The first two games of the first round playoff series between the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats have been labeled by some as “boring” and “hard to watch.” The games have also been called “sloppy.”
Others would simply call it good defense.
And everyone should have seen it coming.
Each team plays good interior defense. Charlotte can throw several good interior defenders at the opposition (Theo Ratliff, Tyson Chandler, Tyrus Thomas, etc…) while Orlando has the league’s best and most intimidating defensive presence. For the second consecutive season, Center Dwight Howard led the league in both blocked shots and rebounds, winning Defensive Player of the Year for the second season in a row.
Each team can throw solid-to-good wing defenders at you (Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson for the Bobcats and Mickael Pietrus and Matt Barnes for the Magic). Wallace finished third in Defensive Player of the Year Voting.
Charlotte finished the season ranked first in defensive rating (102.8). Orlando finished third (103.3). Charlotte allowed opponents to shoot just 44.8% from the field against them, good for sixth in the league. The Magic allowed their opponents to shoot 43.8%, tops in the league.
Charlotte came in with a reputation as a defensive team who sometimes struggles on the offensive end. The Magic, on the other hand, are known for their inside game with Center Dwight Howard and their 3-point shooters (the Magic set an NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a season this year). Scoring inside and shooting the 3-pointer are things that Magic do about as well (or better) than any other team in the league, but it’s not what they do best. For the second straight season, Orlando finished higher in both defensive rating and defensive efficiency (per John Hollinger) than they did in offensive rating and offensive efficiency.
Those statistics and rankings may surprise the casual fan, but Bobcats’ Coach Larry Brown knows just how good Orlando’s defense is.
“What are teams shooting 43% against them? Is that like in the top 3 of field percentage of defenses? They have the defensive player of the year,” Brown said, when asked if Orlando’s defense was underrated. “You don’t get to the Finals of the NBA unless you can defend in rebound.”
Brown pointed out what he thought was the key stat for the Magic.
“I think one of the most important stats in the league is field goal percentage defense,” Brown said.
“And if you have shot blocking and rebounding, it certainly helps,” Brown added.
In two games against the Magic, the Bobcats have shot an effective field goal percentage of just 48.5%, have turned the ball over 37 times (18.5 per game) and are averaging just 83.0 points per game.
The performance Charlotte’s elite level defense should also not be overlooked. Charlotte has held Orlando to just 44.9% shooting from the field, but have not defended the perimeter as well, allowing the Magic to make 23 3-pointers in two games and shoot an effective field goal percentage of 53.3%. Still, the Magic are being held below nearly all of their season averages on offense and are scoring only 95.0 points per game.
In game one, Orlando’s defense struggled when Dwight Howard was out of the game. With Howard out, the Cats’ wings, especially Gerald Wallace got to the basket too easily and Marcin Gortat did a terrible job of contesting shots, which is what allowed Charlotte to stage a comeback. Game 2 was a different story. Orlando’s perimeter defenders played much better. The Bobcats wing players had a lot more trouble blowing by Orlando’s defenders and had to settle for more jump shots. The Magic also did a nice job of closing out on those jumpers, making the shots even tougher.
After game 2, Bobcats Guard Stephen Jackson told the media that the Magic were “way more physical and aggressive than we were.”
Through two games, this series has been all about defense – both teams have played very well on that end of the floor. Orlando’s defense may be overlooked at times, but they can continue to play like they have on that end of the court, they are going to be very difficult to beat.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and at Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).
Topics: 2010 Nba Playoffs, Brandon Bass, Charlotte Bobcats, Defensive Player Of The Year, Dwight Howard, Gerald Wallace, Jameer Nelson, Jason Williams, JJ Redick, Larry Brown, Marcin Gortat, Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus, Orlando Magic, Rashard Lewis, Ryan Anderson, Stan Van Gundy, Stephen Jackson, Vince Carter