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Pleasure, Pain, Grateful

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At the end of the third quarter, I momentarily considered walking out of the Pistons-Bobcats game. I'd been given seats nearly on the floor, in the first row behind the floor seats, in fact, and I'd had enough. Down 78-56, both teams were about to pull their starters just to play out the string.

Earlier, it'd been a 29-point lead. Detroit didn't look as dominant as Cleveland had, but the Bobcats' ineptitude had given them the same kind of fourth quarter lead. But then, improbably, amazing happened.

Down 83-59, with 9:03 left in the game, the Bobcats substituted Ryan Hollins in for Emeka Okafor, and a few seconds later Raymond Felton came in for Matt Carroll. The lineup was Augustin, Felton, Morrison, Wallace, and Hollins. From that point on, the Bobcats went on an 8-0 run, punctuated at the end by a beautiful fast break alley-oop from Felton to Wallace. Jason Maxiell made a tough dunk in traffic, plus a foul, to stop the run, but it did little to stop the Cats' momentum.

The Pistons had 85 points, and they completely stalled. The Bobcats went on another run, this one 17-0. In the middle of this second run, at 5:21, Gerald was replaced by Alexis Ajinca. G-Force had scored 9 points in the quarter, but, inexplicably, he wouldn't return.

Somehow, Augustin, Felton, Morrison, Ajinca, and Hollins plowed forward, and nothing went right for Detroit. Every little bounce went the Bobcats' way. The sequence with 1:35 left epitomized the whole quarter. Augustin missed a jumper, only to see Ryan Hollins fight off Sheed for the rebound and the putback to bring the Bobcats back within three. At 0:34 left in the game, Felton made a driving layup to make the score 85-84.

During this run, the crowd realized what was happening and built into a frenzy. Every man on both benches was standing. The only other time I've seen the Cable Box pulsing with that much energy was last season during the Ray Allen Game.

For about one minute, I believed. The Bobcats were going to be the lead story on SportsCenter. They would prove they could actually win a tough game against elite competition, fluky as said win might be.

But then, as the play developed, I saw, with the clarity generated only by intense fear, that Gerald wasn't in the game. I saw number 30 drifting at the top of the arc, only Augustin near him, and I screamed before Sheed even caught the pass. His shushing finger to the lips was so audacious, in light of his team's epic collapse, that in that moment I loved him completely, just as much as I cursed him.

The Bobcats lost 90-86, and I'm of two minds about it. The final results are not indicative of the teams' abilities; the Pistons are clearly the better team, from top to bottom. Only Gerald Wallace would compete for a starting spot on that squad. Trading for Diaw and Bell was supposed to be all about cap room, and not about getting better now, but the kneejerk reaction is that neither Diaw nor Bell is much of an improvement over what we already have, Diaw because his physical tools notwithstanding, he still doesn't bring the same production on both ends of the court that Jared Dudley, or even Ryan Hollins, does, and Bell because, at best, he'll be the same as Augustin, only a mirror image, defense-first, offense an afterthought. This game was the anomaly. We were supposed to lose big. Thus, there's little point decrying Larry Brown's horrific substitutions in crunch time, or drawing out any other complaints.

The other thought is that I'm grateful. If pro basketball brought this kind of insanity every night, there wouldn't be any other forms of entertainment. The pleasure and pain of this one game is enough to carry me until the next high or crisis.

Facial Hair


Buried deep in the AP story is this sad news: "Gerald Wallace had 22 points and nine rebounds for the Bobcats in his return after missing three games following the death of his grandmother. Wallace's father also died on Thursday, and he may miss another game next week."

Quick Google searches haven't turned up anything else about this. If true, basketball only matters as much as it can help him deal with the losses, and our best wishes go out to him.