Magic/Bobcats Game 1 Recap
In pursuit of Greatness.
by Nada Taha Moslehy
A picture of the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy hangs on the inside of every player’s locker in the Magic’s locker room.
For Jameer Nelson, even if he won’t say it, it’s written all over his face. He knows he hindered the Magic in the Finals last year. He knows the fans blame him somewhat for losing to the Lakers on their home court.
And he knew what he needed to do to redeem himself.
With 32 points, 6 assists, and going 10-18 from the field, Nelson led his team to a 98-89 Game 1 victory against the Charlotte Bobcats.
What’s more is he did it while the Magic’s big man, Dwight Howard, was ice cold in the stat sheet. With only 5 points and 4 field goals attempted, Superman looked as though he was humiliated by the Bobcats’ Nazr Mohammed and Tyson Chandler (which obviously wasn’t the case).
But what’s on paper doesn’t tell the whole story. He may not have had a triple-double (was no where near it, really) but he still managed to break a record (team record for blocks in a quarter with 6 and blocks in a half with 8).
“It’s not all about Dwight scoring the ball offensively. He’s running the floor and I’m pushing,” Nelson said. “He gets guys open without even touching the ball.”
Without a big night from Howard, the Magic had to use another weapon in their vast artillery.
They looked to Rashard “Sweet Lou” Lewis, who had been disappointing fans and spurring up the “$118 million wasted” whines throughout the regular season. They also looked to their deep bench and pulled 14 and 10-point games from Mickael Pietrus and JJ Redick respectively.
The Magic started off the game with a confidence and hype that Dwight said kept him awake Saturday night texting teammate Vince Carter. That intensity led the Magic to an early lead and kept the crowd in the O-Rena (Amway Arena) going completely out of their mind.
On the other end of the court, the Bobcats were tepid.
“We were a little nervous starting off the game, and they knew it,” Gerald Wallace said. “They took advantage of it. They came out and punched us in the mouth, they made shots and we didn’t. They built themselves a lead at home, and left us trying to find our way back.”
Wallace said it was like the first day of school.
Except to me it looked like the Bobcats were worried about their scrap in the playground at recess while the Magic looked ready to collect their lunch money.
The Bobcats shook their nerves and came back after the half with a little more fight in them. While Dwight was battling foul trouble, Charlotte was chipping away at the 10 or 20-point lead the Magic held.
But every time it seemed the Magic were loosing their swagger, it rained another three from above. Nelson, Redick, Pietrus and Lewis were collectively 43.3 percent from beyond the arc, quelling any worries that Magic were somehow going to get upset in Game 1 of the Playoffs.
But it wasn’t a blowout and the Bobcats, even Stephen Jackson who came back to play after hyper-extending his knee, gave the Magic a tough time out on the court – at least in the second half. Wallace dropped 25 points, and Raymond Felton (19 points) and Capt. Jack (18) followed his lead. Everyone else on the Bobcats’ roster was pretty much non-existent.
Going into Game 2, the Magic can happily celebrate the fact that they can beat their first round opponent without large numbers from Dwight and a shoddy 4-19 from Vince Carter, while the Bobcats can gather confidence knowing they can rally back and since it won’t be the first day of school anymore, their nerves should be subdued.
The best part of this series, however, isn’t playing on the court. It’s sitting courtside in its expensive blazer and hoop earring that probably costs more than my car, house and life combined. The best part of this series is the fact that basketball’s great Michael Jordan is walking the halls and is arm’s reach.
The really best part is I didn’t punk out when MJ was two feet away and actually shook his hand and introduced myself. Not that he’ll ever remember me, but I’m never washing my hands in hopes that I all of a sudden gained dunking powers as a 5-4 female.
And yes, I am serious. My right hand has not been washed. And no, I still can not dunk.