2. Chris Bosh killed us again. After going for 30 points in a win over the Cats earlier in the season, Bosh bested that with 39 tonight. He started the game on fire, and kept his foot on the gas pedal just enough to fend off the inevitable push by the Bobcats in the fourth quarter.
3. Watching the Bobcats struggle in the two games against Chris Bosh and Toronto this season is required viewing for anyone who wants to understand the long-term dilemma the team is in regarding the personell we’re committed to (particularly Okafor) in the context of Larry Brown’s system. We committed $72 million over 6 years to Okafor this summer – that’s a Committment with a capital C. He’s unmoveable for the next 4-5 years, so we’re absolutely forced to find a way to make it work with him.
One problem is that, over his four-plus years in the league, he has never improved/developed on the offensive end. Now, this was a known issue when Mek came out of college; his biggest knock was that he didn’t seem to have a lot of potential to improve. His main shortcomings (robotic/mechanical movements and a lack of touch) are not ones that are particularly amenable to more training and practice. That said, would it kill him to develop one or two go-to post moves, a reliable 10-12 foot spot up jumper, or even just improve his free throw shooting? His offensive game is so weak and limited that the opponent never really has to worry about who they match up with him.
But the bigger problem is actually that he is a tweener on the defensive end. Not a small forward/power forward tweener (which is the more common use of the term), but a power forward/center tweener. At 6’10” (and I wonder if he’s closer to 6’9″) he struggles to defend against true, skilled centers like Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut and Zyndrunas Ilgauskas. So many have suggested that the Bobcats should acquire a “true” center with a bit more height and low post presence, which would enable Okafor to slide down to the four. Accordingly, trade rumors have connected the Bobcats to Eddy Curry and Chris Kaman.
The problem is, if Okafor started and played more minutes at the four, here’s who he’d be guarding in the Eastern Conference: vs. Orlando, either Rashard Lewis or Hedo Turkoglu; vs. Boston, Kevin Garnett; vs. Atlanta, Josh Smith; vs. Philadelphia, Elton Brand; vs. Detroit, Rasheed Wallace; vs. New Jersey, Yi Jianlian; and vs. Toronto, Mr. Chris Bosh. And that’s just the Eastern Conference off the top of my head. Mismatches, night after night. Guys who would draw Okafor out to 18-20 feet and shoot jumpers on him, drive by him, and prevent him from helping and rebounding around the basket (which are his biggest strenths).
Early in the game, we got a glimpse of what Okafor on Bosh looks like, as Alexis Ajinca started again and matched up with Bargnani. Bosh started off red-hot, hitting his first eight shots in a row to set the tempo for the night.
So doesn’t it seem like the way to go would be involve playing him at the center spot, and then installing an up-tempo system around him? It would take advantage of the skills of Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson (two more guys we’re pretty Committed to), allow Okafor to concentrate on defense and rebounding while minimizing the impact of his poor low-post offensive skills, and likely give us an edge over some of the teams that play with a bigger, more deliberate lineup. But no. We’re also committed to Larry Brown and his system, which has us playing at the slowest pace in the league and needing a low-post threat that we don’t have.
4. Sorry for that longish breakdown – let’s get back to the game. The other guy who beat us tonight was Joey Graham off the bench for the Raps. 17 points (off just 8 FGA), and 6 rebounds in 22 minutes.
5. For the Bobcats, Gerald Wallace did Gerald Wallace things tonight, ending with 23 points (8-20 FG, 7-11 FT) and 8 rebounds. Most of that damage came in the first half, though, as Toronto was able to keep Wallace in check down the stretch.
6. Anyone delusionally hoping for a repeat of Monday night’s performance from Augustin and Felton was surely disappointed. Felton shot 2-10, Augustin 4-7. Neither really ever got it going tonight.
7. Another abysmal night for both Adam Morrison and Matt Carroll. They combined for 2-12 FG (0-6 3PT). Morrison is so much better when he can create a bit for himself with stepbacks and runners. Most nights he’s relegated to shooting spot-up 3s late in the shot clock. Carroll continues to be almost completely useless, and is making the Bobcats look like boneheads for signing him to that contract.
8. By the way, I can’t help but wonder if I’m watching one potential solution to the Bobcats woes right now in the preseason NIT. Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin seems like a prototypical, potential star NBA power forward, in the mold of a Carlos Boozer. He’s quick and athletic enough to guard mobile, perimeter-based NBA 4s, and strong enough to guard the others. His offensive game is likewise well-rounded. If the Bobcats continue on the pace they’re on, they’ll obviously have a chance at getting a high enough lottery pick to nab him (I can dream, right?).
9. Next game: Friday night at the Pacers. Happy Thanksgiving!