Charlotte Bobcats vs. Orlando Magic preview -- Game 6

The Big Picture: Consensus holds that the Orlando Magic are easily among the top five teams in the league, probably one of the top two teams in the East, and they will be a championship contender at the end of the season. Scarier for opponents, Dwight Howard is looking like an even better MVP candidate this year -- if Kevin Durant stumbles just a bit, Big Bad Dwight might be a popular anti-LeBron selection, given what appears to be a step forward in his offensive game this year.

Check out Howard's shot locations through the Magic's first few games. He's extending outside the lane, and making those shots. Once you realize that he's no longer limited to muscling his man under the rim and that running hook shot through the key, it's understandable that he'd shoot 9-13 from the field, for 30 points, against Brook Lopez and the Nets. Combine that with holding Lopez to 3-17(!) from the field (3-17?!?!?!), and that's the kind of game that wins every time.

The Bobcats are thin on big men, and Larry Brown is almost certainly going to combat Howard with Nazr Mohammed and DeSagana Diop first, and will try anything to keep from putting Boris Diaw out there to guard him.

Musical Interlude: My Chemical Romance -- "Na Na Na"


Key to Victory: There's an essential choice the Magic's opponents face. A team can attempt to shackle Howard by doubling him, whether aggressively or selectively, but they then run the risk of leaving any one of half a dozen shooters with open looks at three-pointers, and Howard's gotten pretty adept at passing out of double-teams. The Cats have tended to double and take their chances with the shooters, even while other teams seemed to agree that single coverage was the most effective strategy. That's complicated even more by Howard's development as a versatile offensive threat, but I'd still lean toward leaving one guy to try to deal with him and guard the bombers.

Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Ryan Anderson was soooooo not happy with Brook Lopez the other day.

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