Close, But No Cigar; Magic Go Up 3-0

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Magic, Game 3, 4/24/10

Playoff basketball returned to Charlotte on Saturday, but the inspired Bobcats still couldn’t quite get over the hump and fell to the Orlando Magic 90-86.  Jameer Nelson continued his domination of the Bobcats with another 32 point effort.

AP recap here |  Box score here

Game 3 is usually the lower-seeded team’s best chance to steal a game in round one of the NBA Playoffs (e.g. the Bulls and Thunder earlier this week) and this was no exception.  A fired-up, sellout crowd donned giveaway Jordan Brand Bobcats t-shirts and waved towels for a “whiteout” that drove the Cats to an improved performance relative to Games 1 and 2 in Orlando.

The Cats got off to a decent start per the scoreboard, trailing the Magic just 29-27 after the first quarter.  But if you look back on it, that first quarter can really serve as a microcosm for the whole game.

  1. Dwight Howard got into early foul trouble (2 in the first quarter) and had only moderate effect on the game early; things stayed that way the rest of the way and Howard eventually fouled out with 3:31 left in the fourth after having only played 26 minutes.
  2. Jameer Nelson picked up the slack with 19 first quarter points, including four threes and a four-point play to close the quarter as he continued to outplay Raymond Felton.  This trend would also continue through the rest of the game, as Nelson would finish with 32 points (12-21 FG, 5-9 3PT), 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists — and had a big bucket down the stretch to fend off the Cats.
  3. The Cats and the crowd fed off each other in the first, fueling an 8-0 run that had the Cats up by four late in the quarter.  This would happen a couple more times in the game: a 9-2 second quarter run had the Cats up 41-33 briefly and a longer 19-9 stretch spanning the third and fourth quarter had the Cats up 77-73 halfway through the final period.
  4. But just as the Magic ended the first quarter strongly to take the lead (the aforementioned four-point play by Nelson), they ended the game with a show of experience and dominance as well.  After the Felton three-point play that fouled Howard out with 3:31 left put the Cats up 80-79, the Magic outscored the Cats 11-6 by hitting clutch shots and getting to the free throw line.

The Cats had a chance, though.  Down one with 31 seconds left, Larry Brown used a full timeout, then added another 20-second timeout to draw up what must have been the world’s most complicated basketball play.  It worked, too.

Early in the set Stephen Jackson popped off a screen at the three-point line and had a wide open look.  Some will criticize the fact that the first option on the play was a look at a three-pointer when the Cats were down just one with 30 seconds left, but let them criticize.

This is one of the best basketball minds in the world, a master at drawing up plays in timeouts we’re talking about, teamed up with Stephen Jackson, Mr. “I Make Love To Pressure”.  A three probably would have won the game.

Unfortunately, Jack did not come through.  The shot was short, Orlando grabbed the rebound, the game, and any remaining hope that the Bobcats could make this a series.

Tidbits

  • Lack of bench production has plagued the Cats in every game thus far.  In Game 1, only Tyson Chandler was helpful off the bench.  In Game 2, Nazr Mohammed was alone in contributing off the bench.  In Game 3, it was Larry Hughes who played well, with 14 points (5-6 FG, 2-3 3PT, 2-2 FT) and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes.  The lack of signficant contributions from DJ Augustin and Tyrus Thomas continues to hurt.
  • A couple of my in-game Tweets:  “I think D Howard might bitch to refs more than Stephen Jackson. Impressive feat.” and “I’d be stunned if Ty Chandler didn’t lead the league if offensive fouls due to bad screens. Another here early in 4th”
  • Raymond Felton.  How can I say this diplomatically?  Let’s just say his agent won’t be using video of this series in his contract negotiations this summer.  And the Bobcats need to keep it in mind when Miami or New York makes an offer that the Bobcats consider matching.
  • Lots of celebs at the game: Jordan was there, obviously.  Commissioner David Stern observed the proceedings.  Legends Robert Parish, David Thompson, and Muggsy Bogues were in attendance, as was coach Tubby Smith.  And lest we forget, Bobcats minority owner Nelly sat courtside.
  • Game 4 is Monday night at 8 PM ET at the Cable Box.  I would expect some golfers courtside with the Quail Hollow starting up next week.  Maybe even this famous Magic fan and friend of MJ?

-Dr. E

Bobcats Can’t Handle Magic; Go Down 0-2

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Magic Game 2, 4/21/10


The Orlando Magic scored another definitive victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, 92-77, in Game 2 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night.  Stephen Jackson led the Bobcats with 27 and keyed a fourth quarter rally that briefly made things interesting late, but the Magic ultimately led wire to wire, putting all five starters in double figures.

AP recap here |  Box score here

This one had an even uglier start than Game 1.  8 minutes into the first quarter, the two teams had only combined for 16 points; problem was, the Cats only had three of those.  Fortunately, the Cats got a few buckets to make the count a not-quite-as-embarrassing 18-14 after the first quarter.

But frankly, the damage had been done.  Orlando’s zone-ish defense rendered the Cats offense (not exactly potent to begin with) into a bogged-down, turnover-filled mess.  The Cats finished the game with 21 turnovers, and no one outside of Stephen Jackson ever figured out how to score.

The fact that the Bobcats  play some pretty good defense themselves kept the game reasonable; the Cats were only down 11 at the half, and cut the lead to 8 with 3:15 left in the game before succumbing.

The Magic simply had too many weapons tonight.  Though Dwight Howard was held to a modest line (15 points on 5-10 FG/5-12 FT, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) he was absolutely dominant for a stretch early in the third quarter that set the tone for the rest of the second half.

Vince Carter, infamous for shrinking into a jump-shooter when the going gets tough, had smooth sailing into the paint all night long, resulting in 9-11 free throws.  (As a team, the Magic shot 35 free throws.)

Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson were solid and reliable, if unspectacular, while Mickael Pietrus and Ryan Anderson provided an onslaught of threes off the bench, combining for 5-7 from distance.

There were almost no silver linings for the Bobcats in this one.  The late run that cut the deficit to 8 was intriguing for a minute, but rationally you knew it was too little, too late.  Nazr did show some signs of life (5-6 FG for 10 points in 16 minutes).

But basically, I’m grasping at straws here.  The only one that may be worth a damn is simply that the Cats have played much better at home this year and Games 3 and 4 are in Charlotte.  The Cats had the biggest home/road record differential amongst all the playoff teams this year, for no reason that anyone could logically explain.  At this point, I’d give up trying to explain it if I could just see it for Games 3 and 4.

Tidbits

  • Apologies for recycling my Twitter posts, but is anyone else getting the same feeling they used to get watching Jeff McInnis a couple of years ago when watching Larry Hughes these days?
  • Raymond Felton and Boris Diaw have been frustratingly ineffective, as have Hughes and Tyrus Thomas off the bench.
  • The Cats have a couple of days to stew on this one.  Game 3 is on Saturday afternoon at 2PM ET at the Cable Box.

-Dr. E

Magic Rest; Bobcats Put In Work

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RIP Guru

If you needed any extra juice to get pumped for tonight’s Game 2, just check this quote from Larry Brown from Tuesday’s practice regarding the Magic’s activities on Monday (via Rick Bonnell):

“Yesterday, Orlando took the day off.  That’s how [expletive deleted] seriously they’re taking us.”

Transparent motivational ploy?  Sure.  Effective?  Hell yeah.

Did I just figure out a cheap way to tie in a Guru tribute to a Bobcats blog?  Sure.  Was it worth it?  Hell yeah.

Be sure to check us at Whiskey Warehouse in Plaza Midwood for a Bobcats Baseline Game 2 Watch Party:

watch-party-Dr. E

Bobcats vs Magic Playoff Preview Part I

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Bobcats Baseline 2010 Playoff Preview: Round One BOBCATS VS MAGIC

Welcome to Bobcats Baseline’s preview of the Bobcats first ever playoff series.

First, some general stuff.  The Magic finished the year 59-23 (34-7 home).  They posted the best overall point differential in the league this year: +7.5.   Hollinger’s formulas have them ranked as the second best in the league in terms of offensive efficiency (behind only the Suns) and tied with the Bobcats for first in defensive efficiency.

Head to head, Orlando won the season series over the Bobcats 3-1.  The Magic took the first game in Orlando back on November 10, 93-81.  Game two just six days later in Charlotte turned out to be Stephen Jackson’s Bobcats debut, but the game went to the Magic again, 97-91.

The Cats took Orlando to overtime in Charlotte on January 23, but the Magic once again prevailed, 105-95.  Finally, in the last matchup on March 14, the Cats broke through for a 96-89 win, despite playing in Orlando without an injured Gerald Wallace.

Now lets get down to the matchups.  ASChin and I decided to do a collabo for this, and we’ll start by breaking down the battle in the paint.

Dr. E: In the middle, Dwight Howard creates problems for every other team in the league.  He led the league in rebounding and blocked shots for the year. It’s almost universally agreed upon that Orlando could be even more dominant if they made a more concerted effort to get him the ball on the offensive end (which they don’t always do, especially in the fourth quarter).

But it’s almost as if Larry Brown knew this matchup was coming.  He’s collected a cadre of serviceable big men to play center-by-committee. Theo Ratliff is like an older, wiser version of Tyson Chandler, who has shown signs of life himself in recent weeks.

Nazr Mohammed has looked rusty in two games since returning from back problems, but was a revelation earlier in the season with his ability to score in the post. And Gana Diop is, well, Gana Diop (or Joey Crawford’s avatar).

Together, they represent four bodies and 24 fouls that could be deployed to wear Howard down.

ASChin: Agreed.  They’ll try to win the war of attrition, throwing 24 fouls at Dwight and making the other 4 Magic players beat them one on one.  The last thing that you want to do is play into the Magic’s hands.  They want you to defend DHO for 40+ minutes, using up fouls at the center spot.  Fortunately, the Bobcats have enough bodies in the middle to combat this somewhat but as you see in the breakdown vid below Dwight can now make you pay for single coverage.

Dr. E: The other way the Bobcats may try to neutralize Howard will be to get him into foul trouble himself.  In this blog post from Rick Bonnell (once you get past the nonsense about how Rick and Gerald Wallace are like peas in a pod) Wallace stresses that the Cats need to take it straight at Howard to have a chance.

Howard averaged 3.5 fouls per game this year, fouling out four times and getting to five fouls more times than I bothered to count.  Of course, if Howard gets into foul trouble, backup Marcin Gortat is more than capable of becoming an X-factor.

ASChin: This is a big deal.  The Bobcats aren’t a great jump shooting team.  They’ll have to continue to go to the hoop to have any chance in this series.  With Dwight down there, it’ll be tough but I’m guessing that Coach Brown will try to run a lot high screen pick and rolls with Chandler and Ratliff to try and get Howard out out of the paint.

Lets move on to the 4 spot.

Rashard Lewis is having far from his best season as a pro.  His FG%, ppg, rebounds and blocks are way down.  Not exactly want you want from an $18 million a year guy.  He still shoots lights out from beyond the arc so the ‘Cats will again have to prevent the Magic from forcing a double team on Howard down low.

I think a platoon of Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw matches up well against Lewis.  Diaw in particular is going to force Lewis to guard him on those little post jump-hooks and when Howard comes over for the block, Boris is crafty enough to be able to find Chandler or Mohammed for a dunk or layup with a quick pass in the paint.  Also, look for Crash to play some minutes at the four if Brown decides to turn the tables and go small.

Dr. E: By the way, was it ever fully explained what Lewis’s 10-game PED suspension to start the year was all about?  Ironic that he’s clearly fallen off this season, isn’t it?  Some may write it up to missing training camp and never getting in the groove, or missing Hedo Turkoglu’s point forward drive-and-dishes, but has anyone measured his head circumference-to-testicle ratio serially over the years?

No?  Okay, jussayin.

Anyways, yes, between Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw, the Cats are better suited than most teams to guard and switch out onto Rashard Lewis at the three point line.

Alright, that covers the bigs.  Next up, we’ll discuss the wings and guards.  After that coaching and intangibles.

ASChin: Wait, did you just mention Rashard Lewis’s testicles?

-Dr. E & ASChin

Bobcats Fall To Bulls In Regular Season Finale

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Bulls, 4/14/10


The Charlotte Bobcats wrapped up their regular season by losing to the Bulls 98-89 on Wednesday night at the Cable Box.  Derrick Rose led all scorers with 27 points.

AP recap here |  Box score here

Pretty simple analysis for this one, folks.  This game was completely meaningless for the Bobcats, but the Bulls desperately needed the win to secure the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  The Bulls entered the night a game up on Toronto; had they lost and the Raptors won (which they did), the Raptors held the tiebreaker and would have snuck into the 8th spot.

Larry Brown paid some lip service to “playing the right way” and upholding the integrity of the league by not sitting any of his starters; however, it should be noted that they played limited minutes (no starter over 24 minutes) and never really came close to matching the Bulls intensity.

Tidbits

  • Perhaps the most noteworthy item to come out of this game was that Tyson Chandler was injured in the second quarter.  Chandler was intercepting a pass (after a successful Bobcats trap in the backcourt) but got tangled up with a Bulls player and landed hard on his side.  His hip and elbow took the brunt of the fall and he didn’t return to the game; however, it doesn’t sound as if the injury will hamper him in the playoffs.
  • Neither Nazr Mohammed (back) nor Tyrus Thomas (thumb) looked good.  Nazr looks very rusty, and Tyrus seems to be bothered by his bad thumb.
  • Is Taj Gibson the most unheralded, under-the-radar rookie in the league this year?  Dude had 13 rebounds, 7 offensive and caused problems for the Cats all night.  Mostly just useful in that role (energy, hitting the glass) for now, but if he continues to develop his mid-range game, I see a little David West in him.
  • Sorry for the lack of coverage on the Larry Brown kerfluffle yesterday.  Peter Vescey essentially regurgitated Michael Jordan’s comment from several weeks ago regarding the possibility of letting Larry Brown out of his contract early if his family situation (wife and kids are in Philadelphia) demanded it — and combined it with the rumor that Brown had sent feelers out to both the 76ers and Clippers regarding their pending coaching openings.  I hope Larry is around to coach the Bobcats next year, but I won’t be shocked if he isn’t.  I liked Scott Fowler’s take on the issue.
  • Per Rick Bonnell, here is the schedule for the Bobcats first-round matchup with the Orlando Magic.  Games 1 and 2 in Orlando on Sunday and Wednesday, then games 3 and 4 in Charlotte Saturday and Monday.  I always forget how long they stretch out the first round.
  • Stay tuned as we prepare for the playoffs — make sure you’re following me and ASChin on Twitter as well.

-Dr. E

Henderson Dazzles as Bobcats Close Up Shop in NJ

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Charlotte Bobcats @ New Jersey 4/12/10

As Fake Sinatra said to Steve & Edie: “Listen, it’s up to you.  You can either open for me at the Meadowlands or headline at the Tick-Tock Inn!

The Meadowlands (recently renamed The Izod Center) closed up shop after nearly 30 years Monday night with the Charlotte Bobcats taking care of business against the cellar dweller Nets 105-95.  With Miami winning on the same evening, the ‘Cats are now locked into the East’s 7th seed and will take on the Magic in Orlando on Saturday after wrapping up the regular season against Chicago on Wednesday.

AP recap here | Box score here

Welcome to the NBA, Gerald Henderson

The Bobcats get an amazing 50 points from the bench in this one as Gerald “The Sequel” Henderson led the way with 14 on 6-9 shooting in just 21 minutes of action.  This wasn’t garbage time folks (well, unless you consider any minute played against the Nets “garbage time”).  Henderson filled in nicely for Crash by throwing down a couple of monster dunks, connecting on an acrobatic, double-pump reverse layup, rejecting a Brook Lopez shot and grabbing seven boards.  Nothing against Terrence Williams, who was taken one spot ahead of Henderson and who had an excellent game himself (21 points, 13 boards and 6 assists in 41 minutes) but for the first time all season it seemed as if Henderson belonged in the League.  He looked confident and asserted himself at both ends of the court.  This looks promising.

The rest of bench brought their A-game as well.  DJ shot the ball well again (5-7) and dropped a beautiful 18 footer over Lopez’s outstretched as if to say “I know you should have been the pick but not on this play!”  Stephen Graham had his bi-monthly Stephen Graham baseline drive and dunk, Tyrus Thomas shot the ball poorly (he did have a semi-cast on his thumb) but played hard and got to the line (5 attempts) in 20 minutes of action.

Center Rotation

Theo Ratliff got the start tonight and really affected the game on the defensive end early.  Dude blocked two shots in two minutes (after the Nets TV team referred to him as a previously effective defensive player) and pulled down three boards.  The problem with too much Theo Ratliff is when he starts affecting the game from an offensive standpoint.  Theo was credited with only one Turnover but I counted three.  If Gana Diop and Emeka Okafor started a “Big Man Hands Camp,” Theo Ratliff would be their first product.

Nazr Mohammed got a little burn afterwards and looked slow defensively and out of synch offensively.  We might not be seeing the Nazr from earlier in the season again, folks.  At least not until next year.  Fortunately Tyson Chandler has looked very solid in the last few weeks and it looked like Larry Brown was saving Chandler’s legs for the first round matchup with Superman.

Bullets

  • Brook Lopez is just plain awesome.  Why the Bobcats passed on him for Augustin I’ll never know.  My only guess is that the organization didn’t realize how well he ran the floor as a college prospect.  Lopez is the anti-Rasheed.  At 7’0″, he’s running baseline to baseline on very play.  Lopez ran the break on one possession in the third quarter as he tossed a beautiful transition alley oop pass to T-Will for the jam.  Lopez has the body type to be doing this for a while too; he’s built kind of like a David Robinson or a taller Hakeem.  Bobcats will be paying for the 2008 NBA draft for a long time.
  • The Nets broadcast network ran several “Key Moments in Nets History” packages in tribute to the Meadowlands final game.  Seeing Jason Kidd tear it up with Kittles, Van Horn and KMart against Reggie and the Pacers made me realize how long Kidd has been in the League.  Drafted in ’94, Kidd has played against the likes of Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Skinny Shaq, Fat Shaq, Amare Stoudamire, Lebron James and Tyreke Evans.
  • Game’s Biggest Surprise: Yi Jianlian isn’t terrible.  He’s not great, don’t get me wrong but offensively he definitely belongs in the League as a seventh or eighth man off of the bench.  He’s got a nice jumper from 20′ feet plus and the size (7’0″)  to pull down boards over smaller forwards.  Not bad for 35 year ol-, pardon me, 22 year old prospect.

Until next time, Enjoy the Win Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin