying to impose his will on both ends of the court. Only half of that effort could be deemed a success.

You can’t blame Howard for responding to his frustration with increasingly physical play, as the dark arts employed by less athletic and sizable opponents (read: everyone) in defending/denying Dwight in the post and boxing him out are far more insidious than his own play. It’s not that Howard is innocent; he holds, pulls, pushes, and grabs just like the long line of successful centers before him. That doesn’t mean he’ll be happy about two defenders holding him down though, or being pummeled from all angles when he goes up for a dunk.

From the Bobcats’ perspective, this is exactly what they want. Howard wasn’t frustrated into making too much of a negative impact (he often forces shots or commits turnovers when he feels he’s been wronged), but to hold Dwight to five points in the opening bout is certainly impressive. Charlotte not only showed that they’ll be competitive in this series but that they’re capable of neutralizing (or at least hedging the impact of) Orlando’s post game, which seemed like an unknown heading into the series. Now if they could just figure out Jameer Nelson…