Bobcats Lose to Themselves, Hornets

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(AP Photo)

The Bobcats returned home on the tail end of a back-to-back and lost to the Hornets 88-81, sputtering to the end after keeping it close for most of the game. The Bobcats were led by Stephen Jackson who though shot poorly (15 points on 15 FGA) had 8 rebounds and 6 assists. The Hornets were led by a dominant offensive performance by David West who had 26 points on 19 shot attempts and 8 boards.

As I mentioned above, the game was close, most of the time, with the lead never going above 6 points for either team until the closing minutes. However, with 2:38 left in the game, Tyrus Thomas pulled down a rebound over Emeka Okafor and swung his arms, intentionally elbowing Okafor in the face. The refs gave him a flagrant-2 and two technicals which amounts to an ejection. Aside from throwing the momentum fully to New Orleans, it gave Emeka Okafor two free throws and also possession of the ball after the free throws. The result: a four point lead doubled and Bobcats never recovered and began fouling like a blind Darryl Dawkins. It turned a possible win into a more than likely loss.

Recap | Box Score

Tids & Bits (forever forgoing the Yays and Nays)

  • Gerald Wallace – Fifteen points on 5-13 FG with a perfect 5-5 from the stripe. Eh, not great. His three turnovers were major problems as were his four shots that were blocked. Gerald has always had a slight problem with inside shot selection, but getting blocked 4 times is some Earl Boykins stuff. Moving on, his three rebounds leave much to be desired, but it seems his slack was picked up by Boris and Jackson (9 and 8 rebounds, respectively) as opposed to the Hornets. The Bobcats did out-rebounded the Hornets 43-34 (numerical palindromes, hell yeah!). Oh and Gerald had an outstanding coast-to-coast play. So there’s that (see below).
  • Boris Diaw – He was mediocre on offense, with 9 points from 4-11 shooting with one from downtown. The real problem was his defense (or lack thereof) on David West. West’s mid-range ability frustrated Diaw the whole night.
  • D.J. Augustin – His ability to distribute continues to impress me, as well as his consistency (7 assists) and his lack of turnovers (1 tonight). If only his shooting could get more consistent. he shot 3-10 from the field tonight, but at least he did get to the line for 4 four free throws.
  • Kwame Brown – Kwame was excellent tonight, both on offense and defense. He effectively shut down Okafor for most of the game and he rebounded really well (14 rebs) and he was efficient on offense with 5-6 FG. Too bad his free throw shooting is still bad (2-5). But I can deal with that with the rest of his performance.
  • Tyrus Thomas – He was decent, with 2-6 shooting and 4-4 FT for 8 points and 4 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal. Buuuuuut, he did have 3 turnovers and he screwed up big-time with the elbow to Okafor’s cranium. The one major problem I have with Tyrus is his recklessness. I love that he jumps out of the building for rebounds, but with the ball in his hands, he can get too out of control. This leads to picking up his dribble on the baseline and trying to make a nearly impossible fadeaway jump shot or throwing the ball away on bad passes.

Anything I missed, Baseliners?

Next up is the Philadelphia 76ers, in Philadelphia on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with the early start time at 2 p.m.

- Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.

Bobcats Knock Off Bulls In Impressive Fashion

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Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Charlotte Bobcats notched their best win of the season in defeating the Chicago Bulls 96-91 on Wednesday night at the Cable Box.  The Cats are now 15-21 overall and 6-2 since interim Coach Paul Silas took over.  The previous five wins had only resulted in tempered enthusiasm due the the marginal quality of the opponents; but the Bulls are a bonafide contender, and the Cats took them down.

AP Recap |  Box Score |  Highlights

The Bobcats came out red-hot to start the game.  Gerald Wallace looked good in his return from an ankle injury, DJ and Boris hit some early threes, and Kwame Brown (yes, seriously) dominated Kurt Thomas inside for 10 first quarter points as the Bobcats staked a 36-22 lead after the first frame. Now is a good time to note that the Bulls are playing without Joakim Noah, who’s in the midst of an 8-10 week hiatus after having surgery on a torn thumb ligament.

The Cats would go on to push that lead up to 17 early in the second, only to see it dwindle away.  The Bulls battled back behind Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer and eventually took a 80-75 with 8 minutes left in the fourth.  From there the Cats ratcheted up the defensive intensity and DJ, Jack and Tyrus Thomas took the game over.

The most finish went like this: with the Bulls up 89-88 with 1:15 left, Tyrus Thomas hit an insane prayer of a reverse layup.  Calling it a reverse layup is probably kind; seriously, check the picture.  That shot went in.  Next play down DJ forced Derrick Rose into the teeth of the defense where Boris Diaw was able to get a piece of his layup attempt.  Now under a minute to go and the Cats iso Stephen Jackson in the post on Luol Deng; Jack comes through with a pretty turnaround J to put the Cats up three with 30 seconds to go.

The Bulls take a timeout and come out with their best play: give it to Derrick Rose.  But as they had done numerous times before, the Cats seemed to sense exactly when to give DJ help.  Jack collapsed on Rose while Tyrus Thomas moved into the lane to cut off Deng as he flashed to the rim; Rose then forced a bad pass behind Deng that was picked off by Diaw.  From there, DJ hit a few free throws to finish it off.

And so the Cats move into the 8th spot in the East with this, their fourth straight, win.  If nothing else, this little streak serves as vindication for Jordan, who made the undoubtedly tough call to stand pat with the roster and fire Larry Brown instead of listening to his calls for more trades. Jordan gets bagged on a lot for his track record in the front office (rightfully so, and he’s still going to have to make more difficult decisions about how to rebuild this team eventually), but he deserves credit for seeing that the Bobcats are much better than how they were playing under Larry Brown and that they needed to exhale with a player’s coach at the helm.

Notes

  • So DJ really seems to get up for playing against Rose, huh?  22 points (6-12 FG, 2-5 3PT, 8-9 FT), 12 assists/1 turnover for DJ tonight, while Derrick Rose was held to 17 points (5-17 FG), 7 assists/4 turnovers.  I seem to recall another time when DJ had a particularly stellar game against Rose — during their rookie year maybe?
  • Best game for Tyrus Thomas in a couple weeks: 30 minutes, 17 points (7-14 FG), 13 rebounds and 2 blocks.  Nothing like the little charge you get from facing your old team, huh?
  • Tweet of the night goes to Bobcats AP beat writer Mike Cranston: “Suggestion on press row next CHA ad campaign feature Augustin breaking out of chains and Jack driving a bus over LB’s body”  Sounds like a job for Mike and/or Deesdale.
  • Next game is Friday night in Boston to face the Celtics, who used to bring out the best in the Bobcats, but lately have just owned them.  7:30 PM ET start.

-Dr. E

Follow Dr. E, ASChin and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter

Bobcats Top Grizzlies On Snow Day

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The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 95-82 at the Cable Box on Monday night to improve to 5-2 under coach Paul Silas and 14-21 overall.  Stephen Jackson led the way with 27 points (11-23 FG, 3-7 3PT, 2-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals as the Bobcats continued to play without injured starters Gerald Wallace and Nazr Mohammed.

AP Recap |  Box Score

Beyond the continued renaissance of the Bobcats under Paul Silas (albeit against marginal competition) and the general listlessness of the Grizzlies (how have they won 17 games?) the other big story was the weather.

Charlotte was hit with six inches of snow Monday, which is more than enough to shut this city down.  As the snow transitioned to sleet and then rain this afternoon, I decided to venture out to the game.  Not many others did.

The Bobcats pulled the curtains on the upper deck and invited everyone down to the lower bowl.  I settled into some sweet club seats along with about 1000 other fans.  It’s always takes me about a quarter to adjust to the view whenever I don’t sit in my regular seats — tonight it was doubly weird with the curtains drawn on the upper deck and the sparseness of the crowd.

But a good time was had by all.  The crowd seemed to appreciate the extraordinary nature of the proceedings and cheered extra loudly.  The hecklers had a field day (primary targets: Zach Randolph and Boris Diaw).  And the Bobcats complied by taking care of business on their home court much like they did during last year’s run to the playoffs.

Notes

  • A quick look at the East standings after the game provides a (weak) argument for not blowing the team up/rebuilding.  With the win, the Bobcats are percentage points out of the 8th playoff spot and only 1 game back in the loss column from the 7th spot.
  • Quintessential Boris Diaw night: 40 minutes, 6 points (3-6 FG, 0-2 3PT), 9 boards, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 4 turnovers, great defense on Zach Randolph, and several moments of superficially lackadaisical play that had some fans pulling their hair out.
  • Tyrus Thomas fouled out in 17 super-aggressive minutes — got a big hand when he left because of the 4 blocks he had.  Speaking of, can you imagine if you could give Boris some of Ty’s athleticism?  Or give Ty some of Boris’s savvy/pace/control?  Can we combine them?  Scientists?
  • Next game is Wednesday night at the Cable Box against the Bulls, who are 25-12 overall, but only 8-9 on the road.

Bobcats Win 105-100, Survive Pistons’ Comeback Effort

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AP photo

After nearly blowing a 22-point lead, the Bobcats held on to narrowly defeat the Detroit Pistons in Paul Silas’ first game as interim head coach of the Bobcats.

AP Recap | Box Score

First off, I’m tired. I worked during the game tonight, which included being on my feet for about five hours. I recorded the game on Tivo and watched it when I got home. Due to my exhaustion, I’m forgoing my usual game recap format for just writing tidbits in bullets.

  • As Coach Silas said earlier in the week, this team ran and they did it pretty well. The free-flowing offensive style especially seemed to help the guards.
  • D.J. Augustin looked like a completely different D.J. Augustin tonight, scoring 27 points with 4 assists and zero turnovers. He shot 4-6 from behind the arc and just looked like he had been unrestrained. His confidence level seemed to be off the charts as he shot 66.67% from the field.
  • Shaun Livingston benefited from the change as well, as he put up a ridiculous stat line in limited minutes: 7 rebounds, 4 points, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal and zero turnovers. But if D.J. plays as well as he did tonight, I think we can all accept Livingston playing in such a limited capacity.
  • DeSagana Diop played unusually well, blocking 3 shots, pulling down 4 rebounds and somehow scoring 4 points (!).
  • Boris Diaw had an underrated night. Though I’d like to see him be a little more aggressive and take some more shots, he was efficient on offense by making 3 of 5 shots from the field, dishing out 6 assists and grabbing 5 rebounds. I really liked the energy I saw out of him tonight. He was chasing rebounds  with a desire we rarely see and he didn’t have to handle the ball much, resulting in fewer turnovers than usual (three).
  • Stephen Jackson was both excellent and awful and nearly recorded a triple-double with 23 points on 17 field goal attempts, 9 rebounds and 9 turnovers. Jackson excelled most often when he wasn’t trying to create a shot in the post. Coincidentally, being given the ball in the post is often where Jackson’s turnover’s originate. Opponents double-team him and force him into making bad decisions. Jackson also had some problems when he thought teammates would be somewhere where they weren’t. I think mistakes like that will disappear as the team gets better acclimated with Silas’ offense.
  • Tyrus Thomas, though mistake-prone, saved the game for the Bobcats when the game came down to the line. Yes, I am completely aware he bricked those two free throws that would have iced the game but before that he dominated on both sides of the court. Up by one, Augustin drove to the basket only to get blocked near the rim. Seemingly out of nowhere, Tyrus flew in and slammed the put-back jam to put the Bobcats up three. Then on the defensive end, Tyrus erased a Will Bynum layup. And yet, Tyrus is still having major problems with control. He cannot be a major ball-handler as he can easily get too wild with the ball, often resulting in offensive fouls or turnovers. Tonight he had 6 turnovers. Not good.
  • The Bobcats allowed the Pistons to come back through ineffective stagnant offense and a lack of rebounding in the later parts of the game. Period. There’s not much more i can say except to describe the offensive possession that sums it all up. Ahead by three points, Augustin let the shot clock wind down in an effort to kill time. Tayshaun Prince was guarding him after a defensive switch. And instead of trying to take Prince, D.J. passed the ball off to Boris Diaw at the 3-point line, leaving Boris a second to get off a shot, which was inevitably a brick.
  • Charlie Villanueva. He went off tonight. I don’t think there was much of anything we could do to stop him. His release was so quick and his range so wide that he is a tough defensive assignment. Once again, he hit a buzzer beater to end a quarter of play.
  • Re: Henderson, Carroll and Derrick Brown – Henderson wasn’t great, especially offensively, but he did help hold Ben Gordon to 17 points on 16 attempts. That said, he had some good looks on offense but just couldn’t make them. I don’t think he misses those shots too often again. Matt Carroll played well tonight also. He really has improved defensively over the past few years. His work ethic has always been there and it shows. However, he just isn’t a guy who should be getting more than 20 minutes in a game. Still, Matt’s my dude. Derrick Brown continues to be Derrick Brown. He’s calling for alley-oops. He’s dunking on everyone. He’s just fun to watch.
  • Perhaps the best thing about tonight’s game is the energy it brought back into the arena. The past few games I’ve attended and seen broadcast look like the crowd is just disinterested. In the second quarter tonight, the place sounded alive. We put the game on at our restaurant and people watched that quarter in awe.

Here’s to Paul Silas and his future with the Bobcats!

- Cardboard Gerald

Dr. E’s Treatment Plan For The Bobcats

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How (and Why) to Break Up and Rebuild the Team

The firing of Larry Brown and his staff was a step in the right direction for the Bobcats.  Brown put his typical stamp on the Bobcats franchise; which is to say he turned over nearly the entire roster while sending the franchise deeper into salary cap hell, but coached the hell out of the players and pushed them into the playoffs, only to completely lose touch with them soon after that.

Michael Jordan had to let Brown go before the disintegration of the team got any uglier on the court and before Brown talked him into another short-sighted trade off of it.  Pricey veterans, whether they come via trade or free agency, are good short-term fixes for teams that have a superstar/championship core and are making money — not for fledgling small-market teams that barely have a playoff-ready core.

Unfortunately, by the sounds of all the recent rumors, Jordan is apparently considering just such a short-sighted trade.  Even without Larry Brown in his ear, Jordan is ever the gambler, unable to stop himself from doubling down even when he’s only holding 8.

I have a different plan; a smarter plan.  It might be painful, but in the end it’s the best strategy for a small-market team to achieve long-term success and have a chance at a championship.  Let’s start from the beginning and go step-by-step through my plan to break up and rebuild the Charlotte Bobcats.

1) Pick the Right Interim Coach

Alright!  Done and done.  Jordan is already one step ahead of me with the hire of Paul Silas.  The Bobcats don’t get lucky much (ever?) but it works out pretty well that you have a beloved former coach who has semi-retired in your town and has made it known that he’d love to coach the local team again.  Huggy Bear makes a great foil for the departed Larry Brown, and has wasted no time instituting an uptempo offense.

Now I’m sure that Jordan has let Silas know that he still intends to make the playoffs, and Silas would like to prove himself worthy of shedding the interim label, but let’s face it, the pressure is pretty low here.  Mostly, the Bobcats should just be happy that such a nice fit for an interim coach was so available and that they avoided any ugliness with Larry Brown.  The players will get a temporary (maybe sustained?) kick out of playing for someone so different than Larry Brown.  And Paul Silas gets a shot at coaching Charlotte again.  It’s a win-win-win.  And if the team improves on the court, you can add another “win” for us fans.

2) Trade Stephen Jackson for Cap Space/Draft Picks/Young Talent

Here’s where we get get down to business.  The Bobcats are not going deep into the playoffs with a top three of Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw. Many, if not most, fans have accepted this.  The best way to kick off a proper tear-down would be to trade Stephen Jackson for cap space/draft picks/young talent.  Jack is making $8.5 million this season, $9.6 in 2011-12 and $10 in 2012-13.   He’s enough to keep a mediocre team competitive on some nights, but not enough to make us great.  He would be great as the final piece to a team that’s looking to make a serious run at a championship this year or next.

I’m thinking mostly Chicago or New York here.  Chicago runs Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer at 2-guard amidst Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.  Enough said.  The Bulls don’t have any good expiring contracts, so the Cats would have to take back a couple of young role players to make salaries work.  Most importantly, the Cats would look to get back the future first round pick that we sent to Chicago for Tyrus Thomas.

As for New York, suppose the Nets really are able to secure Carmelo’s services.  The Knicks would have to move on from their fantasy; wouldn’t adding Stephen Jackson to Felton, Stoudemire and Gallinari in D’Antoni’s offense be a nice reality for them?  The Knicks could offer Eddy Curry’s huge expiring deal; if the Cats threw in another salary maybe we could have a look at the enigmatic Anthony Randolph?  Or better yet, Wilson Chandler?

And I’m sure there are some Western Conference teams that might work, too.  Or maybe it’s Boris Diaw who goes out?  Just not Gerald Wallace if it can be helped — that might even test my limits as a fan.  Whatever the case, the idea is that the current core isn’t going to get it done and we need to get cheaper and collect young talent and/or draft picks in exchange for them.

3) Play the Young Guys

This is the easiest, most no-brainer part of the plan.  No doubt, the psyches of DJ Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown must be traumatized by their time with Larry Brown; but they’ve also learned a lot.  And there is talent there.  Paul Silas is the perfect coach to loosen the reigns and instill confidence in this crew.

I would try to limit Gerald Wallace’s minutes to around 30-35 per game to preserve him and to give Brown and Thomas a little extra run.

Hopefully everyone emerges as a better player for the long haul; on the other hand, if someone flames out, at least you know.

4) Be Prepared to Miss the Playoffs This Year… and Next

And here’s the real problem.  Jordan is in a tough spot here; you have to believe that at some level he knows that it’s time to blow it up and rebuild the right way.  But he doesn’t have the stomach for losing, even temporarily if it’s in the service of a bigger goal.  And he can rationalize what is really his inability to stomach losing by saying that the Bobcats’ cache with the fans in Charlotte is so tenuous that they couldn’t stomach losing either.  That they’d just turn away for good if the team doesn’t make the playoffs again this year.  So he needs to keep finding expensive band-aids; but for what?  First round playoff blowouts?

Bull.  I’m not saying it wouldn’t be painful to watch a rebuilding team for a couple of years — the Bobcats would probably fall back to the 25-30 win per season range for this season and the next.  And it would hurt Jordan financially, I’m sure.  But I would argue that it would be more painful to watch a patched-up, veteran core muddle through a couple more 35-40 win seasons — and that the financial reward Jordan would reap from building an upper echelon team in the long run would more than offset a couple of lean years.

5) Draft the Right Guys

And here’s the lynchpin of my thesis — the most important part is also the most difficult.  In my plan, the Bobcats would have lottery picks, potentially high ones, in the next two drafts (even if we didn’t get the Tyrus Thomas one back from the Bulls, it is lottery protected in 2012).  The Bobcats would need to find a superstar — or at least a new blue-chip core — in those drafts.

I know you’re all laughing, and rightfully so as visions of Adam Morrison and Sean May dance in your heads.  But eventually, sheer luck dictates that Jordan will make the right call one of these days, right?  Doesn’t it?  And even if he doesn’t get so lucky as to have a superstar fall into his lap, he must have learned something about scouting/evaluating players over the past few years that will help him to make better picks, right?  Even if the lesson is as simple as: “I shouldn’t be a part of this — lemme hire some better scouts.”

Maybe that’s wishful thinking, and maybe the Bobcats are doomed to be poor drafters forever and ever.  But it doesn’t change the fact that the draft is how small-market teams become contenders.  Whether it’s San Antonio with Tim Duncan, Orlando with Dwight Howard, Utah with Deron Williams, New Orleans with Chris Paul, Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, or even the Cleveland Cavaliers of years past with Lebron, a small-market team has to get a game-changing player near the top at the draft to become a contender.  That guy’s presence then allows you to utilize trades and free agency to shape the team around him.

Only LA (Lakers, that is), Chicago, Boston, New York, Miami, Phoenix, and possibly Dallas and Houston could realistically hope to construct the core of a contending team without the benefit of a great draft pick.  And despite that, most of those teams do indeed count a player they drafted among the core of their team (Rose & Noah for Chicago, Pierce for Boston, Wade for Miami).

So it’s time for Michael Jordan and GM Rod Higgins to abandon their plan of building through trades.  If they were aware of and taking advantage of some sort of market inefficiency, we’d have seen better results.  Instead, the Bobcats need to get back into the lottery to get back into the playoffs.

6) Hire the Right Long-term Coach

To boot, here’s one more thing Jordan has struggled with as an executive: hiring coaches.  As noted above, Paul Silas as a placeholder is fine; and the Larry Brown hire is/was defendable.  But going back to Sam Vincent, and further back to Leonard Hamilton, Jordan has struggled to evaluate coaching potential as much as he’s struggled to evaluate player potential.

Again, we have to hope that he’s learned something from his mistakes.  The rumor mill has suggested that Jordan contemporaries/current NBA assistants Patrick Ewing and Tyrone Corbin are in line for a shot at a head coaching job.  And Nate McMillan might be divorced from Portland by the time the Bobcats would be looking.  Would Phil Jackson recommend any of his assistants to Jordan?

Anyways, if the Bobcats followed a comparable blueprint and got to the point where hiring the right coach seemed like a crucial piece to the puzzle, I’d be overjoyed.  As it stands, we’re a long way off.

Unless the Bobcats come out like gangbusters for Paul Silas (and he does have a favorable slate with home games against Detroit, Cleveland and Golden State this week) I think you’ll see Jordan pull the trigger on a big trade soon.  What the Bobcats get back (a pricey veteran versus expiring contracts/draft picks/young talent) will tell you whether he’s sticking to the same M.O. — or moving on to a proper rebuilding plan as I’m suggesting.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Fall to Hawks as Losses Pile Up

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AP Photo/John Bazemore

Without an injured Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats fell to the Atlanta Hawks 90-85 on Friday night at Phillips Arena.  Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Marvin Williams led a balanced Hawks attack with 16 points each.

AP Recap |  Box Score |  GameFlow |  Highlights

The Bobcats never led, but were able to stay within spitting distance.  They closed to within 3 points with under two minutes left on two Stephen Jackson free throws.  But a Hawks 20 second timeout, followed by a Williams layup off a Horford assist, then a Stephen Jackson missed three-point attempt would effectively end the game as the Cats fell to 3-11 on the road and 9-17 overall.

Observations

  • Stephen Jackson suffered an right elbow injury in the first half.  It’s unclear exactly how/when it happened, but he was in enough pain to get x-rays at the half, then suggest after the game that he shouldn’t have played in the second half after the x-rays proved negative. Obviously, the injury will be re-evaluated over the weekend.
  • Boris Diaw led the Cats with 22 points (10-15 FG), 7 rebounds and 3 steals.  DJ Augustin also had 22, but it was off of 9-19 FG, which includes 1-7 3PT.  Ouch.  Dominic McGuire played 40 minutes, grabbing 17 rebounds but shooting 3-12 from the floor.
  • The Bobcats have now lost seven in a row to the Hawks at Phillips arena.
  • In just the latest red flag about this team, several of their postgame comments were positively rosy after shooting 38% and never leading. Coach Larry Brown and Stephen Jackson were encouraged by/satisfied with the effort, particularly on the defensive end, while Nazr Mohammed felt like the Cats were starting to develop an identity, and that he could at least sleep after this game (relative to the recent blowout in Memphis).
  • Next game is Tuesday night in Charlotte versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Tipoff is 7 PM ET.  It’s unclear as to whether Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson will be available.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Squeak By Formerly Streaking Nuggets

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Gerald Wallace's textbook jumper (via Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Charlotte Bobcats cooled off the streaking Denver Nuggets 100-98 on Tuesday night at the Cable Box.  The Nuggets came in winners of seven in a row and trying to get head coach George Carl his 1000th NBA win, but ran into a Bobcats team desperate to right the ship after suffering an ugly loss over the weekend.

And so the desperate home team did just enough to win.  There were some nice signs, which I’ll note below.  But as nice as it is to notch a victory over a good opponent and temporarily quiet the negative buzz that had been growing around the team, there are still glaring problems.

The Bobcats have been very shaky late in games this year.  Tonight they led by 8 with 90 seconds left, but let the Nuggets right back in it with sloppy play that continued right down to the buzzer, allowing Chauncey Billups a chance at a tying jumper at the buzzer.  The way it was going, I half-expected Chauncey to stop at the three-point line and drain a game-winner.

Additionally, turnovers continue to haunt the Bobcats — they had 18 of them, leading to 28 Denver points.  The defense, while adequate tonight, is still several notches below the level it was at last year.  Nazr Mohammed is bringing very little to the table.  Tyrus Thomas still hasn’t quite taken that step that we were all hoping he would this year.

AP Recap |  Box Score

Observations

  • For one half, it was like we had the old Gerald Wallace back.  Crash had 17 at halftime, including two alley-opp jams.  But in the second half Gerald was conspicuously quiet, adding only another three points.  He also missed six free throws.
  • Despite a sore calf, Stephen Jackson led the way with a very solid 23 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.  Jack was making love to his jumper tonight with 11 3-point attempts — and only tw0 free throw attempts — but he hit five of those 3-pointers, so we’ll let it slide.
  • Wallace, Jackson, and Boris Diaw shared the task of defending Melo tonight and acquitted themselves pretty well.  Melo was held to 22 points on 21 shots and had 4 turnovers — a pretty pedestrian line for him.  Then again you have to wonder if that kind of line will become more typical for Melo as he plays out the string this year with a team he has no intention of being with next year.
  • Tyrus Thomas was very effective in limited minutes tonight: 16 points (6-8 FG, 4-4 FT) with 4 rebounds in just 15 minutes.  Ty would have almost certainly been out there for several more minutes to close out the game, but left with “left quad tightness” and didn’t return.
  • I understand that Larry Brown is always searching for the next George Lynch, but I’ll be glad when the Dom McGuire Project is over.  Since McGuire has been available over the past few weeks, he’s been averaging about 15 minutes a game.  Problem is, he hasn’t produced much.  Bigger problem is, those 15 minutes are Derrick Brown’s minutes.  I have no problem with McGuire getting some burn now — LB needs to get comfortable with what he can and can’t do out there — but Derrick Brown is younger and has a higher ceiling.  He’s the one that needs the burn.
  • Had to chuckle when I saw this blog post from Bonnell about Larry Brown gushing that Monday’s practice was the best in months.  The first commenter did the honors: “Practice?  We talkin bout practice!?”  Never gets old.

-Dr. E