The Charlotte Bobcats lost to the Orlando Magic in Game 3 of their first round playoff series, 90-86. Though the end result is disappointing, the Cable Box this afternoon was as electric (sorry) as I've ever seen it.
If we've learned anything this series, it's that the Magic are probably equal to the Cavaliers -- when Dwight Howard is in the game. Without Howard, and I'd be surprised if the +/- data didn't confirm this, they're essentially equal to the Bobcats, who aren't pushovers, but have never been title contenders this season. Howard's just that good, but it's also a testament to the Magic's depth that Marcin Gortat can step right in and keep the Magic competitive on the road in front of a frenzied crowd.
Now, barring a miracle, the series is over, and it's just a matter of time until the Bobcats lose their fourth game.
Let's accentuate the positive, though. The Bobcats started the night on the right foot by acknowledging NBA history in Charlotte, showing a brief highlight reel of Hornets playoff action. Then, throughout the night, they introduced basketball legends in attendance, giving the crowd an opportunity to cheer David Thompson, Muggsy Bogues, and Robert Parish. The crowd responded to Stephen Jackson's flapping arms, and was at full volume from the opening possession, chanting DE-FENSE and booing J.J. Redick.
Game thread comments, lowlights, and highlights after the jump.
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GAME THREAD COMMENTS
adamcawa -- Just give Gerald the ball and let him drive right into Howard. Ugh.
andrewlail76 -- Next guy to take a jumper with more than 5 on the shot clock... I will beat him down.
-- The Bobcats shot 5-23 from three, with the primary offenders being Jackson (1-7), Raymond Felton (0-4), and D.J. Augustin (0-3). The percentage from three isn't what bothers me. They simply shouldn't be taking that many threes. If the Cats are going to win games in this series, they have to drive the lane and play the way they have all season, by taking shots at the rim, Big Bad Dwight be damned.
-- The Cats' centers were mostly useless. Theo Ratliff committed three fouls in the first three minutes of the first quarter, none of them on plays when Howard was in the act of shooting, which is almost always acceptable. Nazr Mohammed did what he's done all year, scoring 6 points on 3-6 shooting, but he's probably not completely healed from his back injuries, because he can't move nearly quickly enough to defend either Howard or Gortat, let alone help on a driving Jameer Nelson. Tyson Chandler only played about 12 minutes, shooting 0 times, grabbing 0 rebounds, and committing 5 fouls. His defense may have been fine, but he was enough of an offensive liability that Larry Brown kept him out entirely when Howard was out with foul trouble, opting, instead, to play Boris Diaw at center against Gortat.
-- Tyrus Thomas took only 6 shots, making 3 of them, and 2 free throws, for 8 points. He also blocked 2 shots, pulled down 6 rebounds, and generally wrought havoc on defense. At this point, he should get way more minutes than he has been getting. If the results don't appeal to you, then maybe the reasoning that he fits with the Crash/Jax/Tyson mold of player than anyone else. Maybe Boris should be the change of pace instead of Tyrus. Or maybe we should take our chances with Boris at center and see if we get an advantage on offense by going small and not lose as much as everyone thinks we will on defense.
-- Speaking of Boris, he did an admirable job in a tough situation, shooting 3-5 from the field, dishing 6 assists, and grabbing 4 rebounds.
-- As much as I hate Larry Hughes and all he represents for this team, he was hot right as he came into the game, ending up 5-6 from the field, 2-3 from beyond the arc. Better yet, he had 0 turnovers and didn't commit any obvious defensive miscues. In fact, there was only one moment when he held the ball too long and acted like he was going to try to save the day that caused me to scream at him to pass the freaking ball.
-- Again, I can't emphasize enough how awesome the crowd support was for this game. Good job, everyone. Do it again on Monday.