What We'll Learn in Game 1 vs. Bobcats
Will Defense Trump Offense
This might be a theme the entire series against Charlotte. But if you are a fan of defense, this series will have about as much defense as you can handle for a first round series. I have jokingly been saying 95 points per game could be enough to win this series. Thinking about it, that estimate might be a bit high.
Orlando and Charlotte tied for the top spot in defensive efficiency at 100.2 points per 100 possessions. Points will come at a premium in this series.
Where things differ is with the offenses. The Magic ranked second in the league in offensive efficiency with 109.2 points per 100 possessions. The Bobcats were 24th at 101.5 points per 100 possessions.
Keep in mind though, Charlotte kept Orlando well below its scoring average in four meetings this year. The Magic scored only 96.3 points per game against the Bobcats and need overtime to top 100 points. They average 102.8 points per game. A pretty significant drop.
But despite that, Orlando outscored Charlotte by an average of 9.7 points per game in Orlando's three victories. In the regular season the Magic's defense matched the Bobcats' defense.
Offense becomes a lot harder in the postseason, but it is clear the question that will be answered in this series is whether Charlotte can carry its top notch defense into the Playoffs against an experienced, determined and efficient Orlando team.
Can Charlotte defend Dwight Howard one on one?
This is always the first question that a team must answer when facing Orlando in the postseason. It almost dictates how Orlando will play early. And since the team is so good at attacking with so many different players, it gives the Magic the early advantage.
All Charlotte knows at this point is how it will defend Howard, where he will go with the ball and what they will do with it, they can only hope to contain. Yes, the Bobcats are very good defensively and will have a plan for what to do to rotate after Howard is doubled or gets rid of the ball.
It is almost certain the Bobcats will double Howard in some form at some point. Howard has always upped his game in the postseason. The question is can Charlotte go one on one against him in stretches?
Can Theo Ratliff, Tyson Chandler, Desagana Diop and Nazr Mohammed defend Howard at all on their own or will Howard be able to run through them if the double is late?
If they can't, Stan Van Gundy will find a hole to exploit and the Magic will find a way to score. In a high-scoring game, it does not appear the Bobcats will be able to keep up.
Is Vince Carter worth the wait?
Bill Simmons has weighed in and everyone is looking at Vince Carter this postseason. Orlando pretty much swapped him for Hedo Turkoglu in its lineup. It was for this time of year that the Magic brought him this offseason.
OK, maybe not this time of year. In a couple weeks is when Carter really proves his worth.
But Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace are two of the best defenders in the league. And it will only get harder from here on in (even if the quality of the individual defender on Carter decreases).
Howard is going to be the concentration in this series. But Carter is going to have to step up (he averaged a career low 16.6 points per game this season) and prove all his naysayers wrong. He must show he can perform on the big stage -- even though his career playoff scoring numbers (25.9 points per game) are better than his regular season scoring numbers (22.9 points per game).
The Magic have been waiting for Carter to break out and become the superstar he has been his entire career. There is no better time to do that than the postseason.