Bobcats Drop Second In A Row To Knicks

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The Bobcats lose again to the streaking Knicks, 99-95.  The Cats played terribly for 40 minutes, but made a furious run midway through the fourth quarter.  They were able to cut the lead to one point two different times late in the game, but couldn’t break through.  The Cats fall to 5-10 on the season.

AP Recap |  Box Score

Observations

  • In an effort to match up with Amar’e Stoudemire and the D’Antoni-ball Knicks, Tyrus Thomas got the start over Nazr Mohammed, who pulled a DNP-CD.  Thomas played well and led the way for the Cats with 26 points and 11 rebounds — but that was about the only bright spot for the home team.
  • Raymond Felton made a nice return to Charlotte for himself, contributing 23 points and 13 assists to help push the Knicks to their fifth straight win.  But please don’t overinterpret the results of these two games; Raymond is still Raymond.  He shot marginally and a lot (9-18 FG) to get those 23 points and had 6 turnovers to go along with those assists.  And the Bobcats would be deep in salary cap hell had they paid for him in the offseason.
  • Amar’e had 20 points on 15 shots, but surprisingly was a beast tonight on the defensive end with 6 blocks.  Of course it helps that the Bobcats collectively (save Tyrus Thomas) go to the rack with perhaps the weakest crap in the league.  Even the once-explosive Gerald Wallace recently seems reduced to picking up offensive fouls or getting his shots blocked (or even back-rimming dunks, as he did on Tuesday night).
  • Speaking of Gerald, is dude hurt?  Just 8 points/8 rebounds in 40 minutes tonight, and has not looked like himself for several games.  At the very least, he’s in some kind of funk.
  • And if Gerald is in a funk, then we need Stephen Jackson to pick up the slack to even have a chance. However, Jack shot poorly tonight (7-20 FG) and poured in 5 turnovers.  Triple-double against the Suns aside, Jack appears a step or three slow this year.  It takes him an eternity to wind up his long jumpers, ensuring a strong close-out from the nearest defender.  And if he gets his man in the air on an up-fake on the perimeter, his move to go around happens in almost-slow-motion.
  • Sorry for the pessimism, Baseliners, but things aren’t looking good right now.  The 2009-10 Bobcats would have won this game, but this year’s edition doesn’t play with the same chemistry or defensive intensity.  Next chance to right the ship is on Friday night at home against the equally disappointing Houston Rockets.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Nip Timberwolves For First Home Victory

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Stephen Jackson via AP/Chuck Burton

It wasn’t pretty, but the Bobcats finally notched their first home victory on Monday night over the Minnesota Timberwolves, 113-110.  The Cats were in control with an 8 point lead late in the third quarter before stagnating and falling behind by as many as 9 halfway through the fourth.

But the Cats finished the game on an 11-3 run to rally for the win.  The deciding stretch started with just under two minutes left with clutch threes from Stephen Jackson and DJ Augustin, continued with ratcheted-up defensive intensity and huge steals by Jack and Tyrus Thomas, and ended with some Gerald Wallace free throws.

AP Recap |  Box Score

Observations

  • The quick rundown above doesn’t quite give that wild finish quite enough justice.  It was borderline frenetic; the Bobcats looked right at home, while the young Timberwolves looked seriously rattled.  And after Gerald Wallace committed a silly foul, Wes Johnson had a chance to tie the game with two free throws with 3 seconds left.  He missed both.
  • Prior to the last couple of minutes, the Bobcats hadn’t played much defense, which is a big change compared to how they played at home last year.  Michael Beasley almost singlehandedly kept the T-Wolves in the game with 28 points.
  • Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson led the way for the Cats with 26 points each.  Gerald lived at the free throw line (17-19 FT, a team record for made free throws), while Jack did his damage from behind the three point line (5-6 3PT).
  • DJ Augustin had a really nice game with 9 points and 11 assists/1 turnover.  He had a huge breakaway layup after Jack’s steal during the game-winning rally that should have been an and-1.
  • Tyrus Thomas had 20 points/10 rebounds off the bench, but was the latest Bobcat to catch the turnover bug with 7!
  • You know how they film various players and coaches reading the “Fan Code of Conduct” disclaimer, then edit it altogether and show it on the video board?  Guess whose clip they use for the part about “not disrupting the game or using foul language”?  Yep, Stephen Jackson.  Touche, Bobcats video intern, touche.  In related news, Jack picked up another tech tonight.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Hang On To Beat Raptors

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Gerald Wallace via Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

The Bobcats eked out their second victory of the season on Wednesday night in Toronto, defeating the Raptors 101-96. Gerald Wallace had a fantasy-owner’s dream game with 19 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals, while Tyrus Thomas and Stephen Jackson owned the deciding fourth quarter.

And while I shouldn’t minimize any road victory for a team that struggled to win double-digit road games all of last season, I just can’t get too excited about this one.  The Raps are a toothless team that plays no defense (Cats shot 50% tonight and got to the line 33 times) and announces Jarrett Jack as the fifth starter in its pregame introductions.  Furthermore, they were without one of their better players, Leandro Barbosa, who sat out with an injury.  And the Cats barely managed the W.

AP Recap |  Box Score

Observations

  • DJ Augustin had a nice game with 16 points (3-5 3pt), 3 steals and 7 assists/1 turnover.  Gerald Henderson had 10 points off the bench.
  • Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw are turnover machines.  I’ve beat around the bush in the past, passive-aggressively noting their turnover numbers several times in game recaps (4 and 6 tonight, respectively).  But let’s be direct: these guys force way too many bad passes.  You can excuse it by saying that they’re expected to be playmakers in this offense, and that they occasionally do produce easy buckets for their teammates.  And you’d be right — Jack in particular had a great assist to Ty in crunchtime to help seal the win.  But if you’re looking for some specific issues that Cats could shore up in order to dig out from their poor start this season, look no further than Boris and Jack’s “wishful thinking” types of passes.
  • Matt Carroll!  Matt Carroll! To all the Matt Carroll fanboys who somehow survived Carroll’s stint in Dallas, and still roam the Cable Box now free to again yell “Matt Carroll!… Matt Carroll!… Matt Carroll!” whenever the Bobcats need a bucket:  I give you… Matt Carroll!  In his first action of the season, Carroll got 4 minutes of burn in the second quarter and hit his only field goal attempt.
  • Box Score issues.  What was up with the online box scores for this game?  ESPN.com’s was so buggy, they eventually just took in offline at some point during the game.  And Yahoo’s froze sometime during the second half.

-Dr. E

be sure to follow Dr. E, ASChin and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter

Turnovers, Pistons Conspire To Vanquish Bobcats

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One of the 22 turnovers, courtesy AP/Duane Burleson

The Charlotte Bobcats fell on the road to the Pistons, 97-90, on Friday night to drop to 1-4.  Only a few games into the season and it seems like we’re already beating a dead horse: turnovers.  The Bobcats had 22 of them (compared to the Pistons 12) which completely negated their 55% to 43% shooting advantage.

AP Recap |  Box Score

Observations

  • The Cats got off to another slow start in this one, playing soft D and allowing the Pistons to build a 41-19 lead just a few minutes into the second quarter.  Nazr Mohammed continues to underwhelm, and was benched for the second half in favor of a small lineup.
  • Another concerning stat: the usually aggressive Bobcats only got to the line 11 times; while the Pistons earned 27 free throws (and made all but one).
  • The Cats comeback in the second half was OK.  Derrick Brown and DJ Augustin both played pretty well; each hit a couple of big threes to keep the Cats hanging around.
  • And Stephen Jackson had his best game of the season, pouring in 28 points on 12-19 FG/4-8 3PT.  But he also had a team-high 6 turnovers.
  • To hammer home the turnover issue a little further, the league average looks to be around 15 per game.  At the beginning of the night, the Kings lead the league in fewest turnovers per game at 11.8 per; the Timberwolves give up the most at 20 per.  The Bobcats are the second worst at 18.3 per game; obviously that number will creep a bit higher after tonite’s 22.

-Dr. E

be sure to follow Dr. E, ASChin and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter

Bobcats Weekend Preview and… James Johnson?

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With an away-home back-to-back in Detroit tonight and hosting Orlando Saturday night, it was already shaping up to be a busy weekend for the 1-3 Bobcats.  Now we can add a trade rumor to the mix.

Friday Night at Detroit

The Cats are in Detroit tonight looking to build on their first win of the season against the Pistons, who are making a nice case for being the worst team in the league.  The Pistons have been in all of their games except the loss to the Celtics, but are nonetheless winless at 0-5.

What’s worse is that the two biggest Pistons stories of the season are finger-pointing between players and coach over a lack of leadership and Charlie Villanueva’s tattling on Kevin Garnett’s over-the-line trash talk.

The latest scuttlebutt is that in Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks, coach John Kuester benched Rodney Stuckey.  Head over to Detroit Bad Boys for the latest on the Piston’s struggles.

Gametime is 7:30 PM ET and the game will be televised on SportSouth (in HD for Time Warner customers on channel 1510! — a quick check last night showed that 1510 had been added to my channel lineup!).

Saturday night vs Orlando

From one extreme to the other.  The Magic are 2-1, having only played three games because their Tuesday night tilt with the Knicks was postponed due to asbestos in the Garden (weird to type that), but are clearly one of the most dominant teams in the league.  Their loss was an ugly one to the Heat, but their two wins were both absolute throttlings of the Wizards and T-Wolves, by 29 and 42 points, respectively.

The Cats will be looking for a small measure of revenge after getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs last spring, but look no better equipped to combat Dwight Howard and company now than they were then.

Gametime is 7:00 PM ET at the Cable Box.

James Johnson

When Michael Jordan asserted in a recent interview that the “roster churn” was most likely over, we at Bobcats Baseline were skeptical.  The shaky 1-3 start has only reinforced that.

One of the main problems has been mediocre play from Nazr Mohammed (ahem), and a lack of depth behind him.  But with Kwame Brown and Dominic McGuire getting ready to return from injury, I figured Larry Brown and company would at least give those guys a run before making a move.

So I was a little surprised to wake up this morning and see the Bobcats once again leading off Hoopshype.com’s Rumors page.  Via Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Bobcats and Bulls have been talking about James Johnson.

Johnson is a big, tough 6’9″ 250 lb forward in his second year in the league.  He was drafted 16th overall by the Bulls in the 2009 draft out of Wake Forest and averaged almost 12 minutes per game last year.  He was decent as a rookie, but was looked at as somewhat expendable in the offseason after the Bulls acquisition of Carlos Boozer.

But with Boozer’s preseason boxer’s fracture putting him out for the first several weeks of the season, and Johnson coming into camp in fantastic condition, his future in Chicago was temporarily looking a little brighter.  Johnson’s 2011-12 option was recently picked up by the Bulls after a good preseason, and he had a nice 19 minute/8 point/9 rebound/4 assist/3 block/2 steal/+24 PER night against the Pistons last week.

But with Taj Gibson playing pretty well, Boozer’s return around the corner, and new Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau looking to make his mark on the team and take them deep into the playoffs, Johnson is apparently available again.

What would Larry Brown and the Bobcats be seeing in Johnson?  Probably George Lynch, or Dominic McGuire with a higher ceiling.  Here’s an excellent breakdown of Johnson’s game from Bulls Confidential.

A better question is: what would the Bulls be looking for in return?  They need upgrades at SG and backup PG, but I can’t see the Bobcats being able to accommodate that.  Any ideas, Baseliners?

-Dr. E

be sure to follow Dr. E, ASChin and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter


Bobcats Turn Home Opener Over To Pacers

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AP/Chuck Burton

The Charlotte Bobcats dropped their home opener 104-101 to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.  The Cats led most of the game, and by 5 with 3:18 left, but crumbled after that.  Both DJ Augustin and Stephen Jackson got decent looks at potentially game-tying 3s on the last possession, but neither found the mark.

AP Recap |  Box Score

There were multiple problems down the stretch.  The Cats had several fourth-quarter turnovers.  With 3 minutes left, Gana Diop got stuck on Danny Granger after a screen; Granger nailed a 3 (his sixth of the game) and goaded Diop into a soft foul for a 4 point play.  DJ Augustin couldn’t contain TJ Ford on the pick-and-roll.  Gerald Wallace missed two free throws.  And Tyler Hansbrough, of all people, scored the last four clutch points for the Pacers.

This is the kind of game that the Bobcats won last year.  At home, against a team of the Pacers caliber, they would have put the hammer down in the fourth quarter — instead they gave up 31 points in the last 12 minutes (not to mention 104 overall).  At the very least, last year’s Bobcats would have made a big play or two in cruchtime to eke out the win.

But this year’s edition of the Bobcats is not as tough defensively with DJ on the court, and isn’t getting the decent play from the center platoon that it did last year.  Those issues aren’t surprising; but one thing we hadn’t predicted was Stephen Jackson’s slow start.

Following his lackluster performance Wednesday night against the Mavs, Jack got into early foul trouble against the Pacers, limiting his first half minutes.  In the second half, he still couldn’t really get anything going.  Jack finished with just 10 points on 4-13 FG (0-3 3pt), though he did add 6 rebounds and 6 assists.  It’s not clear what the problem is, if there’s a problem at all.

Maybe it’s the ankle he tweaked earlier this week in practice.  Maybe the threat of quick technicals is mellowing his harsh.  Whatever it is, let’s hope that Jack breaks out of his funk Saturday night in Milwaukee.

Notes:

  • As expected, the Bobcats exercised their team options for next year on DJ Augustin and Gerald Henderson, as per their rookie scale contracts.
  • Nice tidbit from Bonnell: Time Warner Cable, the predominant cable supplier in the Charlotte area and naming-rights sponsor of the arena, will be adding the HD version of SportSouth in the coming weeks so that fans can watch the Bobcats in HD.  Of course, it’s ludicrous that this wasn’t in place weeks ago; but for a franchise that’s still digging out from the curse of C-SET, we’ll take what we can get.
  • Next game: Saturday night in Milwaukee, 8:30 PM ET start.  Go Cats.

Bobcats vs. Pacers Preview

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The home opener has arrived!  After dropping the season opener to the Mavs in Dallas in Wednesday night, the Charlotte Bobcats will be taking on the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, aka The Cable Box.  Tipoff is at 7:00 PM ET.

The Pacers come in also 0-1 after losing 122-109 in San Antonio on Wednesday night, despite Roy Hibbert’s big  28/9/3/3 statline.  The Pacers start new addition Darren Collison at the point, Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger on the wings, and Josh McRoberts and the aforementioned Hibbert on the blocks.  Lottery pick Paul George, veteran James Posey, and onetime Bobcat trade target TJ Ford are also in the rotation.  Meanwhile, former Tarheel favorite Tyler “Psycho-T” Hansbrough pulled a DNP-CD in the Pacers opener.

The Pacers don’t play much D, so look for the Bobcats to get some offense going.  I’d like to see Jack have a big night against Dunleavy, in particular — especially because he was quiet in the opener and finished that game on the bench.

When the Bobcats are on defense, I’d watch out for the Augustin/Collison matchup.  Collison is one of the faster points in the league, the kind that DJ struggles to stay in front of.

More links:

Dr. E’s Twitter (I’ll be tweeting live from the game)

ESPN.com preview

Observer preview

8 points, 9 seconds (Pacers blog)