24 April 2007

Excavation: Pistons 98, Magic 90

At halftime, I wrote that the Magic needed to continue applying pressure and to execute their offense effectively if they hoped to beat the Pistons. They failed to do both those things, and they lost the game by a final score of 98-90.

What is there to say at this point? Grant Hill and Hedo Turkoglu were the only starters who showed up, combining for 43 of our 90 points. Reserves and former Pistons Darko Milicic and Carlos Arroyo played well off the bench, but that was all that went well for the Magic.

Most disconcertingly, Dwight Howard wore an invisibility cloak tonight despite playing very well in Game 1. Even considering that he felt ill and was not at 100%, Howard had a horrible game. He registered 8 points, 11 rebounds, and about 28 glares at officials. It was clear from the onset that Howard was shaken: Rasheed Wallace blocked his first field goal attempt, then hit a long three-pointer on the ensuing possession, with Howard running out to challenge the shot. I wrote earlier that come out with a vengeance in the third quarter. That did not happen. In the period, Howard drew three fouls, dished an assist, grabbed two rebounds, and turned the ball over once. He did not attempt a field goal.

One Detroit possession sums up the sort of game the Magic had. After a Hedo Turkoglu jumper cut the Detroit lead to seven, the Magic played tough-nosed defense on the Pistons, battling through both screens and flying elbows. Richard Hamilton ended up with the ball on the right wing with just three seconds on the shot clock. Playing 'hot potato', he chucked the ball to Rasheed Wallace, who threw the ball in the general direction of the basket as the buzzer sounded. Wallace's heave banked in, bumping the Detroit lead to 10 points and essentially ending the game.

It bears noting that Jameer Nelson is having a terrible series. He's shooting 33.3%, and posting per-game averages of just 9.5 points and 3.0 assists. He's also awful defensively, giving up at least 5 inches of height to anyone he guards and having great trouble fighting through Detroit's wall-like screens. He has to play better if we are to stand a chance. I also hasten to point out that Nelson's flagrant foul on Richard Hamilton in the first quarter seemed to wake up the Pistons, who broke a 12-12 tie by scoring 7 straight points. In other words, he's better at sparking the Pistons' offense than he is at sparking the Magic's.

The odds are not in our favor, Magic fans: teams trailing a best-of-seven NBA playoff series 2-0 have come back to win just 11 of 364 possible series; that's a mere 3%. I hold out hope that we can steal at least one game, but it's really starting to look grim now.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Orlando.

POSTSCRIPT: Tracy McGrady made the following comments to TNT's Craig Sager following the Rockets' defeat of the Jazz:

This is the first time I felt like, you know, I've had a great supporting cast that can, you know, help me advance past the first round.
Ouch. I guess we know now that Tracy had given up on us long before his final season with the team. Okay, Yao Ming and Shane Battier are better players than Drew Gooden and Darrell Armstrong, but the Magic were up 3-1 in that series. Even then, he didn't think that he could get out of the first round. Thanks a lot.

No comments: