Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Magic 99, Bobcats 88 (TrueHoop Defensive Writing Challenge Entry #1)

The Charlotte Bobcats succeeded in turning Superman into a mere mortal for four straight games. But it didn’t matter. Despite Dwight Howard’s chronic foul trouble, the Orlando Magic have swept the Bobcats out of the first round of these NBA playoffs. The Magic now await the winner of the Hawks-Bucks series, which is tied 2-2.

With Howard again in foul trouble for most of the game, the Magic ratcheted up their perimeter defense, holding the Bobcats' guards to collective 7-for-28 shooting (Stephen Jackson: 2-for-11; Raymond Felton: 3-for-8; Larry Hughes: 1-for-4; D.J. Augustin: 1-for-5).

The Bobcats led 45-43 after the first half on the strength of their half-court trap, which forced the Magic into 6 first-half turnovers. The Bobcats’ point guards, moreover, finally removed the lead insoles from their sneakers and manned up against Jameer Nelson, who had torched the Bobcats’ matador defense in the first three games of the series.

Orlando stayed in the game in the first half and compensated for Howard’s absence by relying on a 2-3 zone (or, as Kevin McHale called it, “man-to-man with zone principles” — whatever that is). The 2-3 zone goaded the weak-shooting Bobcats into brick upon brick from beyond the arc. What Orlando did not count on, though, was that offensively-challenged Tyrus Thomas would find the zone’s seams and knock down 8 straight wide-open jumpers.

The Bobcats, however, were unable to sustain their defensive intensity and hustle in the second half, forcing just one turnover and repeatedly giving up wide-open corner 3s to the Magic swingmen.

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