. . .
Where to being with this one? There is no sense trying to, well, make sense of this one.
A 20-point lead, an easy win, a dominant performance against a bottom-feeder team. It was everything you expect from an upper-echelon team. Those kind of teams absolutely bury opponents in games like this. Twenty turns to 25 which turns to 30.
That is just something the Magic have nto done all year.
Rather, the Magic have laxed. They have fallen in love with the 3-pointer. Tye stop moving on offense. They let up on defense. And when that happens -- against ANY NBA team -- there is a chance for a comeback. Even the Bobcats could have the energy to come back.
The 20-point lead was down to five at the half. Jason Richardson said, "We didn't take them seriously," at halftime on FSFlorida. There was no arguing then. There was no arguing in the third quarter as the Magic turned the ball over on four of their first five possessions and saw the Bobcats complete the comeback.
There would be no run as the offense continued to struggle and the defense continued to perplex. Gerald Henderson scored four straight field goals in the fourth quarter, isolating J.J. Redick and drawing a foul on two of those occassions. It was emblematic of the lack of precision and energy the Magic displayed throughout.
Charlotte won 100-84, turning everything around and not looking one bit of a four-win (now five-win) team or the worst offensive team in the league by offensive rating.
The Magic hit 15 of their first 27 shots, but ended up shooting just 39 percent. They scored 31 points early into the second quarter, and just 53 the rest of the game. The Magic failed to score in the final 2:47 and has just two field goals in the final seven minutes. Orlando scored just five points in that span.
Offense was a struggle for Orlando after that first quarter.
But Charlotte found its rhythm and kept the ball rolling. The Bobcats had just 15 points in the first quarter in falling behind by 20 early on and looked every bit the hapless team that their record suggested. There were blown fast breaks and missed jumpers and silly turnovers. It would have been easy to watch the beginning of the game and conclude this would have been a runaway. It should have been.
But Orlando was sloppy too.
The turnovers both early and late suggested that the team did not have quite the focus. But the ball still moved. That is always the key to the Magic's offense. If the ball is moving, the ball is generally going into the basket and the team is getting good shots.
Much like Monday's win, Orlando tried to establish Dwight Howard in stand-still post ups rather than getting him on the move. In both games, the overall offense had its most success when the team got him moving off the pick and roll. Howard also made his post scores in that game helping keep the offense afloat and keep the team relatively motivated on defense.
Tonight? Howard scored 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting, grabbing 17 rebounds too. Bismack Biyombo did a fantastic job muscling Dwight Howard around and using his strength to frustrate and keep Howard at bay, even blocking one of his running hook shots. The guards, in addition, forced Howard into four turnovers.
And with Dwight out of commission, the relatively lethargic and inactive Magic offense sputtered. The team shot just 38.8 percent and made 13 of 35 3-pointers, making this the first game Orlando has lost this season where the team made 12 or more 3-pointers. Orlando also had 18 assists, but much of that ball movement came early when the team was rolling rather than late when the team could not work to get a good shot against the typically not-so-stingy Bobcats defense.
Credit has to be given where it is due. And the Bobcats certainly deserve a ton of credit.
This team fought hard and fought with a lot of pride, especially after Paul Silas was ejected from the game in the second quarter with the team down 16. Charlotte turned its shooting around and worked to get open shots, forcing the issue by getting into the paint and drawing fouls. Biyombo, himself, had six offensive rebounds and did a great job fighting Howard for position (even if Howard's athleticism and veteran savvy eventually allowed him to get rebounds).
Corey Maggette destroyed the Magic, making 10 of 11 free throws on his way to 29 points. Gerald Henderson snapped out of a shooting funk 16 points, making five of his final seven shots including that key fourth quarter stretch.
You could tell that this was a team that hungered for a victory. The Magic... they seemed pretty content to try and "flip the switch" and get a win that way.
That has largely been the sentiment all season as Orlando has struggled to have a consistent effort on both ends of the floor from game to game or even quarter to quarter. There was nothing coming out when the Magic tried to flip that proverbial switch tonight. The Magic's bad habits finally caught up to them.
The question is, after a loss to the worst team in the league, will it finally be the wake-up call the team needs to reach the potential the players keep talking about?