Back to life, back to reality for the Bobcats. Charlotte ushered in the new year with a blow-out bloodbath against the Magic that they spectacularly topped two nights later against the Heat.
The Magic loss was a dreary affair, made all the more pitiful with announcer Steve Martin constantly saying things like, “And with that rebound, the Bobcats have a chance to cut the lead down to 13!” (Martin’s ceaseless cheerful optimism in the face of athletic competition genocide is a thing of beauty—if the United States ever does explode after being attacked by a fleet of all-powerful homicidal aliens, I want him as our President.) There were ominous signs early on in the telecast when they showed Dwight Howard warming up and then cut over to Boris Diaw; my immediate thought was of the old Chris Farley/Patrick Swayze “Chippendales” sketch on Saturday Night Live. Sure enough, Howard gracefully executed a series of deft moves, rebounds, blocks, and passes while Diaw (and later Gana Diop) flailed hopelessly away—as did the rest of the team.
Even more frustrating was the fait accompli attitude taken by the team afterward, exemplified by coach Paul Silas in this quote: “You either double him (Howard) or let him kill you. We started off that way and he was killing us. Then we came at him and they started hitting threes. There’s not much we could have done tonight.” The Associated Press wrap-up of the game agreed with Silas and even seemed to take on a sympathetic tone for the Bobcats’ predicament. Sorry, I’m not letting them off that easy. Orlando scored 100 points total, of which 20 came from Howard. Another 36 came from 3-pointers. That means 44 points (or 44% if you want to sound impressive) came from non-Howard/non-3-pointers. Also, there was no Jameer Nelson (out with some sort of typical Jameer Nelson-type injury) breaking us down off the dribble. That means we got served by the likes of Jason Richardson, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu Ryan Anderson, and the immortal JJ Reddick at close range (all 11 of Reddick’s points were inside the arc, by the way), with the unstoppable force that is Chris Duhon running point. It wasn’t just Howard and a bunch of 3-pointers; it was a disgraceful defensive effort.