I’ve had to wait a few days for the sting to go down before I could comment. Man, it’s been a rough week. I’m already naturally down on Thanksgiving week, because I’m a vegetarian and not inclined to celebrate over the mass slaughter and consumption of 46 million helpless animals. The little “gobble” sound effects noises on radio shows, all the idle chatter about people stuffing themselves, the humiliating Presidential “pardon” of two turkeys who've already had their lives cut in half thanks to the genetic manipulation performed by factory farms…ha-ha.
I actually do eat Thanksgiving dinner with my family, although I consume “Tofurkey.” Relatives think I’m crazy, laugh at me, and roll their eyes at my irrationality before gorging on the carcass of an innocent bird that spent an unbearably short 14-week life crammed in a 2-foot cell, had its beak and toes severed without anesthesia, got pumped full of hormones to increase its girth to twice its natural size, then—still fully conscious—was hung by its toes while its throat was slit, before finally getting tossed into a steaming vat of water, covered in its own blood, and boiled alive—happy holidays, everyone! Enjoy those leftovers…
Anyway, as I was saying, I was down BEFORE the Bobcats’ 3-game losing streak with results that ranged from merely “painful” to “soul-sucking.” Like all of us, I’m sure, I was salivating with anticipation just prior to the Wizards game on Wednesday. Washington was coming off a back-to-back, they were on the road, and—what was it, something else…oh yeah, they'd just learned they’d be without Gilbert Arenas for the next three months. AND they wouldn’t have Brendan Haywood either—for Washington fans, the Haywood announcement probably felt like the sports fan equivalent of learning the Pentagon had been hit after the WTC went down. Charlotte fans couldn’t have asked for much more.
Instead, Washington rallied without their star like Teen Wolf’s team in the state championship. Antawn Jamison (27 points, 12 rebounds) and Caron Butler (39 points) led the way. I forgot just how fast Butler is, considering his size—he had two breakaway steals and excelled at getting charges called on people due to his ability to quickly get in position. Meanwhile, if only Andray Blatche could solicit prostitutes as well as he filled in at power forward; the man had 12 points, 13 boards, 5 blocks, and 2 steals. We also learned a harsh lesson in what happens if you don’t bother guarding Antonio Daniels. (Answer: he shoots and scores repeatedly)
Don’t let the OT fool you: the effort was terrible, and we deserved to lose this in regulation. Washington out-rebounded us 53-40, had leads as large as 9, and had 18 fast break points to our 10. Only a series of weird fouls at the end of regulation sent this to an extra frame. The chief culprit in our crime spree of laziness was Jason Richardson. And as bad as he was (4-14 shooting for 10 points in 39 minutes), he STILL had a chance to be a hero when he drew an “and-1” with a minute left in regulation and the score tied at 101. But he missed it. I guess I should be happy that he drove, though, because it seems like he hardly ever does—why I don’t know, considering he’s got a good handle and he’s lithe.
The loss to Washington was critical, because it was the only winnable looking one out of the three games. Orlando was next, featuring Dwight Howard, who greeted us like a cyclone does to Bangladesh. Finishing with 34 points, 17 rebounds, 4 blocks, and even 3 steals, I don’t know if Howard prefers playing as George, Lizzie, or Ralph, but whatever the case, he went on a total rampage. The only reason his totals weren’t far higher was Howard’s poor FT-percentage (12-21). If you’re wondering why Orlando’s now 12-3, look no further than Howard. He’s so dominant that it really doesn’t matter if the rest of the team is a bunch of one-dimensional shooters (and not even good shooters at that—take away Howard and the rest of the Magic only shot 27-of-66); Howard will just grab the rebound. And stuff it. And run the fast break. And rip Ryan Hollins’ arm out of his socket and start beating him with it. Howard once said that his ultimate goal was to get a cross on the NBA logo, which—depending on your religious views—is either inspirational or terrifying. In this game, he dropped a hammer of the gods on us.
At least the effort was slightly better on this one. Even though we never led and trailed by as many as 22, we kept scrapping. For once, Gerald Wallace was unable to summon his Claire Bennett powers, and a calf injury limited him to even fewer minutes than Primoz Brezec. Outgunned down low, Emeka Okafor put up a heroic 12 points and 18 boards. What’s alarming, though, is that Mek’s range this season has been even less than Anton Chigurh’s. Unless Okafor is point-blank and armed with a cattlegun, he can't seem to make his shots. Walter Herrmann led the way for us with 16 points, but they were largely inconsequential. This blowout paved the way for…
…Boston. My cycle of emotions during this game mirrored that of the doomed hostage cop in Reservoir Dogs. Follow me here: at first I was basically just praying for a quick death, which I knew I wouldn’t get. Then all of a sudden Mr. Blonde gets shot out of nowhere (or in this case, the Celtics go a full three minutes at the end without scoring a point) and I had a little hope, but then suddenly “Nice Guy” Ray Allen guns me down unexpectedly. It was absolutely devastating.
Making matters worse, I had to watch the game on League Pass with the Celtics announcers, which means…oh dear lord…Hi, Mr. Heinsohn, always a pleasure. After 3 hours with Tommy, and lots of insistence on fouls against the Celtics not getting called, lots of claims about being unable to see anything, and lots of praise for Brian Scalabrine, I was pretty much an emotional wreck. My personal favorite Tommy line of the night: “Needless to say, with a couple of minutes left, the Celtics need some stops here…they also need to score some buckets too.” You’re right, Tommy, that was needless to say.
Anyhow, though I still wish he’d drive more, J-Rich partially redeemed himself with this one by going 5-5 from downtown (although he $#%&ed it up with that inbounds at the end—ARRRGH!). And despite being not particularly big, fast, strong, or athletic—actually, he’s kind of like Sean May, I guess, except without the injuries—Jared Dudley is playing some fabulous ball. Subbing for Crash, Dudley did a little of everything with 11 points, 9 boards, and 3 assists. He’s got a knack for getting open, he’s a good shooter, and he gets to the free throw line the way I wish J-Rich would. And as Beanie Sigel is the general of the ROC, Raymond Felton is the general with the rock. Anything I say about poor effort does not apply to him. Ever.
How odd were the similarities between this game and the Eagles-Patriots? Think about it: two huge underdogs, both playing without their marquee names (Wallace for us, McNabb for Philly), both going up against Boston-based juggernauts, and both ALMOST winning. A little too ironic, yeah I really do think…