Sunday, November 19, 2006

Magic 97, Bobcats 83

Fresh off an inspired win against NBA royalty San Antonio, the Bobcats took their campaign to the boondocks of Orlando. What a difference in ambiance; the Magic’s court is a mom-and-pop bodega compared to the wheeling and dealing Spurs’ mass merchandising arena. Even Orlando's center court ads are small-time, with promos for “1-800 Flooring,” the “Mattress Barn,” and some local law firm that offers “full-service.” Are there drive-thrus? I wonder if they do litigation combos—if I want a parking ticket fixed, an assault-and-battery plea-bargain, and a side of perjury charges dropped, can I order the #3 off the Value Menu?

The Bobcats didn’t bring their “A” game tonight, although they did bring their alternate blue uniforms. The jury’s still out on them. I like to poke fun at their noxious, radioactive-looking road orange, but at least they’re original. These alternate blues look like the designers from the Knicks and Wizards were assigned to a group homework project to come up with new uniforms, put it off until the last minute, and then just threw these together the night before.

Two other debuts of note: Adrian Branch’s AB“C”s. This is Adrian’s version of that “keys to the game” thing most commentators do early on, the ones where they offer insightful tips like “limit the turnovers.” I’m not understanding the title on this one though. Why is the “C” in quotations? Matt Devlin and Adrian are getting a chuckle out of what apparently is a clever pun, except that it’s so clever I don’t even get it. Hmmm. Well, “AB” I guess is Adrian’s initials, but what’s the “C” all about?

My pondering was broken up by the other debut…Primoz!!! Mark it: with 1:15 to go in the 1st quarter, the big guy is back! This was funny because they had just finished announcing Primoz’s name on the inactive report, and then immediately after Matt realized that not only was Primoz active, he was in the game playing! It’s a tight ship channel 14 runs.

Those were pretty much the highlights. This was one of those games where the lopsided score still made it look closer than it was—the entire 4th quarter was garbage time. Okafor and May were solid down low, but we got nothing from the perimeter. Adam Morrison started 5-6 from the floor and finished 5-15. Felton tried to penetrate, couldn’t, and then just began settling for 3-pointers (most of which he missed). Wallace is still “hearing the choppers” from Game 1’s spill and was a non-factor. Brevin Knight was injured and not in uniform, and all things considered it was probably for the best; this was the kind of game where BK gets frustrated and “accidentally” elbows someone in the groin.

The Magic’s half-filled, murmuring crowd failed to register excitement even as Dwight Howard put up 24 points and 21 rebounds. Howard, the Magic’s pious, God- and turnover-fearing behemoth was simply too much for the Cats. He’s so huge he sticks out even among NBA players; he reminds me of Chief standing head-and-shoulders above the other inmates in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. One of his rebounds came off his own missed free throw.

Howard’s partner in the paint, Darko Milicic, also proved he’s far more than just a goofy first name. Darko didn’t play much, but he had four blocks and 14 points. Between him and Howard swatting away everything, it seemed as if all our shots—jumpers, hooks, dunks, whatever—had to come in the form of a fadeaway. Milicic is also fascinating in the way he puts almost no arc into his shots—he doesn’t so much shoot baskets as peg them. Someone needs to tap into the frequency on Art Shell’s headphones and get him to take a look at this kid—I guarantee Darko's arm is better than either Andrew Walter’s or Aaron Brooks’.

It’s unfortunate Orlando’s arena is so somnambulant, because they have a stellar team in their midst. Tony Battie and Grant Hill are hustling, lead-by-example veterans. And Howard, Milicic, and PG Jameer Nelson, who resembles Jerome Bettis (if Bettis were younger, faster, stronger, and less obese), form a strong, youthful nucleus.

We’ll meet again, Magic. And now that Brezec is back, here’s my bold prediction on future matchups: Darko + Primoz = Awesome-o!

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