Bobcats’ Rally Attempt Ended by Heat, Themselves

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Let's hope we can remove him from the milk carton now. (Photo by Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images)

Recap | Box Score

If there’s one thing everyone should know about the Charlotte Bobcats, it’s that they are not a great shooting team. The roster is built mostly on cutters – players who drive to the paint to score.

And tonight, against one of the best teams in the league, the Bobcats tried to cap a rally by trying to become what they most certainly are not. Of course, it didn’t work as Charlotte’s offense couldn’t keep up with Miami’s and the Bobcats fell to the Heat, 109-97.

The game started off as well as a Bobcats fan could hope, with Boris Diaw facilitating early and getting Kwame Brown involved, leading to a 17-9 lead going into the first timeout. From there, the Heat got back into it with LeBron contributing by hitting all four of his first-half shots. Also helping out was Dwyane Wade, who was said to be unsure about even playing tonight (yeah, right). Wade was making the hard shots and getting to the cup without too much trouble.

Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace also played well in the first half. Jackson was hitting his shots, mostly mid-range jumpers, at a decent clip and even drew fouls to get to the line. At the half, he had 11 points on 3-6 shooting and 4-4 from the stripe. Gerald Wallace was great in the first half as well, hitting five of 11 shots, including a three and he added three free throws for 14 points in the first half. D.J. Augustin also was playing well as far as passing, although his shooting left much to desire.

But keeping the Bobcats from leading in the first half was their interior defense. LeBron and Wade both can drive into the paint with such ease that opponents must have good transition and interior defenses. While the Bobcats are decent on transition defense, their interior defense still isn’t anything to be afraid of, even with Kwame Brown’s resurgence. Anyway, when LeBron or Wade drove to the paint, the Bobcats interior defense would collapse to compensate, leaving Miami’s spot-up men alone at the arc. The driving ballhandler kicks out to the sharpshooter and Bobcats players rush to contest the shot but it’s too late. The result? In the first half, Mike Miller was 3-3 and Eddie House was 1-1 from deep. This also occurred with the Bobcats’ big men leaving Zydrunas Ilgauskas alone to guard the paint. Ilgauskas would knock down three out of four mid-range shots in the first half.

The score at the half was Miami – 59, Charlotte – 55.

Then came the Bobcats’ worst fear – the third quarter. Somehow they survived, mostly by playing better defense than the first two quarters, “holding” the Heat to 50% shooting while the Bobcats managed 44%. As such, the Bobcats had a very manageable six-point deficit heading into the final quarter.

In one of the more noggin-scratching moves of the night, Paul Silas started Sherron Collins at the point to begin the fourth quarter. If Sherron Collins’ defense was a publicly held corporation that sold stock, you either should have sold it when he stepped on the court. In the first two minutes of the 4th quarter, Eddie House (Sherron’s man) hit 3 three-pointers. And while Sherron did hit a three of his own, that’s just not enough. I understand that Livingston doesn’t have the shooting ability from deep that Collins has, but Livingston’s defense and length are assets that definitely would have helped in the fourth. Regardless, the Heat turned a 6-point lead into a 12-point lead.

But then the Bobcats began to climb back into it with Augustin back in. With eight minutes left, the Bobcats were right back in the game, only down by six.

But then the Bobcats tried to be who they weren’t, as I mentioned way above. Despite having most of their success from good ball movement and getting the rock into the paint, Stephen Jackson and D.J. Augustin started jacking long range jump shots that just weren’t falling. Augustin ended the night shooting 1-6 FG and 1-4 from three. Jackson went 1-5 from the field in the fourth, with three missed treys in the final period. I understand that the Bobcats had to resort to shooting the long ball to try to get back into the game, but that should only come with a big deficit with not a lot of time left. Down six points with about seven minutes left is not the time to abandon your strengths to try for the quick fix. While the Bobcats were shooting poorly, the Heat were not. Chris Bosh emerged from his poor first three quarters with 8 points in the final 12 minutes. Either way, the Bobcats killed themselves in the fourth. But, it was an entertaining game for most of the night and the Heat are an extremely good team, especially when all of their ‘Big Three’ are healthy (Wade had a triple double and LeBron was two rebounds and an assist away from a triple double).

Notable Plays

The Bobcats had some great plays in this game, despite the loss. In the second quarter the Bobcats went on a dunk parade with Gerald Henderson smashing a couple and Gerald Wallace getting in on the action. There was also a very nice play at the end of the first half where Augustin split a double-team beneath the basket to find a cutting Derrick Brown who got the bucket and drew the foul.

Stats leaders:

Bobcats

Wallace: 9-19 FG, 25 PTS, 10 REBS, 2 AST, 1 BLK

Jackson: 7-17 FG, 25 PTS, 3 REBS, 5 AST, 2 STL

Henderson: 6-10 FG, 14 PTS, 2 REBS, 1 AST, 3 BLK (I love that he’s developing into a great 6th man)

Heat

Wade: 8-20 FG, 22 PTS, 12 REBS, 10 AST

James: 7-13 FG, 19 PTS, 8 REBS, 9 AST

And a quick note: Yes, the officiating was iffy at best in the fourth quarter (in favor of the Heat, of course), but to blame the whole loss on the referees is absolutely absurd. The Bobcats got to the line more than the Heat did anyway. The real blame for this loss resides on the Heat being a superiorly talented team and the Bobcats straying from their best offensive strategy.

- 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.

LeBron, Wade Overpower Bobcats

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The Miami Heat’s duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were way more than the shorthanded Charlotte Bobcats could handle on Monday night at the Cable Box; the Heat posted a 96-82 victory behind 38 from LeBron and 31 from Wade.

AP Recap |  Box Score

To recap the Bobcats injury report, Gerald Wallace re-aggravated his left ankle injury at practice at Sunday and will miss a couple games.  Gana Diop is done for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon against Golden State on Friday.  And Nazr Mohammed had to sit out tonight’s game after developing soreness in his right knee after a collision in the Golden State game.

So despite having to start Kwame Brown and Gerald Henderson, the Bobcats came out aggressive and played a superb first quarter.  Henderson and Stephen Jackson were hitting early while Heat looked to be going through the motions.  Problem is, a superb first quarter for the Bobcats is 28 points; going through the motions for a quarter for the Heat is still worth 23 points.

Towards the end of the second quarter the Heat grabbed control and took a 47-43 lead into halftime.  The Bobcats looked flat coming out in the third quarter — and then LeBron went off.  Wade had done much of the damage for the Heat in the first half, but LeBron just owned the third quarter.

With Stephen Jackson trying to guard him, and the crowd electric with a mix of spite and growing awe, LeBron handed out 2 assists, grabbed 5 rebounds, and tallied 17 points (on 6-8 FG, 1-3 3PT, and 4-4 FT).  Lebron personally outscored the Bobcats for the quarter (17-16) and pushed the Heat lead out to 78-59 heading into the fourth.

The Bobcats made a small run to start the fourth, cutting the Heat lead briefly to 80-69, but LeBron ended that with his next two plays.  First, he hit a crazy 37-foot three with the shot clock winding down — pretty much with his normal shooting form.  Next trip down the court he intercepted a Bobcat pass and went in for his patented breakaway reverse jam (see above photo).  That pretty much did it.

Despite the 14 point loss, this was easily the most fun Bobcats game I’ve been to this year.  Without Gerald Wallace, and down to Kwame Brown as their only true big, the Cats didn’t have much of a chance.  But they came out and threw some big punches early in the game, landing enough to force LeBron and Wade to take them seriously.  The close-to-sellout crowd was vociferously anti-Lebron/Wade.

And as little as I think of LeBron’s decision to join forces with Wade, I have to hand it to them for accepting their villain status.  Now other LeBron’s pregame chalk toss, neither he nor Wade will ever do anything overtly dastardly on the court — anything too gratuitous and you can’t sell sneakers, see — but they might as well.  Everything about their body language and play, even down to their running trash talk with courtside fans tonight, reminds me of professional wrestling’s “cool heels” — like The Rock or Ric Flair (who was conveniently courtside tonight, by the way).

The more lathered up the crowd gets, the better they perform.  And they perform so damn well that the boos eventually have to give way to “did you see that” gasps and begrudging respect for their talent.  It’s the perfect angle for them; I’m glad they’re playing the part.  They put on a good show tonight and I’m already looking forward to the rematch next month.

As for the Bobcats, I know I’m beating a horse I already killed here, but with Gerald Wallace having re-aggravated his bad ankle and the frontcourt so thin, this would be a perfect time to dismantle and start to rebuild.  Announce that Gerald Wallace needs 4-6 weeks to let that bone bruise heal — that takes him through the All-Star break.  Meanwhile, find a taker for Stephen Jackson (getting back cap relief and draft picks) and let Silas do his thing with the rest of the roster.  If only…

Extra Notes

  • After that cool highlight “spin out of the doubleteam back toward the basket” dunk in the second quarter, Tyrus Thomas was pretty brutal the rest of the way — 4-14 FG.  I know he’s been hurt, but still surprised he hasn’t looked better since Silas took over.
  • Shaun Livingston had the highlight of his season — maybe his career — with a huge driving dunk in the second half that inexplicably isn’t in the ESPN.com or NBA.com highlight reel.  Too bad it was lost in the midst of LeBron’s huge second half.
  • Must read from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com on the dilemma that small-market (low-revenue) teams face, using Danny Granger and the Pacers as the protagonists.
  • Nice puff piece on Boris Diaw from the Observer.
  • On the other hand, can anyone find the point in this Tom Sorenson column on the Heat game?  I hesitate to criticize because I know I couldn’t write under deadline like the pros do, but still…
  • Next game is Wednesday night in Minnesota, 8 PM ET start.  Likely no Gerald Wallace; unclear if Nazr will be ready either.

-Dr. E

Lazy Sunday Links

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Sitting around waiting for a goal to be scored in the World Cup final on this sweltering Sunday afternoon?  Lucky for you, as is often the case on Sundays, there’s some pretty good reading out there.

LebronWadeBosh

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Brian Windhorst offers a must-read on how the stage was set for these guys to join forces in “South Beach.”  As the Sports Guy has pointed out, there’s way more to this story that will hopefully come out in time, but this is a great start:

Now that the move has been made, the veil of secrecy is being raised to a degree as people are beginning to talk. The Plain Dealer talked to numerous sources to piece together a picture of how James ended up in Miami.  It is still a somewhat fuzzy picture, but here are the broad strokes…

And if you haven’t had a chance to read any of the overwhelmingly negative national reaction to Lebron’s decision, here are two excellent pieces from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Deadspin/New York Magazine’s Will Leitch.

Felton to Knicks

Details of Raymond’s deal with the Knicks are out.  Apparently the deal is for 2 years/$15.8 million.  There is a third year team option for a similar figure which could bring the deal in the neighborhood of $25 million over three years.  Raymond’s decision to pass up the Bobcats’ long term offer last summer is looking worse and worse from his perspective.  Still wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish his career back in Charlotte as a backup down the road.

Here’s Bonnell’s story for the Observer and some more quotes from a South Carolina paper.  You can tell it’s a South Carolina paper because of the headline: “Felton looks forward to bright lights of the Big Apple”.  Good grief.

Orlando Summer League

We’ve given the Bobcats’ mostly positive turn in last week’s Orlando Summer League short shrift here at the Baseline, but it’s not for lack of caring.  Look for a post on the subject in the coming days.  In the meantime, here’s Bonnell from the Observer with some thoughts:

Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown can be trusted with bigger roles next season… It’s dangerous to put too much weight on summer-league performances — you’re supposed to excel against D-Leaguers — but it was obvious Henderson an Brown are figuring out what it takes to be productive on the NBA level.

The national media outlets pay less attention to the Orlando Summer league relative to the bigger and better Las Vegas Summer League; and when they do cover Orlando, the rookies (Philly’s Evan Tuner and New Jersey’s Derrick Favors in this case) get most of the attention.  Despite that, there were several mentions of the Bobcats young vets looking good.

Michael Jordan in Charlotte

Scott Fowler has a nice article in today’s Observer on Michael Jordan’s increased presence in the city of Charlotte and the Bobcats front office since he, you know, bought the team:

In the three months or so since Jordan bought the Charlotte Bobcats from Bob Johnson and became the team’s majority owner, Jordan’s visibility both in the community and in the Bobcats’ offices has increased dramatically.

Jordan has bought a home in uptown Charlotte five minutes from Time Warner Cable Arena and plans to start living there part time in September…

There’s also a slideshow of pictures from the Bobcats Fantasy Camp mentioned in the article.  As I write this, the article is currently the “Most Viewed” on the Observer’s website, and I’ve already been part of an email thread amongst friends discussing it.

Clearly, people care about how engaged Jordan is with the city of Charlotte.  The Bobcats are aware of it; they included questions about “how important” it was to me whether or not Jordan purchased a home here in a survey sent to season ticket holders recently.  Seriously.

Hopefully, people at least see Jordan’s level of engagement with the city an indicator of how engaged he is with the team.  If so, fine.  I suppose it’s a reasonable proxy.

But I guess I’m just a different kind of fan (clearly, I have a blog).  I could care less whether Jordan buys a house in Charlotte, or bowls and eats at the Epicentre.  I don’t need to put on a “Jordan Brand” t-shirt and drool over him at a “fantasy” camp.

I’d be much more happy if the team made sound financial/personnel decisions, stopped whiffing on draft picks, and thus consistently put a competitive basketball team on the court.  They’ve had trouble doing that over the history of the franchise.

2010’s playoff experience was undoubtedly a positive thing, but I’m still dubious of the Cats’ chances for on-court success in the medium-term due to salary cap issues and a lack of elite young talent.

Don’t sell me a bunch of sizzling Air Jordan “value-added” side dishes when the main course needs work.

-Dr. E




Bobcats Destroy Heat For Ninth Straight Home Win

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Heat, 1/20/10

???

The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Miami Heat 104-65 on Wednesday night at the Cable Box to improve to 21-19 and move into 5th place in the Eastern Conference.  AP recap here, box score here.  The win represents the largest margin of victory (39) and the least points allowed (65) in Bobcats history and caps off a perfect 6-0 home stand.  The Bobcats are 9-1 in 2010 and officially the hottest team in the NBA.

How weird is that to read?  It is extremely strange for me to type.  Not all 9 victories in the new year have been totally impressive (just Monday the Bobcats barely withstood a furious rally to eke by the Kings), but for the most part, the Cats deserve every bit of being called the hottest team in the NBA.  They are playing defense at a playoff, maybe championship level.  They have not just defeated some good teams (Spurs, Suns, Heat), they have destroyed them, broken their will.

Much like the win over the Suns last Saturday night, this one was essentially over after an amazing first quarter.  The Bobcats swarmed on defense and shot the lights out on offense for a 38-17 lead after 12 minutes (Jackson had 15, Nazr 10 of those 38).  The Cats shot 14-18 (82%) to set a franchise record for FG% in a quarter.   Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, sensing that his team was in danger of being totally overwhelmed, called 3 timeouts in the opening frame.  Alas, it did no good.  He could neither break the Bobcats’ momentum, nor get his own squad going.

The rest of the game was spent calmly watching out for a Heat run (ala the Kings game on Monday) that never came, then hoping that the starters would be able to get some rest down the stretch.  Indeed they were able to.  Stephen Jackson finished with 24 points (7-10 FG, 10-12 FT) in 33 minutes; Raymond Felton had 14 points (6-8 FG) and 5 assists in 27 minutes; Nazr Mohammed had 16 points (6-9 FG) and 10 rebounds in just 16 minutes.

You might look at Gerald Wallace’s line and wonder what all the fuss about his supposedly sprained ankle was for.  Wallace’s availability was the subject of several Bonnell blog posts in the past couple days and a couple of Tweets from me today, yet he went for 20 points (5-11 FG, 8-8 FT), 10 rebounds and 5 blocks in 36 minutes.  However, I will submit that Gerald was actually taking it a bit easy on the bum ankle tonight, especially on offense.  Seriously, he settled for several jump shots and was rather passive on that end of the court.  And still ended up with 20 points.  All-Star.

Bullets

  • No one showed up for the Heat.  Superstar Dwyane Wade was held to 16 points on 6-16 FG by Stephen Jackson.  He was further dismayed when he had to share the court with Joel Anthony and Dorell Wright at times.
  • BobcatsBreak has postgame video on lock.
  • Raymond Felton continues to play amazing defense.  Defense in the NBA is undeniably a team thing, but still, Raymond deserves particular praise.
  • Gana Diop had an intersting game: 17 minutes, 7 rebounds, a steal, a huge block and 6 fouls for the DQ.  And 0 points.
  • If you’re feeling scroogey and looking for any negative, look no further than Acie Law.  He played the last 8 minutes of junk time and was dreadful.  I don’t see any way he’s in the league next year.
  • Next game is Friday night in Atlanta, 7:30 PM start.  Good chance to measure ourselves against a team ahead of us in the standings.
  • Then the Cats are back home on Saturday night to face Superman and the Magicians (7PM start).  I am expecting the biggest crowd of the year — let’s sell this one out, folks.  We’ve got the hottest team in the NBA, we’re facing an elite opponent, and it’s the last home game before a Western Conference road trip — no excuse not to make it out to the game.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Score Road Win In Miami

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Heat, 1/2/10

Well, I’ll Be Damned…

The Charlotte Bobcats get just their second road win of the year by defeating the Miami Heat 107-97 Saturday afternoon in Miami.  AP recap here, box score here.  The Bobcats now stand at 13-18 overall, hanging on to the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference.  Stephen Jackson had a season high 35 points (11-20 FG, 4-7 3PT, 9-9 FT), 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals to lead the way.

Sorry for getting this post up late.  I spent the afternoon with family and friends watching my alma mater, the South Carolina Gamecocks, lay an egg in their bowl game.  I figured I’d check the Bobcats score afterwards and see yet another road loss to complete my day of misery (especially against the Heat), but low and behold, a win!

So I fired up the DVR when I got home and watched the last 18 minutes or so of the game.  That was easily the best 4th quarter the Cats have played on the road this year, maybe the best overall.  In the decisive period, the Cats scored 34 points, while holding Dwyane Wade and the Heat to 25.

The Cats went with a unit of DJ/Raymond/Jack/Crash/Diaw down the stretch — they looked supremely confident and aggressive.  DJ and Jack were hitting from the outside; their sharpshooting had the Heat a little antsy on defense, which allowed the Cats to sneak by for several driving layups to mix in with all the threes.

Some numbers: in the fourth quarter, DJ and Stephen Jackson combined to go 6-7 from 3-point distance.  Over the last 8 1/2 minutes, the unit of DJ, Raymond, Jack, Crash and Diaw shot 8-11 from the field.  The Cats hit 4-4 free throws in the fourth quarter and 28-31 overall.  Perhaps most encouragingly, the Cats limited themselves to just 11 turnovers, well below their season average.

Bullets

  • As bad as the Bobcats medium-to-long term prospects are as a franchise, aren’t you glad you aren’t a Wizards fan?  Unbelievable what’s going on there.
  • Larry Brown was positively chipper in his postgame comments; he lauded the effort, the decrease in turnovers, and Jackson’s overall game.
  • Tough road back-to-back, as the Cats head to Cleveland to take on Lebron and the Cavs at 6PM ET on Sunday.

-Dr. E

take it away, Stephanie:

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Heat 4/3/09

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1.  The Bobcats fall to the Heat on Friday night at the Cable Box, 97-92.  AP story here, box score here, PopcornMachine GameFlow here.  The Bobcats fall to 34-42, 2 games back from 8th place Chicago, 2.5 games back from 7th place Detroit.

2.  As the sloshed, 45-year-old Dwyane Wade fanboy one section over chanted all night, “it’s a slow death” being a Bobcats fan right now.  With every loss in the past few weeks, we’ve looked at the schedule and said, “well, we can still go X-and-X from here out and make it.  And we’re still there: if we run the table and win all six remaining games, we probably still have a shot at the playoffs.  That would include wins at Detroit and Chicago (our direct competitors for the last spot) and would get us to 40 wins.

Let’s face reality, though — it ain’t gonna happen.  But until the day when we’re mathematically eliminated, it’s going to continue to be a slow death.

3.  The crowd was announced as a sellout again, but again there were plenty of empty seats.  Still a great crowd, though.  And we did get to experience the aforementioned Green Night.  Everyone got a free Sprite/Bobcats t-shirt in a colorway that is best described as: faded puke lime green.  And early-comers/season-ticket holders got reusable Harris-Teeter grocery bags.

Of course the big draw was the green jerseys — not bad, actually.  I’m far from a uni-traditionalist, so I actually like alternate/special jerseys in most cases.  But pardon me for asking: how is it “green” to produce a whole new batch of jerseys and thousands of giveaway t-shirts at the end of the season?  I have to assume the jerseys will be auctioned off with proceeds benefitting some green charity, right?

4.  On to the actual game.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Cats come out of the gates strong, defending well, keeping the opponent’s star in check.  They move the ball well and shoot a high percentage; only to falter, go cold and move away from what was working in the first place later on.  The game is tight throughout the second half; but down the stretch, when the good teams in the league turn everything up a notch and stars rise to the occasion, the Bobcats wither, unable to score when it counts.

I feel like I’ve written that numerous times this year, and thought it countless times over the past five seasons.  And it’s OK, it’s to be expected.  The Bobcats haven’t done much to get respect from the officials, so we’re never going to get the benefit of the doubt on close calls.  We’ll rarely shoot more free throws than the opponents in an important game.  And we don’t have anything close to a superstar who would be a force on the offensive end — someone the opponents have to double-team, someone who can get to the rim, draw a foul, create his own shot and make it reliably.

5.  So while I know that the Bobcats don’t have that star player who can take the game in his hands down the stretch, I’m going to keep beating the drum that there has to be a better option than Raymond Felton.  With 30 seconds left, down three, everyone standing, the Cats have the ball.  Of course, it’s in Raymond’s hands.  No one else appears to be doing much to get open or run a play — if they were, the Heat foiled it pretty easily.  Felton drives, overpenetrates, and has to try a difficult layup.  It misses badly.  Of course, there is contact, and of course, everyone cries for a foul.  No such call is made.  Heat rebound, game pretty much over.

Felton is like the anti-Dwayne Wade in this respect.  Something about the symphony of bodies flying around near the basket when Felton drives looks different enough to the refs that they swallow their whistle instead of blowing it.  When penetrating, he seems to do just a bit too much to avoid the contact.  So after doing just a bit too much, he’s left with an impossible, contorted layup attempt.

In part, it’s because Felton’s not as an explosive leaper as Wade, and maybe isn’t quite as strong either.  But most of all, it’s just a knack that Wade has that Felton doesn’t.  There’s something innate that allows Wade to accept (or initiate) just the right amount of contact in just the right way, while still allowing himself enough control to still get a reasonable shot attempt up.

6.  To beat a dead horse, Wade drew a foul and hit both free throws on the other end to pump the lead to 94-89 with 19 seconds left.  Diaw hit a quick three on the other end to close the gap to two again with 16 seconds left.  Next possesion, Wade draws another foul.  This time, he only hits one of two free throws to leave the door open a sliver: 95-92 Heat with 12 seconds left, Bobcats ball.

Needing a three, Larry Brown inexplicably leaves this lineup on the floor: DJ, Raymond, Wallace, Diaw and Okafor.  Now Raja Bell was out after straining his calf earlier in the game, but is there any reason not to have Radmanovic or even Cartier Martin out there?  When you have to shoot a three, don’t you want as many shooters out there as possible?  I can understand Okafor being there — maybe he gets to bat a rebound out for another attempt at a three; but seriously, why is Gerald out there?  Or Felton, for that matter?  Those two are shooting 29% and 28%, respectively, on threes this year.

Anyways, the ball ends up in Raymond’s hands (it’s almost as if opponents want him to be the shooter in these situations, huh?  Ya don’t think?…. Nah…) and he has to fire up the three.  It’s contested well, but still a decent look.  Brick, game over.

7.  For the Heat, D-Wade was great — kind of on a consistent, slow burn all night until the fourth quarter, when he really turned it on.  Raja Bell checked him in the first half, but went out just minutes into the third quarter with a calf strain.  That left Cartier Martin to guard Wade for the entire third quarter.  Cartier did a decent job, holding Wade to just five points in that stretch.  But he was getting a lot of help from teammates, as Wade’s 5 assists during the third quarter would attest to.  Raymond also did a decent job with the impossible task of guarding Wade in the fourth quarter — Wade’s simply too good.

Michael Beasley was pretty impressive in 27 minutes, going 7-9 for 14 smooth points with 4 rebounds.  If he ever gets a motor and commits to playing defense, the sky’s the limit.  If not, hello Derrick Coleman 2.0.

Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal both went out with turned ankles at different points in the second half — both returned eventually.  Udonis Haslem busted his shooting hand on the backboard or rim playing defense and needed stitches.  Reports are he’ll probably shut it down for the rest of the season to let the gash heal.

8.  For the Cats, Gerald Wallace had a nice game: 21 points (8-12 FG, 4-4 FT), 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.  One of those blocks was on a Dwayne Wade dunk attempt — just amazing, and had the Cats won the game I’d probably write a whole paragraph on it.  But check the GameFlow and it will show that Wallace accumulated all of those stats in the first three quarters.  Despite playing all 12 minutes of the fourth, he registered only 3 fouls and 2 turnovers in the quarter.  Not a single point, rebound, assist or block.  This happens far too often — we have to find some way to keep Gerald involved in the fourth quarter.

Bell is possibly done for the year with a bad calf strain.  He walked off gingerly with assistance from the Human Crutch, Sean May; postgame, Larry Brown said that Raja said he felt it pop, which usually means a pretty significant muscle tear.

Bad game for Radmanovic: I asked earlier why he wasn’t out there to close the game when we needed a three, and the best answer is that he had performed miserably thus far in the game.  0-6 in 17 minutes, 0-2 from three.

9.  Six games left, need ‘em all:

Sun, Apr 5    @ Detroit    6:00 PM
Tue, Apr 7    Philadelphia    7:00 PM
Fri, Apr 10    @ Oklahoma City    8:00 PM
Sat, Apr 11    @ Chicago    8:30 PM
Mon, Apr 13    @ New Jersey    7:30 PM
Wed, Apr 15    @ Orlando    8:00 PM

Go Cats!

-E

Charlotte Bobcats @ Heat 2/8/09

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1.  The Bobcats lose a close one on the road to the Miami Heat, 96-92.  AP story here, box score here.  The Cats have now lost five straight since losing Gerald Wallace in the dramatic win against the Lakers, and fall to 19-31.

2.  With Raja Bell out with a groin strain, and Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown traded away, the Bobcats come out with a makeshift starting lineup of Augustin, Felton, Diaw, Howard and Okafor — which matches up pretty well with Miami’s first five: Chalmers/Wade/Marion/Haslem/Magloire.

Total snoozer of a first half, punctuated by a Heat mini-run that propelled them to a 43-39 halftime advantage.  Wade (duh) led the way for Miami, while DJ and Juwan Howard paced the Bobcats.

3.  The Heat pulled away a bit more in the third quarter, so the Bobcats enter the final period down 69-61.  The Cats fought hard in the fourth, twice cutting the deficit down to just two points, but could never get any closer — both times Daequan Cook hit big three-pointers to hold the Cats at bay.

Felton hit a three with 43 seconds left to cut the lead to four and give the Bobcats one last chance.  They actually forced a Dwyane Wade miss on the other end, but any hopes of a thrilling comeback were dashed when Wade grabbed the rebound.

4.  Wade was supposedly playing with a touch of the flu, and did only play 31 minutes; despite that, he led the way for the Heat, netting 22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.  The Heat also got great contributions from their two young guards: 16 points (4-7 3PT) from Daequan Cook and 16 points/13 assists from Mario Chalmers.  Wade, Cook and Chalmers shot a combined 22-39 (56%) from the field, which shouldn’t be unexpected with Raja Bell out.  DJ and Raymond are undersized when they have to play together, which allows opposing guards lots of good looks at the basket.

5.  DJ led the Cats in scoring with 27 on 10-19 FG and 6-11 3PT, but only had 6 assists and a rough -12 +/-.  Felton, on the other hand, had a miserable shooting night (4-17 FG 1-6 3PT) but did contribute 11 assists.  Howard played well enough in a spot start, getting 14 points on 6-11 FG in 30 minutes; problem is, he only managed 3 rebounds and ended with a -10 +/-.

With the Cats so shorthanded, Alexis Ajinca got a little five minute run spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth.  He nailed a 20 footer, then got fouled taking another and hit both free throws for a personal 4-0 run.  He also grabbed 3 rebounds in those limited minutes — nice that he ventured into the paint, being 7’1″ and all.

6.  Apparently, Vladimir Radmanovich was in Miami with the team and going through his physical in the hours before the game.  The team had hoped to be able to activate him for the game (pretty desperate, huh?) but was stopped by the league because L.A.’s early Sunday gametime had prevented them from getting physicals done for Morrison and Brown.

7.  In the big picture, I’m perfectly OK with taking this loss.  Though we’re still just a few games out of the 8th playoff spot, what exactly would getting to the playoffs do for us?  We’d get a couple of home playoff games in which we’d get absolutely obliterated by Lebron and the Cavs, and worst of all, we’d lose our draft pick (it would go to the Nuggets to finish the deal for the pick we used on Ajinca).

8.  And looking ahead to the trade deadline, I’m still expecting Raymond Felton to be dealt.  Rick Bonnell has recently floated the idea that the Bobcats might actually be willing to to trade DJ Augustin, thinking that the bad economy will keep the market for Raymond Felton low enough for the Cats to keep him this offseason.  That would be foolish, though.  Augustin is already a better shooter than Felton, will be just as good of a point guard once given the opportunity to singularly run the team, and is on his rookie contract for a few more years.

I’m wondering if the Bobcats had Bonnell float that idea in order to drive up the market for Felton a bit.  We know that Dallas and Portland may be interested, but if Jameer Nelson is going to have surgery on his shoulder (that decision will be made soon) then Orlando would seem to be the perfect destination for Felton.  It would be great for them — they’d get Felton for their playoff run.  If they liked what they saw, maybe they’d consider resigning him as Nelson’s backup; if not, they could let him go.

But do the Magic have anything the Bobcats would want in a deal?  If the Magic were desperate enough, I’d ask for Courtney Lee (with Brian Cook thrown in to make the salaries match).  I’m sure the Magic have no intentions of giving Lee up; but if Nelson chooses to have surgery, they couldn’t go into the playoffs with Tyronn Lue and Anthony Johnson running point and would thus have to consider it.

9.  Next game is Monday night, back at the Cable Box hosting the LA Clippers at 7 PM ET.  We’ll get our first look at the Rad Man in a Bobcats uni and a good chance at a win.

-E