Dwight Howard had a rough game against the Charlotte Bobcats to kick-start Orlando’s playoff run, even if his defense met his own unusually high standards. Howard finished with just five points and seven rebounds to go along with his nine blocks, in a performance that seems easily attributable to the Bobcats’ stellar team defense. Charlotte has never scored particularly well, but the one thing they’ve been very effective in doing this season is containing and frustrating their opponents.
Even when they weren’t fouling Howard, they used small jabs to annoy him
…”He picked up the one sort of in retaliation,” Magic coach Stan Van
Gundy said. “That’s all they’re trying to do. Their big guys are going
to hit him every chance they get and if he gets one foul retaliating,
they did their job. … He’s just going to have to understand no matter
how many times they hit him, he can’t hit back.”
The Bobcats were certainly successful in getting under Howard’s skin, and Dwight picked up five fouls while trying to impose his will on both ends of the court. Only half of that effort could be deemed a success.
You can’t blame Howard for responding to his frustration with increasingly physical play, as the dark arts employed by less athletic and sizable opponents (read: everyone) in defending/denying Dwight in the post and boxing him out are far more insidious than his own play. It’s not that Howard is innocent; he holds, pulls, pushes, and grabs just like the long line of successful centers before him. That doesn’t mean he’ll be happy about two defenders holding him down though, or being pummeled from all angles when he goes up for a dunk.
From the Bobcats’ perspective, this is exactly what they want. Howard wasn’t frustrated into making too much of a negative impact (he often forces shots or commits turnovers when he feels he’s been wronged), but to hold Dwight to five points in the opening bout is certainly impressive. Charlotte not only showed that they’ll be competitive in this series but that they’re capable of neutralizing (or at least hedging the impact of) Orlando’s post game, which seemed like an unknown heading into the series. Now if they could just figure out Jameer Nelson…