Quantcast 2010 Orlando Magic: Magic vs Bobcats

 

NBA Playoff Recap - East First Round - Game 3

(2) Orlando 90, (7) Charlotte 86 - Magic lead series, 3-0


The one player the Orlando Magic missed the most last season was not just Jameer Nelson, but a healthy Jameer Nelson who could operate at the height of his powers. Now in peak form, Nelson is the man most centrally responsible for leading his team to the brink of a first-round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Nelson did come off the shelf to play in the 2009 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, but the star from Saint Joseph's University was limited by rust and was not able to find the rhythm needed to be a fully effective player. Nelson's fateful decision to back off Laker guard Derek Fisher late in Game 4 of the series led to the tying three-point basket which transformed the nature of the competition and allowed the Lakers to win in five games.

This year, Nelson is playing like a man who wants to atone for that moment.



The Magic and Bobcats have played three games now, and in two of them, Nelson has scored 32 points in the lopsided, difference-making matchup against Charlotte point guard Raymond Felton. What was special about Nelson's output on Saturday afternoon in Time Warner Cable Arena was that he tallied 19 points in the first quarter to give Orlando a positive start on the road. On a day when Magic superstar Dwight Howard fouled out and played limited minutes precisely because of his foul trouble, Nelson was there to pick up the slack.

In the end, though, what ultimately allowed the second seed in the East to gain a three-game lead in this series was the shot selection of the losing Bobcats.

In what was a very evenly-contested affair, Charlotte trailed by only one point, 85-84, with just under 30 seconds left. The Bobcats - in possession of the ball - knew that the fouled-out Howard was not around to plug up the lane and alter a shot. No self-respecting NBA team should have had anything in mind other than driving the ball hard to the rim and forcing Orlando to make a big-time defensive play. If two or three blue-shirted Magic defenders cut off a driving lane, only then would a jump shot be advisable.

 

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Instead, with the game on the line and Howard on the bench with six fouls, Charlotte's main scoring option, Stephen Jackson - a veteran of playoff basketball from his days with the Golden State Warriors - launched a 3-pointer from the top of the key. It missed badly, and when the Magic knocked down five foul shots in the final 23 seconds, the Bobcats' hopes of making this series competitive went down the drain. All that's left for Charlotte is to try to win the franchise's first-ever playoff game. That's about the only real achievement the Bobcats can hope for at this point. An Orlando team with a healthy Jameer Nelson looks like the best team in the Eastern Conference, which is exactly what it was last year... even without number 14 at the point guard position.

 

By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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