So if somebody told you Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard didn't score a single basket and played less than eight minutes of the second half, you'd like the Charlotte Bobcats' chances, right?
So would Gerald Wallace. The Bobcats forward felt his team blew a tremendous opportunity at home in a 90-85 loss Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Howard, arguably the best center in the NBA, fouled out with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left and his team up seven. But the Bobcats never exploited that foul trouble and let Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu score 15 of his 20 points in the final period.
“This game – with Dwight Howard in all that foul trouble – we easily could have made that a 15- or 20-point game,” Wallace (19 points, nine rebounds) said.
To do that, they would have had to play far less scatter-brained than they did. As Wallace admitted, “At one point, we just didn't know what we were doing. And that was the third quarter, not the first quarter.”
They should have been driving, to exploit the absence of a shot blocker at the other end. They should have been posting up their big men, but starting center Emeka Okafor took just five shots.
That was aggravating to their coach, Larry Brown, who said flat-out, “That was athletes against a team not quite as athletic. … I don't think we're athletic enough.”
“When they made their run, they were making all their layups,” Brown said of the Magic's 54 percent second half. “When we drive, we don't get a lot of them to the rim. That's (like) the first pass to a fast break” at the other end.
Brown then added, “We have a hard time posting the ball, so people aren't doubling us (which would free up the jump shooters). Emeka's got to spend time in the post, where he's a factor.”
Certainly Turkoglu – the NBA's most improved player last season – was a factor. No matter who the Bobcats assigned to guard him (Matt Carroll, Adam Morrison and Jared Dudley each took a turn in the fourth quarter), Turkoglu scored.
He shot 5-of-10 in the final period and took six trips to the foul line, making five. The Magic simply isolated him above the foul line on whomever was defending, and the results were nearly automatic.
“He's a legit 6-9 or 6-10, and he's such a threat to shoot a 3,” Morrison said. “And he's big at 230 (pounds). That's tough to play.”