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Open Gameday Thread vs. Orlando Magic

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Right now, on ESPN's Streak for the Cash game, 98.5% of participants have chosen the Orlando Magic in a straight pick 'em over the Charlotte Bobcats for tonight's game in Charlotte. That's crazy, and 98.5% of the people picking that game are going to have a rude awakening when the game is close late or the Bobcats win.

The reason the game was put on the board in the first place is that it's a tossup. The incremental improvements the Bobcats have made all season have finally reached an end point with a team perfectly capable of hanging with or beating anyone in the league, except the Cavs. On a season-long basis, it's not a great formula, because one injury kills a big chunk of production that they can't replace, but when everyone's healthy, as they are right now, the Bobcats are relentless.

Look for Charlotte to go for the same defensive strategy they used a few days ago in Orlando: Emeka will battle Dwight Howard one on one, with little help. If he can do his thing reasonably effectively, that will free up everyone else to stick to his man, which is essential against a team that launches threes so often. Gerald has to stick to Turkoglu, also. When smaller guys like Raja Bell get stuck on Hedo, he abuses them from fifteen feet and in. According to the Orlando Sentinel, we still don't know if Rafer Alston will play tonight, but I imagine his first game with a new team would be sufficiently shaky to take away any gains they might get from playing him over Anthony Johnson.

Offensively, the plan should be the same as it always is, to make their wings chase our wings around screens, hit mid range jumpers, and, alternatively, drive the lane to kick out. Howard complicates matters, since no one wants to attack him and risk the embarrassment of a blocked shot, but Emeka is sufficiently aggressive around the basket now to try dunking over him a few times and banging on the block in general. Mickael Pietrus is perfectly suited for that kind of chasing, but Hedo Turkoglu is absolutely not. If Turkoglu is on Wallace, all the better.

Like I said, the game at Orlando was a loseable game in which the Bobcats surprised the Magic by hanging tough into overtime, but tonight is in the grey area, leaning Orlando. If ESPN's Streak players' choices reflected the actual chances of either team to win, I suspect it'd be closer to 60-40 Orlando than 98-2.