Charlotte Bobcats vs. Bucks 1/3/09

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1.  After getting beat soundly in Milwaukee last night, the Bobcats returned the favor tonight in CLT, with a 102-92 victory.  AP story here, box score here.  Cats improve to 12-22; Bucks fall to 16-19.

2.  The story of the game was probably that Andrew Bogut sat out with back spasms, leaving Dan Gadzuric and Fransisco Elson to patrol the paint for the Bucks.  Neither did a particularly good job, and the Bobcats exploited the lack of interior defense just enough to tilt the balance in their favor.

3.  Gerald Wallace, in particular, attacked the paint over and over in the second half.  Crash ended up leading the Cats with 24 points (7-17 FG, 9-10 FT), 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists and 1 block.  He had a couple of key plays in the fourth quarter: first was a dunk off a baseline inbounds lob with 7:30 left to pump the lead back up to 16 (86-70).  The easy bucket steadied the Bobcats, who had settled for jump shots on the previous couple of possessions and allowed the Bucks reserves to chip away at the lead.

The other big one came with about 4:30 left.  Villanueva hit a short bank shot to keep the Bucks hanging around (down 16), but was frustrated at not drawing a foul call on the shot (he had a case, from my vantage point).  On the other end, Wallace grabbed an offensive rebound and took it right by Villanueva, who corralled him around the head on the layup attempt (see picture above).  Wallace popped up ready to scrap, but cooler heads prevailed.  A flagrant 1 was called, which further frustrated Villanueva.  Wallace hit both free throws, then drew another shooting foul on Villanueva on the ensuing possession.  Villanueva eventually picked up a technical.  Carroll hit that free throw, then Wallace hit the two from his jump shot.

End result: a 5 point possession that gave the Cats a 21 point lead (98-77) with a little over 4 minutes left.  The Bucks made a meaningless push after that to get to the final tally of 102-92.

4.  Diaw had another strong game: 21 points (8-11 FG, 2-3 3PT), 6 rebounds, 7 assists.  When he plays like this in a win, the trade looks pretty darn good.  He is head and shoulders above what we were putting on the court at the 4 spot.

5.  Okafor had 14 points on 5-8 FG and 4-6 FT.  Only 6 boards tonight.  The Bobcats probably could have pulled away sooner had the pushed the ball into Okafor more in the first half; there was a really satisfying stretch late in the third where the Bucks tried to go small and have Villanueva guard Okafor.  Charlie V tried to front his college teammate, but Okafor worked hard to get open; his teammates found him for 5 quick points in just 2 minutes, and Bucks coach Scott Skiles had to pull the plug on the Villanueva-on-Okafor experiment.

Okafor needs to turn his play back up a couple of notches in the next couple of weeks if he wants to stay on the fringes of the conversation for the backup center spot for the East All-Star team.

6.  Felton quietly had a nice game, with 11 points on 4-8 FG, 6 rebounds, 5 assists (with just 2 TOs) and 2 steals.  Augustin also played well with 12 points on 3-8 FG, 3 rebounds, 5 assists (with no TOs) and 2 steals.

7.  Matt Carroll and Adam Morrison continued their uninspired play, combining for 3-14 shooting.  If I were Larry Brown, I’d be supremely frustrated with both of these guys.  Morrison got regular playing time through about mid-December, and Carroll has received it since then.  But save for Morrison’s first dozen games or so, neither guy has proven worthy of being on the floor.

8.  For the Bucks, Michael Redd started off the game hot again, but wasn’t able to sustain it as he had done on Friday night.  Richard Jefferson offered his usual solid game (19 points) but it was quiet, and didn’t have much bearing on the final outcome.

9.  The Cats have a couple days off, then a big one on Tuesday night at the Cable Box, hosting the World Champion Celtics for the second time this season.  The Cats always seem to play the Cs tough, so let’s hope for a big win.

-E

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