Charlotte Bobcats vs Magic, Game 3, 4/24/10
Playoff basketball returned to Charlotte on Saturday, but the inspired Bobcats still couldn’t quite get over the hump and fell to the Orlando Magic 90-86. Jameer Nelson continued his domination of the Bobcats with another 32 point effort.
Game 3 is usually the lower-seeded team’s best chance to steal a game in round one of the NBA Playoffs (e.g. the Bulls and Thunder earlier this week) and this was no exception. A fired-up, sellout crowd donned giveaway Jordan Brand Bobcats t-shirts and waved towels for a “whiteout” that drove the Cats to an improved performance relative to Games 1 and 2 in Orlando.
The Cats got off to a decent start per the scoreboard, trailing the Magic just 29-27 after the first quarter. But if you look back on it, that first quarter can really serve as a microcosm for the whole game.
- Dwight Howard got into early foul trouble (2 in the first quarter) and had only moderate effect on the game early; things stayed that way the rest of the way and Howard eventually fouled out with 3:31 left in the fourth after having only played 26 minutes.
- Jameer Nelson picked up the slack with 19 first quarter points, including four threes and a four-point play to close the quarter as he continued to outplay Raymond Felton. This trend would also continue through the rest of the game, as Nelson would finish with 32 points (12-21 FG, 5-9 3PT), 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists — and had a big bucket down the stretch to fend off the Cats.
- The Cats and the crowd fed off each other in the first, fueling an 8-0 run that had the Cats up by four late in the quarter. This would happen a couple more times in the game: a 9-2 second quarter run had the Cats up 41-33 briefly and a longer 19-9 stretch spanning the third and fourth quarter had the Cats up 77-73 halfway through the final period.
- But just as the Magic ended the first quarter strongly to take the lead (the aforementioned four-point play by Nelson), they ended the game with a show of experience and dominance as well. After the Felton three-point play that fouled Howard out with 3:31 left put the Cats up 80-79, the Magic outscored the Cats 11-6 by hitting clutch shots and getting to the free throw line.
The Cats had a chance, though. Down one with 31 seconds left, Larry Brown used a full timeout, then added another 20-second timeout to draw up what must have been the world’s most complicated basketball play. It worked, too.
Early in the set Stephen Jackson popped off a screen at the three-point line and had a wide open look. Some will criticize the fact that the first option on the play was a look at a three-pointer when the Cats were down just one with 30 seconds left, but let them criticize.
This is one of the best basketball minds in the world, a master at drawing up plays in timeouts we’re talking about, teamed up with Stephen Jackson, Mr. “I Make Love To Pressure”. A three probably would have won the game.
Unfortunately, Jack did not come through. The shot was short, Orlando grabbed the rebound, the game, and any remaining hope that the Bobcats could make this a series.
- Lack of bench production has plagued the Cats in every game thus far. In Game 1, only Tyson Chandler was helpful off the bench. In Game 2, Nazr Mohammed was alone in contributing off the bench. In Game 3, it was Larry Hughes who played well, with 14 points (5-6 FG, 2-3 3PT, 2-2 FT) and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes. The lack of signficant contributions from DJ Augustin and Tyrus Thomas continues to hurt.
- A couple of my in-game Tweets: “I think D Howard might bitch to refs more than Stephen Jackson. Impressive feat.” and “I’d be stunned if Ty Chandler didn’t lead the league if offensive fouls due to bad screens. Another here early in 4th”
- Raymond Felton. How can I say this diplomatically? Let’s just say his agent won’t be using video of this series in his contract negotiations this summer. And the Bobcats need to keep it in mind when Miami or New York makes an offer that the Bobcats consider matching.
- Lots of celebs at the game: Jordan was there, obviously. Commissioner David Stern observed the proceedings. Legends Robert Parish, David Thompson, and Muggsy Bogues were in attendance, as was coach Tubby Smith. And lest we forget, Bobcats minority owner Nelly sat courtside.
- Game 4 is Monday night at 8 PM ET at the Cable Box. I would expect some golfers courtside with the Quail Hollow starting up next week. Maybe even this famous Magic fan and friend of MJ?