When you mention the acronym "ESPN" to a sports fan, images of great moments such as Charlie Steiner's infamous on air breakdowns, Ryan Leaf going crazy on that one guy, and John Rocker proclaiming to the world that he had foot in mouth disease come to mind. Yet last night, the world's greatest network came to the world's greatest city to see the NBA.....and it was FANtastic!
The atmosphere was the best that I've seen at a Bobcats game so far. The weather was perfect for the walk up to the arena, the cheerleaders were out and about, and by God it was rally flag night too. I'm not sure what the announced/listed attendance was, but I was not disappointed (For an NBA crowd, it was not as bad as you would think).
Apparently I did not get the memo about the trade earlier in the day, so while I was ecstatic of the possibility of Primoz being called back to the Eastern Block, I was equally frightened that Walter might have caught the bird flu. Nevertheless, I shook both thoughts off as the game began.
The first half was like a dream come true, with most everybody contributing (Although was it just me, or was Wallace getting frustrated out there?). The big thing for me was seeing how Emeka Okafor played against Dwight Howard. It seemed like Okafor was having a good night, as he was getting the shots that he wanted, but that would soon change.
The second half was like a nightmare. I have no clue what happened, but I'm pretty sure that was a different team in the second half. The defense sucked, lazy passes, Okafor had only two shots in the third quarter, etc etc. Somehow I thought we were still in it with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Down about ten, the Magic brought the ball up court. Somehow, someway, the ridiculously overpaid Lewis had about 2,000 feet of space around him and hit a wide open bomber. To me, that was the final blow to what started out as a great game.
The Magic are the real deal, but I really felt like we had could have, and should have, beat them. This team needs to figure out how to close those games. I do not like watching the wheels come off like this.
I read in the paper that Vincent chalked some of the reason for the loss up to the strange day that the players had (Referring to the trades and all day tv coverage). Good teams battle through adversity to become victorious. Mediocre teams make excuses.
I love the wave. To me, it epitomizes the professional sporting event experience. Unfortunately, Rufus Lynx must have been an Olympic track and field superstar in his earlier years, because he was running way too fast for the wave to keep up. It was very awkward, and a little uncomfortable.
For those of you who do not believe in the anti-Duke bias, I hope you were in attendance last night. You gotta love it when a player comes on to the court (A la JJ Redick) and gets horrendously booed by half the crowd, just because he went to a college that the fans do not like.
The weird thing with Emeka is that he seemed to stop WANTING the ball AND position. He stopped being assertive and fighting. I don't know if it is the fact that Howard psyches him out on the defensive end (with cheap foul calls and Howard's difficulty in defending) and it takes his fight down. But there was a possession where we spent 17 seconds deliberately trying to get the ball to Mek who did not fight hard for position. It was a crazy and FRUSTRATING phenomenon to watch. Some people will act like the guards/wings just started ignoring Mek, but Mek was not the bulldog he had been in recent games wanting the ball.
I think Mek has a lot of potential and is a strong talent, but if he is going to demand Howard money, he needs to take the opportunity of playing against Howard on national TV to justify it. He's got to dominate, command double teams, and elevate his individual and the team's play REGARDLESS of who else is down low with him. This has to happen EVERY NIGHT for 4 quarters. Howard's guys have height (Hedo and Lewis), but they are more floor spreaders than helpers down low and there is no big push to "get Dwight help."