Charlotte vs. Orlando, Game 4: Magic 99, Bobcats 90
Gerald Wallace – The Bobcats’ best player did everything in his power to will them to another win, but it simply was not enough. He finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, and came off the floor to the fans’ applause that signaled their appreciation for his efforts. He’s a do-everything player that has been underrated for his entire career, his All-Star selection this season notwithstanding. With him in the fold, Charlotte has a great shot at making the playoffs again next season.
Tyrus Thomas – The much-maligned forward from LSU shone in this game. He tallied 21 points and 7 rebounds in a performance that left many, myself included, in shock after having witnessed his lackadaisical level of play for much of his career with the Chicago Bulls. He was energetic and seemed to be in perfect position all night long. If he has truly turned the corner, then Charlotte might have found themselves a diamond in the rough.
Vince Carter – As much as I love to bash him (and we’ll get to some of that later), Carter showed up in this game with some timely scoring. He hit 7 of 16 FG attempts to record 21 points in Game 4, helping to complete the sweep of the Bobcats. He hit a number of mid-range jumpers and even ventured into the lane a time or two. He’s going to have to do a lot more of that if he expects to adequately replace the play that Hedo Turkoglu exhibited last year in leading Orlando to the Finals, but he came up big when they needed him last night.
Also of note: Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat
Dwight Howard – The Defensive Player of the Year’s inability to stay on the floor in this series should have proved to be costly, but the Magic’s perimeter shooting was just too hot to deny them their expected victory. He fouled out of his second straight game, barely registering an impace in this one. He will have to learn to play under control by the time they face Cleveland or Boston in the Conference Finals, or they’ll be sitting at home earlier than they would desire…just like Charlotte will be now.
Vince Carter – I can already hear the objections forming: “But, he’s on The Good list!?! How can he be on The Bad list, too?!?” Simple — because he hasn’t hit a single three-pointer in the playoffs yet, and his perimeter defense is beyond atrocious. He fouled out of tonight’s contest because he has yet, after 12 years in the league, to master the concept of playing defense with his feet first, rather than his hands. With his athletic gifts, he should be able to play at least passable defense on players like Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, rather that allowing them to blow by him repeatedly, as happened often in this series.
Charlotte’s PG’s – The deciding factor in this series was likely Orlando’s ability to rain down threes for four consecutive games. However, it didn’t help matters that the Magic’s backup PG, Jason Williams, is probably a better player than Charlotte’s starting PG, Raymond Felton. Needless to say, the Bobcats’ backup PG is completely hopeless. This position is one that absolutely must be addressed as soon as possible.
Orlando – The Magic move forward to a meeting with the winner of the Atlanta-Milwaukee series, which is suddenly tied up at 2-2 after the Bucks’ big win last night. They will need their perimeter shooters to stay hot, for Jameer Nelson to stay aggressive, and for Dwight Howard to mellow out some. Other than that, they are poised to make a return to the Conference Finals in my opinion.
Charlotte – The Bobcats head into an offseason with some obvious trouble areas, such as their PG position, and a lot of cap space with which to attract a desirable free agent. Although I don’t believe that players will flock to Charlotte to “play for Michael Jordan”, I do believe that many of them will consider the Bobcats based on their young, talented players, and the fact that Jordan is more likely to take a Mark Cuban-like approach to owning the team than a Donald Sterling-type viewpoint of the bottom line. The Cats need to build around players like Wallace, Jackson, Thomas, and Diaw while paring the roster of its needless redundancies and less talented denizens. Of course, if Larry Brown decides to jump ship, who knows what might happen with them next season? For their sake, I hope that he sticks around for another couple of seasons.