There were a number of key matchups on Wednesday night. And there was also this game between the Bobcats and Hawks, whose fans probably feel like those of Level 2 Football League teams in England. The game did at least feature the Grand Reopening of Okafor’s House of Blocks-and-Rebounds. Emeka! Eureka! It’s so good to have the big guy back, and I was clearly not the only one to think so—Gerald Wallace (31 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, 4 steals) looked happier than my dog slurping toilet water. Okafor only had a modest night statistically (9 points, 7 boards, 3 blocked shots), but his disruptive presence was obvious (just 40% shooting for Atlanta)—he’s the 252-lb 800-lb gorilla in the paint.
FSN South commentators Bob Rathman and “Sleepy” Steve Smith (nice guy, but I kept expecting to hear snoring sounds at any moment) referred to us as a “hex team” for Atlanta—as if they have a stellar record otherwise. True, Josh Smith (25 points, 15 boards, 6 blocks) is a phenomenal and underappreciated talent, but after that? Ugh. You know it’s bad when a player from the other team wins one of those little “sponsorship awards” they do throughout the game, as Wallace did when they made his steal-and-breakaway dunk the “Dodge Drive of the Game.” And Marvin (-arvin, rvin,) Williams was a friend of mine, but what do they have him hanging around the perimeter for? He had 12 and 10, but he was 4/14 from the field (including 0/1 on a missed 3-pointer) and more invisible than Sue Storm.
Okafor’s return down low also freed up our shooters from the outside, as the Hawks left Matt Carroll, Walter Herrmann, and Brevin Knight more unattended than a pack of middle-schoolers loitering outside a convenience store. Carrol hit 4/4 3-pointers for 19 points, while his blond buddy Herrmann had 13 points. Felton went for 10 points and 10 assists.
On a more somber note, Sean May has revealed he’s shutting it down for the rest of the season. Darn, there goes the playoffs. "The disappointment is we think we should be much better, but because of circumstances we're not,'' Coach Bernie Bickerstaff said afterward about the May injury. Those damned circumstances get you every time. But dry your eyes, coach, we’re hustling hard; we had ten steals. Once Coach Bickerstaff seeks out new life and new civilization next year, you’ll have set up whoever takes over for him with a hardworking team, one that stretched a 5-point halftime lead to 10 by the end of the third quarter, and to 14 at the end of the game. I don’t need a forecasting class to tell me that’s a positive trend.