Dwight Howard and the Magic (50-29) brought an end to the Bobcats (32-46) slim playoff hopes as they defeated Charlotte 111-102 in an overtime thriller.
This one had the feel of a playoff game throughout as Howard was assessed a technical foul just before halftime when he tossed the ball in the stands after disagreeing with a call by the officials (his 18th of the season and will serve a one game suspension). Quentin Richardson, Gerald Henderson, Kwame Brown and Hedo Turkoglu were all given technicals in the third quarter when Richardson and Henderson got in each other’s faces following Richardson’s hard foul on Henderson. The scuffle pursued with words, finger pointing and then finally Richardson giving a two handed shove to Henderson’s face. Kwame Brown reacted by approaching Richardson before he was picked off by Turkoglu where those two players exchanged words. After the episode has calmed the officials went to the monitor and determined what all had happened. Quentin Richardson was ejected from the game and will now miss the next contest along with Howard. Henderson, Turkoglu and Brown were all given single technical fouls.
After the game Paul Silas said, “I still can’t figure out why Henderson got a technical, he just stood there.”
The scuffle definitely sparked the crowd and the Bobcats team as the remainder of the game felt like a game 7 in the playoffs. Both teams became much more physical down the stretch and Orlando entered all of their starters back into the game. Charlotte trailed 91-96 with only 1:02 left in the game before a crazy finish to regulation with Kwame Brown hitting a baseline jumper and D.J. Augustin hitting a three pointer from the top of the key to tie it with 16.2 seconds left. On the ensuing possession Orlando was inbounding with a chance to win the game before Augustin stole the ball from Jameer Nelson and raced to the other end of the court where he tried to go up and under for a layup on his strong hand but the shot just fell off the front of the rim as time expired and the game headed to overtime where Orlando dominated Charlotte and completed the season sweep on the Bobcats.
“I tried to reverse it to my strong hand,” said Augustin, who also said that he was hit on the play. “It just didn’t roll in.”
Gerald Henderson led the Bobcats last night with a career performance of 32 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Last night Henderson had the breakout game that could prove that he is a vital part of this team moving forward.
Gerald Henderson has as many would like to say, a “man’s game.” Henderson has struggled since entering into the rotation consistently with his outside shot (mainly three point shot) but his willingness and ability to attack the basket and excellent defensive skills are what make him such an attractive asset moving forward for Charlotte. On many occasions last night Henderson attacked the basket and went up strong, even with Dwight Howard in the paint. Henderson has shown that he is not hesitant to attack the basket at any moment against anyone in this league and with the athleticism he possesses this is something that player development representatives will drool over. Bottom line is that Henderson has shown a lot of maturity in a very short period of time and with a much more important role with this team in the future Bobcats fans should be very excited about what Gerald could evolve into.
“I think Gerald is going to get there,” Silas said. “He really works hard, as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s coming.”
The Bobcats now are officially eliminated from playoff contention for this season but this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It was going to be an uphill climb for the team after the trade of Gerald Wallace at the deadline but it has opened the door for younger players to see many more minutes and give them valuable maturing experience moving forward. The team will have two first round draft picks in the upcoming draft this summer with one being a lottery pick and will most likely be about $7 million under the salary cap. The outlook of the team in the future doesn’t look as bad as it has in the past with much more young talent, more draft picks and financially in a position to make a move in at least the 2012 free agent class. Charlotte will most likely have to pick up Boris Diaw’s player option of $9 million at the end of the season so the team may be on the verge of moving Stephen Jackson to completely wipe the slate of expensive veterans and officially be a young, cheap squad preparing for the future.