Saturday, January 06, 2007

Magic 106, Bobcats 74

The Magic had revenge on their minds Friday night after (and how weird does this sound) the Bobcats humiliated them a few weeks ago on national television. Okay, Emeka Okafor, you’re going up against that Jolly African American Giant, Dwight Howard, so it’s imperative you box him out, not let him get off to a head start, and…not IMMEDIATELY get two fouls and head straight to the bench for the rest of the first quarter. Whoa boy. After Okafor collected his second personal only a few minutes into the game, you could actually see Howard’s eyes light up; you might as well have put a flashing neon sign up over the hoop reading “Slam it here, Dwight.” The rest of the first quarter was a highlight reel of the God-fearing Howard slamming and rebounding with a very un-Christian-like wrath.

Though we trailed 33-27 to start the second, the Magic had needed to shoot over 70% from the field for the 6-point lead, while the Cats had hit only about 30% of their shots. Thus there didn’t seem to be any reason to panic, because the Magic obviously wouldn’t be able to keep up their pace. What nobody realized, however, was that the Bobcats wouldn’t be able to keep up their pace either. Our final shooting percentage wasn’t just a bad field-goal average, it wouldn’t have even made for a great batting average: 29%. Sean May was just 1/8, Okafor was just 1/7, Brezec was just 3/11 and simply could not get any one of his numerous put-back chances to fall. Not only was it frustrating watching him miss repeatedly from a half-foot out, it was really strange witnessing a man of his size not be able to make those tap-ins—it reminded me of this weird office coworker I once had who could not toss a wad of paper into a trash basket even when he rolled his desk chair right next to it; we all thought that guy had some sort of medical condition. Also Adam Morrison, who was so ecstatic to see the return of his beloved old ball, apparently has more of a complex relationship with it than he let on, because he only shot 4/14. Even Matt Carroll missed a free throw. As putrid as we were though, the Magic are also surprisingly studly on defense; check out the stats and you’ll see Orlando is ranked no worse than 5th in just about every defensive category.

We were still only trailing 56-50 to start the third quarter, and even this was after quite a shocking event: Howard hit a buzzer-beater 3-pointer to end the half. It was a bad omen, as apparently this was Howard’s first ever trey, and he sure reacted like it, running around and hugging people as if he were a fan who’d just hit a mid-court shot to win a million dollars. What really irked me though, was that this cancelled out what I had taken to be a very positive sign only a few minutes before: Carroll blocked a jumper head on, an event that was only slightly less rare than Howard’s make. Carroll did it against probably the only person who would allow such a thing, J.J. Redick, but I was encouraged nonetheless. But Howard’s three-pointer killed the karma, and we were never the same after that.

The third quarter was legendarily horrendous, in terms of shooting—just 10 points for us, which would actually be seen as a somewhat disappointing performance by many individual players. The Magic then went on a 16-0 run that straddled the third and fourth quarters, sending commentators Adrian and Matt off into observations-from-around-the-League mode (Matt thinks the Hawks are a more disappointing Southeast Division team than the Heat, FYI). But it should be noted that Jeff McInnis was on the scene, although he spent the majority of the game on the bench chatting with Walter Herrmann (presumably exchanging headband tips). He also actually does wear number “0” in real life, which I hadn’t realized ( had listed him as “0,” but I had assumed that was just a default number they give to newcomers who haven’t played yet). I’m not sure if there’s any interesting, Gilbert Arenas-like background behind the "0," but I’ll keep you posted. He got about 16 minutes of run in all, most of it coming after the game was out of reach. According to Coach Bickerstaff, Jeff will be eased in because he hasn’t completely mastered the Bobcats offense yet, although the Magic defense sure didn’t seem to have any problem with it.

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