At what point did he start trying to look like Hitler?
The Orlando Magic: Well, now. After a 4-0 Western Conference road trip that saw them beat the division-leading Lakers, Nuggets and Spurs, the Magic returned home and lost to the Celtics in a game that the Leprechauns controlled from beginning to end. The Magic -- who normally score 101.8 PPG and currently rank fifth in offensive efficiency -- scored only 80 points on 38 percent shooting. They also bricked 15 of their 22 three-point attempts and finished with more turnovers (14) than assists (11). They also missed eight free throws during a game in which every point was a dear and precious thing. (And, oddly, Dwight Howard accounted for only one of those clanks.)
Mind you, Boston's offensive numbers weren't great: 90 points on 46 percent shooting, 0-for-6 on threes, only 9 assists to 11 turnovers. But they cracked down on defense, won the rebounding battle (40-36) and played determined, focused basketball...and Orlando did not.
Stan Van Gundy, blame-taking machine: The Magic clearly had no idea whatsoever how to attack the Celtics' steel curtain defense. And Stan Van Gundy blamed himself. I'm tempted to agree, since it was mentioned before the game that he planned to coach it like it was any other game (since, he reasoned, it was still worth only one win...or one loss). Good call, huh? Said Stan the Man: "I'm pretty big on holding players accountable. On this one, it's me. I've got to find a way for us to get some ball movement and freedom of movement where we can get some shots. So I'm frustrated in myself." Way to take the bullet for your team, Stan. It's gracious of you. But the entire blame can hardly be placed on your porky shoulders. No, I would be remiss not to mention...
Dwight Howard: Superman, huh? Not last night, he wasn't. More like Failman or Can'tstopGlenDavisman (more on that in a second). Shortly after it was announced that Howard was the first player in league history to receive three million All-Star Game votes, he went out and gave the Magic a Jeff Foster-like performance: 11 points (4-for-10), 11 rebounds, 4 turnovers and 6 fouls. Worse was that Doc Rivers made a major adjustment, subbing in Big Baby for Kendrick Perkins to try and pull Howard out of the paint. Not only did it work, but Baby repeatedly burned Dwight with jumpers and finished with a season-high 16 points (6-for-8 from the field, 4-for-4 from the line). Even crazier was that Davis clearly bothered Howard on the defensive end, muscling Dwight off his spots and forcing him into some bad shots.
Long story short: Dwight Howard -- the league's most popular All-Star and a man who was being touted as an MVP candidate before the game -- was thoroughly outplayed by Glen Davis. And you know what that means, right?
You know things have gotten out of
hand in a Lakers game when...
The Washington Generals: Look, there's no way to sugarcoat this, so I'm not even going to try. The Generals suffered a 20-point blowout that couldn't have felt any more hopeless if they'd lost by 100. They had no chance whatsoever...which wasn't surprising. They're a nine-win team! The Lakers haven't even lost nine games yet. This was the kind of game that makes me want to turn off all the lights, crank up some Evanescence and sink into a black and inescapable depression. Quick quiz: Best music for a morbid depression -- Evanescence or Journey? Discuss.
Speaking of being depressed, here's what Generals coach Ed Tapscott had to say after his team's brutalization: "They broke us down and beat us up. They play the game at a very high level and they sustain that level. We had some decent moments, but we had far too many bad moments tonight." Just substitute "tonight" with "all season" and you'll be fixed right up, Ed.
All-Star Voting: Where to start? How about Allen Iverson starting in the East. Or the fact that Kevin Garnett barely beat out Yi Jianlian for a starting spot by 253,004 votes. Or that Bruce Bowen -- a man who's not even starting for his own team!! -- Bowen — came 68,031 short of knocking Amare Stoudemire out of the West's starting lineup...despite STAT's hilarious (if somewhat self-aggrandizing) Vote 4 Amare campaign. I guess what I'm saying is: Can we all admit that there's something wrong with the process?
The Big Cranky: Sometimes I wish he'd just shut up. Here's a dose of what he had to say recently about Dwight Howard: "He's a good player, but everything he's done I've invented, so I'm not impressed. For me to get my eyes wide open about another big man, he'll have to do something that I haven't seen before or something that I haven't invented. Everything that he's done, I've invented it." I dunno, Shaq. Last time I checked, Dwight tends to show up for most of his team's games, including back-to-backs...
Retirement: I'd like to say a special goodbye to Alonzo Mourning, a special player and a true warrior. Sure, he rubbed people the wrong way now and then, like the time he refused to report to Toronto when the Nets traded him to the Raptors, or the many times he flexed and screamed in somebody's face after blocking their shot. But he was as passionate and dedicated to his teams (except the Raptors) as any player I've ever seen. He very much deserves to be the first Miami Heat player to have his jersey retired by the organization.
Dallas Academy: Basketbawful reader William F. sent me an article about Dallas Academy, a tiny school whose girls basketball team recently lost a game 100-0. Yes, you read that correctly: 100 points to no points. It was a beating so savage and brutal that the opposing team, the Covenant School, is suffering a case of "blowout remorse" and therefore is seeking to forfeit the game.
And frankly, they SHOULD feel bad. According to the article, Covenant -- a private Christian school -- was employing a full-court press and jacking up three-pointers in the fourth quarter even though their opponents hadn't, you know, scored a point. And here are some quick facts about the victims: "Dallas Academy has eight girls on its varsity team and about 20 girls in its high school. It is winless over the last four seasons. The academy boasts of its small class sizes and specializes in teaching students struggling with 'learning differences,' such as short attention spans or dyslexia."
That's right. The Christians were beating up on hapless, learning impaired opponents. I thought they'd be against such a metaphoric feeding to the lions. Jesus does not approve. And they know it. In the statement on the Covenant Web site, Queal said the game "does not reflect a Christ-like and honorable approach to competition. We humbly apologize for our actions and seek the forgiveness of Dallas Academy, TAPPS and our community."