Game 1 of this playoff series established several things, but none more than this: The Charlotte Bobcats have no business in a 3-point shooting contest with the Orlando Magic.
You know how Bobcats coach Larry Brown says he "hates" the 3-point shot? He must detest it even more after this one. The Magic outscored his team 39-9 off 3s, which was just enough to preserve a 98-89 victory in this best-of-7 opener.
The Magic spread the floor magnificently, balancing All-Star center Dwight Howard's presence in the middle with four long-range shooters. Orlando made 13-of-30 from the arc, a tumble-down effect of the attention the Bobcats paid to Howard (five points and seven rebounds, but also nine blocks).
"We got in so close on him (defensively) that we didn't handle anything else," Brown said. "He doesn't have to score. He intimidates. He blocks shots.
"He got five points and he was the most valuable player."
Brown's statement is understandable, but Howard had plenty of aid. Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson was exceptional with 32 points and six assists, making 4-of-8 from 3-point range. Nelson continuously broke down Bobcats counterpart Raymond Felton in the first half, creating separation on his jump shot or advantage off his drives.
"They weren't helping at all off of Dwight in the first quarter," Nelson said. "Left me wide open."
Two Magic reserves, Mickael Pietrus and former Duke star J.J. Redick, shot a combined 6-of-10 from 3-point range, each making one in the last seven minutes to hold off a Bobcats rally.
It was very much a rally, with the Bobcats cutting a 22-point deficit to four in the last four minutes. They did that for the most part without leading scorer Stephen Jackson (18 points and nine rebounds), who suffered a hyper-extended left knee late in the first half.
Jackson started the second half, but left the game for good with just over nine minutes to go.
"He's mad at me, but I just didn't feel right about playing with him limping around," Brown said. "He's a warrior, he wanted to play, but hopefully in this series some more (than the minimum four) games will be played and we'll get a chance to rest him."
The Bobcats got back in the game with fine defense (30 percent shooting by the Magic in the second half) and a spectacular performance by Gerald Wallace. He finished with 25 points and 17 rebounds in what was effectively his first true playoff appearance. (Wallace was on three playoff teams in Sacramento but was essentially a spectator.)
"Just settling down - I think we were a little over-excited," Wallace said of recovery from a bad start. "They knew we were nervous, knew we were back on our heels, and took it to us."