After a series of disappointing games in which the Bobcats all but effectively (or rather, ineffectively) eliminated their playoff chances, the team faced the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. Despite providing a competitive game, the Bobcats fell short of victory, which, coupled with the Indiana Pacers' victory tonight, officially ended their playoff chances.
As the first quarter opened, a relatively even and competitive pace was found between the two teams. Gilbert Arenas, who started the game for the Magic, immediately made an impact, going 3-3 on three-pointers within the first six minutes. Luckily for the Bobcats, Gerald Henderson also came out of the game playing extremely well, knocking down shots smoothly and drawing fouls. Henderson was able to score with general ease throughout the quarter, largely due to his speed coming off of screens and lackluster defense by the Magic. Dwight Howard dominated much of the quarter offensively for the Magic, scoring an easy seven points while being defended by Kwame Brown. The Magic continued to counter the play of Henderson and the Bobcats by shooting open threes, but they soon began losing accuracy from behind the arc near the end of the quarter and found themselves down 28-26 heading into the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Gilbert Arenas and Gerald Henderson continued their dominance offensively. Henderson was able to effectively drive, catch, shoot, and score in a variety of ways (Almost any offensive move was working for him. It was one of those nights for of Henderson.) throughout the quarter, often helped by poor interior defense played by the Magic. Arenas was equally effective for the Magic, though his scoring was largely generated from shots inside the arc during this quarter. The play of Dante Cunningham was key for the Bobcats, as he used mid-range jumpers to widen the Bobcat lead. With 3:38 left in the second quarter, Dwight Howard made a series of costly blunders. After a ten-second call violation (during a free throw attempt), Howard angrily tossed the ball away from the referee, leading him to be charged with his 18th technical (which will result in a one-game suspension for Howard, if not rescinded). The Bobcats used this instance to continue gaining momentum, and the Bobcat lead increased to 12. As the quarter came to a close, the Bobcats' interior defense also struggled, and the Magic and Dwight Howard were able to decrease the Bobcats' lead to a six-point margin.
Bobcats lead 53-47.
The third quarter began with a slowed pace emanating from both teams. Sloppy play was common with many a turnover and missed shot occurring. After a few minutes, however, the level of play picked up to a decent extent, with Brandon Bass making multiple jumpers and Hedo Turkoglu and Boris Diaw trading three-pointers. Gerald Henderson seemed to lose some rhythm (scoring-wise), but he was able to continue to make a positive impact by distributing the ball well, as the focal point of many offensive sets of the Bobcats. Dwight Howard seemed visibly agitated, and missed badly on a couple of mid-range jumpers. (Though he did find inside position at one point and made an intense dunk, as Kwame Brown looked on.) As the quarter ended, Henderson once again found an offensive rhythm, making two consecutive shots. Honestly, only three statements are needed to accurately sum up this quarter:
- Boris Diaw scored 11 points and made three 3PT field goals.
- Gilbert Arenas answered Diaw's shooting with his own prolific shot-making.
- Dwight Howard blocked several Bobcats' shots out-of-bounds in a nonchalant fashion.
- In addition to his terrific performance, Gerald Henderson assisted the referees by counting out Dwight Howard's ten-second free throw violation.
- The Bobcats' crowd was relatively enthused throughout the game, until the Bobcats early overtime woes led to a rapid deflation of crowd excitement.
- The Bobcats next face the Miami Heat on Friday night. The game begins at 7:30 ET, and will be played in Miami.