Score: 92-80 Magic
Bobcats Record: 22-33
Meritorious Player: Dwight Howard – without his 7 turnovers, it would have been much uglier for the Cats. Ok – Emeka, I guess gets it. 13 points on 9 attempts (but only 1 of 5 on free throws), 11 rebounds, 3 blocks…but again limited by foul trouble.
As Larry Brown focused on in the post game press conference, ball movement was lacking. Only 14 assists on the night, compared to 30 field goals made. For a team that is generally around a 60% ratio (or better), 46.7% is very low. How low? Well, not the worst of the season, only 6th – but it was the lowest since Boris and Raja joined the team in December (the next lowest since they came on board – earlier this week against this same Magic squad, when the Bobcats managed to assist on only 47.7% of their makes). The biggest surprise to me: Boris with only 2. That is his 3rd lowest mark since coming to the Queen City and in the two games where he had only 1, he played fewer minutes than the nearly 38 of last night.
Defensively, the Bobcats were significantly better last night than on Tuesday, with the largest improvement being around Dwight Howard – from 45 points to 13. The Bobcats reduced the Magic's free throw attempts from 37 to 24, while forcing one more turnover, rising to 16 from 15. With Dwight not dominating in the post, the Magic moved to the three point line, putting up 34 threes, making 11. Inside the arc, they were more efficient, going 20 of 39 as only 3 of their players shot below 50% on twos – Rashard Lewis, 1-5; Rafer Alston, 1-6; J.J. Redick, 0-2.
The other thing the Bobcats did well: Rebound. Charlotte won the battle of the boards 45-42, with a 15-9 advantage offensively (and yes, the Bobcats also out-rebounded the Magic on Tuesday, by the same margin of 3). After Emeka's routine 11, the next two on the leader list for the Bobcats were somewhat unexpected: Boris with 8 and Vlad with 7. For both, it can be taken as a number to appreciate they contributed in unusual ways given their normal stats suffered (Boris with the low assist total, Vlad with a poor shooting night – 1-7 from the field).
The loss was not how the Bobcats wanted to leave Charlotte on their way to the west coast, but too late for spilled milk. D.J. and Ray need to get back to a better balance in hunting their own offense with creation on the trip, Gerald needs to provide a more consistent offensive boost, and Boris needs to get back to his stat sheet stuffer ways…or this road trip will end the Bobcats faint hopes of playoff contention.