As quickly as the Charlotte Bobcats entered their first playoff series in franchise history, they found themselves on the outside looking in.
After a 99-90 loss on Monday night in Charlotte, the Bobcats became the first team knocked out of the playoffs and solidified their place as the only playoff team to fail to win a game.
The Bobcats are the eighth team that head coach Larry Brown has guided to the playoffs, but they are his first team to exit via first round sweep since the 1981-82 New Jersey Nets lost two games to none to the Washington Bullets.
There is a laundry list of reasons explaining why the Orlando Magic were able to dominate and make relatively light work of the Bobcats, but their three point shooting stands at the top of it. The Bobcats, although they were the top overall defensive team in the league during the regular season, aren't well-known for their perimeter defense. The Magic exploited that weakness and then some, averaging over 11 three-pointers per game.
The Magic averaged about 10 three point field goals per game during the regular season, so the 11 per game average comes as no surprise, but the way they were able to create wide open looks on so many of their attempts was obviously frustrating to both Brown and the Bobcats' fans.
The Bobcats were able to keep Dwight Howard relatively in check on the offensive side of the ball, holding him to 9.8 points per game, well under his season average of 18.3 points per game. They were also able to keep him sidelined a good deal, although they weren't able to capitalize much on his absence.
In three out of the four games the Bobcats got off to sluggish starts, allowing the Magic to jump ahead and forcing them to try to come from behind whilst not being much of a force from behind the arc.
Scoring droughts and a glaring inability to capitalize on the Magic's mistakes played a huge role in the Bobcats' early exit from their first visit to the playoffs, but a more crushing blow to the team may come in the next couple of weeks.
Rumors that the nomadic Brown will be on the move once again, this time in a potential return to Philadelphia, have been swirling for much of the second half of the season. According to league sources, the move is now imminent, with one source going as far as to say that the Bobcats are acting and preparing as though "they'll be looking for a new coach."
Brown is reportedly aiming to take the 76ers presidency, which could harbor some truth in his repeated statement that he "won't coach for anybody but Michael Jordan." It's no secret that Brown wouldn't mind being back in Philadelphia, where his wife and daughter both reside.
Jordan is unlikely to force an unhappy Brown to honor the last year of his current contract with the Bobcats, and the Bobcats have reportedly started forming a list of candidates in the event that Brown does, in fact, leave for Philadelphia.
The loss of Brown would quickly shed light on the true talent of the Bobcats' team as a whole without the leadership of a hall-of-fame head coach at the helm, barring a high profile hire to replace him.
While there will be questions aplenty surrounding the Bobcats' organization in the offseason, there is no question that the 2009-10 season was largely successful. The emergence of Jordan as majority owner will no doubt improve their visibility to free agent players, and the core of the team will likely remain the same next year. Point guard Raymond Felton will become an unrestricted free agent, but initial indications point to his return to Charlotte.
It is important that the franchise use their first playoff experience as a launching pad to annual contention in the eastern conference and not as a brief stint of success in a period of growing pains.
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