Bulls Stampede Bobcats in Chicago

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Chicago 4/3/10

Without Stephen Jackson for most of the second half, the Charlotte Bobcats still managed to lead the game until midway through the 4th quarter but a motivated Chicago Bulls team stormed back from a six point deficit to win the game 96-88 to move just three games back of the Bobcats in the Eastern Playoff race.

AP recap here | Boxscore here

The Undisputed Alpha

Those of you who suffered along with me during the Bobcats Opening Night Massacre in Boston (92-59) will remember how painfully lost and dysfunctional this team looked pre-Captain Jack.  A team of selfless role players was in desperate need of an alpha.  Just a few games after he was acquired, Stephen Jackson assumed that role and the Bobcats never looked back, going 37-27 since November 22nd.  While Gerald Wallace might be the clubhouse leader and an NBA All-Star, there’s no doubting who is more irreplaceable.  During a three game absence in mid-March, the Bobcats beat the OKC Thunder and the Magic in Orlando as Wallace recuperated from an ankle injury.  Tonight against the Bulls, in a tough-fought game with postseason ramifications, the ‘Cats were without their Alpha for the final quarter when they desperately needed some clutch buckets to counter the Bulls run.  But they couldn’t do it.  Captain Jack was sitting on the bench, seemingly wrapped head to toe, nursing a variety of injuries.  Pressure was not made love to this evening.  Pressure had a TV dinner, a half-pint of Häagen Dazs and fell asleep reading a cheap romance novel.

Bullets

  • Just three home games and three road dates remain for the Bobcats.  None of them gimmes.  Home against the Hawks (tough), at New Orleans and Houston (not easy) on a mini road trip and then home dates against the Pistons and Bulls sandwiched by a final meeting with the Nets in Jersey.  Obviously, the Bulls season finale is important but if the ‘Cats win at least three of the next four, they should have their first Playoff birth locked up for good, regardless.
  • Kirk Hinrich torched the ‘Cats tonight with 24 points on 9-12 shooting but this was an aberration — Hinrich is only averaging 10ppg on 39% shooting for the year.  Still, if the Bulls could get Rose and Hinrich to play consistently together as they did tonight, they’d have a hell of a backcourt rotation.
  • Charlotte’s heralded free throw opportunity advantage disappeared tonight.  Chicago won the battle with 21-16 shots from the stripe.
  • If Larry Hughes is supposed to be Flip Murray’s replacement, he did a good job keeping up with him tonight.  Murray: 2-10 for 5 points, Hughes: 4-14 for 14 points.  Hughes won the headband contest as well 1-0.

Enjoy the Loss, Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

Bobcats Defeat Wizards For Third Straight Win

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Wizards, 3/26/10


The Charlotte Bobcats completed possibly the easiest week in franchise history at 3-o with a Friday night home victory over the Washington Wizards, 107-96.  The Cats weren’t exactly dominating; but the Wizards weren’t exactly challenging, either.

AP recap here |  Box score here

This game was eerily similar to the Timberwolves game just two nights ago — the first quarter was close, with not much defense being played and Stephen Jackson getting off to a fast start.  Then the Bobcats gradually pulled away.

The Wizards staged a mini-run early in the fourth quarter to pull within four at 85-81, but the Cats responded in typical fashion — turning up the defensive intensity and getting a few easy buckets.  Soon all was right with the world again.  A Stephen Jackson three put it away at 101-86 with about four minutes left, allowing Larry Hughes, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown a couple minutes of mop-up duty to finish the night off.

The Cats won all kinds of statistical battles: they finished the night at 55% FG (Wizards 48%) by dominating the paint, scoring 50 points there to the Wiz’s 28.  The Cats outrebounded the Wiz 34-26 and blocked 8 shots to the Wiz’s 3.

Individually, the Cats top four of Raymond Felton, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw were fantastic.  They combined for 74 points on 28-44 FG (64%).  Felton in particular shot 8-10 for 19 points and added 11 rebounds.

Perhaps most importantly, the starters played so well that none of them had to play more than 34 minutes.  As the Bobcats get things tuned up for the playoffs, it will be important that the regulars are healthy and rested, new guys like Tyrus Thomas and Larry Hughes are acclimated, and Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown are ready for important minutes if needed.

Tidbits

  • The Cats are now 38-34 overall and 27-8 at home.  Miami won tonight to move to 39-34 and ahead of the Cats into 6th place in the East.
  • Cool stat from the AP article: in playing the Wizards, Timberwolves, then Wizards again this week, the Bobcats became only the third team in NBA history to play three straight games against teams with losing streaks of 10+ games.
  • My comments about Baby Blatche and the Wizards here on Twitter.
  • The Cats have the weekend off; next game is Monday night at the Cable Box against 8th place Toronto.  Interestingly, Toronto faces off against Miami on Sunday night, so they’ve got a back-to-back against the two squads directly in front of them for the playoffs.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Cruise To Victory Over T-Wolves

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Charlotte Bobcats vs T-Wolves, 3/24/10

The Charlotte Bobcats rode Stephen Jackson’s 37 points to a relatively easy victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, 108-95, on Wednesday night at the Cable Box.

AP recap here | Box score here

Though the Bobcats began a relatively easy stretch in the schedule last night in Washington DC, you wouldn’t have known it by watching the Cats ugly overtime victory against the Wizards.  But tonight, at home against the Timberwolves, the Cats took care of business like a playoff team should.

After a loose first 17 minutes or so of the game in which little defense was played, the T-Wolves had opened up a 9 point lead at 43-34.  But over the next 6 minutes, the Bobcats turned the defensive intensity way up, blocking shots and forcing turnovers en route to a dominating 20-0 run.

A Ramon Sessions bucket with under a minute left in the half finally stopped the bleeding for the T-Wolves, but the damage had been done.  The Cats had exerted their dominance; they took a 10-point lead into halftime and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Jack Is Back (?)

Stephen Jackson’s recent struggles have been well-documented.  He’s shooting 37% from the field in the last 10 games — that includes a brutal 13-53 (24.5%) from 3-point distance over the period.  He’s finally revealed that he has a nagging left hand injury that may be contributing and warned that it will likely continue to bother him.

But that was all forgotten tonight.  Jack came out on fire, hitting his first three shots on the way to 17 first quarter points.  He finished with 37 (15-24 FG, 4-6 3PT, 3-4 FT), 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.  Good riddance to Jack’s slump.

We can’t expect 30+ every night from Jack, but if we can get 25+ AND play the kind of defense that was on display in the second quarter, the Cats may very well make some noise in the playoffs.

Tidbits

  • The win runs the Bobcats record to 37-34 overall and 26-8 at home.  We’re back in a tie with Miami for the 6th spot currently, and get the nod as we hold the tiebreaker over them.
  • Gerald Wallace: 23 points on 9-16 FG, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 3 blocks
  • Raymond Felton: 16 points on 8-10 FG, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 8 assists/0 turnovers
  • Larry Hughes came off the bench for 14 minutes; he looked a little better tonight, but still awfully rusty overall.  If he can work himself into game shape over the next few weeks (same goes for Nazr) we’ll have quite the deep bench for the playoffs.
  • Next game is Friday night at the Cable Box against the Wizards, who have now lost 13 in a row and continue to deal with distractions.  I’ll be there and tweeting as usual.

-Dr. E

Joe Johnson Sends Bobcats Home at the Buzzer

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Charlotte Bobcats@Hawks 3/19/10


Wow.  Exciting finish to an otherwise pedestrian game as Raymond Felton and Joe Johnson exchange clutch shots in the final 3.8 seconds of overtime.  Final score: Hawks 93, ‘Cats 92.

AP recap here | Box score here

The Bobcats Should Have Won This Game

You can’t really blame Joe Johnson for the loss.  Up by ten points midway through the 4th quarter, the Bobcats had numerous opportunities to put the game away.  Turnovers (15) and poor bench play (outscored 28-15) hurt throughout but look at the final three plays of regulation to see where the game was really lost:

Up by four with a little more than 2:00 on the clock, the Bobcats proceed to:

  • Possession One: Raymond Felton forced drive and miss at the end of the shot clock on a busted play that was supposed to go to either Stephen Jackson or Boris Diaw.
  • Possession Two: Stephen Jackson two missed free throws.
  • Possession Three: Boris Diaw passes up a two-footer in the lane for a Theo Ratliff missed ten footer.

Regulation over, Hawks tie it up to send it to OT.

Meanwhile in OT the Bobcats are KILLED by JAX’s four consecutive missed 3-pointers.  While it’s understood that Jackson is the team’s first scoring option, I’m very curious as to how his teammates are going to react to his decision making tonight.  JAX wasn’t feeling it from downtown all evening and ended up going 1-7 from behind the arc.

Joe Johnson finally got hot in the 4th quarter and OT after struggling for most of the game and then emphatically sealed the win at the buzzer with a contested jumper over Raymond Felton.

Bullets

  • Not only did Raymond have a great game with 25 points (on 11-19 shooting) in 46 minutes but he had the two clutch baskets in OT that might have won the game if not for Johnson’s heroics.  The weird line-drive floater in the lane with 3.8 to go in OT was surpassed only by his “Rumblin, Fumblin, Stumblin” fast break layup in traffic a minute earlier.  One could only hope they Ray will learn to time his game winners a little closer to the buzzer from this point on.
  • As mentioned above, the Bobcats bench was outclassed – that was the difference that kept ATL in the game during a first half when their starters were struggling.  Jamal Crawford continues to torment the Bobcats (16 points) no matter what jersey he happens to be wearing.
  • Raymond’s backup, D.J. Augustin, served up another DPBCI (Did Play But Completely Ineffective).  Seven minutes, 0-2 from the field, 2 assists, 2 fouls, 1 turnover.  So glad that we don’t have Brook Lopez lumbering down the lane.
  • Gerald Wallace with a big first game back from the ankle injury.  Crash was mostly MIA in the first half but dropped 18 points after the break to finish with 20 points, 16 boards, and a BIG block in transition that helped swing the momentum in the Bobcats direction during their 25-18 third quarter run.
  • Theo Ratliff had a terrible game offensively (1-9 from the floor) but you really have to spread the blame around to his teammates (especially Boris Diaw) for feeding him shots late in the shot clock that he had no business taking.
  • Some good news may be on the horizon.  The two main areas where the Bobcats were deficient against the Hawks (offensive production at Center, bench scoring) will certainly be improved once Nazr Mohammed and Larry Hughes return from injury.  Hughes should be ready by early next week while Mohammed is still day to day.

Until Next Time, Enjoy the Loss Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

Larry Hughes To Sign With Bobcats

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hughes

Adam Fleischer of SLAM Magazine broke the news last night on Twitter that Larry Hughes will be signing with the Bobcats in the coming days.  This morning, Rick Bonnell is confirming the news, presumably from a team source.

Hughes is a 12-year NBA journeyman who experienced the best stretch of his career in the early-to-mid 2000s when he was a major cog for the Washington Wizards.  In 2002-03, a budding Hughes was signed by Michael Jordan to relieve His Airness and his balky knees.  That season didn’t go so well, but after Jordan was fired in the offseason, Hughes came back to post the best marks of his career in 2003-04.

He, Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas combined to become the highest scoring trio in the league that year and led the Wizards to a 45-37 regular season record and a first round playoff victory over the Chicago Bulls.  Hughes averaged 22 points, 6 rebounds and nearly 3 steals a game and was named to the All-Star Team and the All-Defensive 1st Team that year.

That performance bought Hughes a huge free-agent contract in the 2005 offseason, as he was signed by the Cavs to a 5-year, $70 million dollar deal to be LeBron James’ first big sidekick.  Unfortunately, injuries and an overall declining game contributed to things “just not working out” in Cleveland.  This stint resulted in a Cavs fan creating the blog Hey Larry Hughes, Please Stop Taking So Many Bad Shots, which amazingly was still being updated with Larry Hughes news as recently as last month.

Hughes’ minutes and scoring average have generally fallen every year since then, as he has bounced around between the Knicks and Bulls.

Hughes has had two career lowlights in the past few seasons.  The first came almost exactly two years ago, when Hughes, then a Bull, made comments to Cavs beatwriter Mark Windhorst that his goal as an NBA player was not necessarily to win, or win a championship.  Instead, Hughes indicated that he could be just as happy collecting his check and playing the way he preferred, which presumably was to be running the wing and jacking up a lot of shots — even if that didn’t translate to winning.

The comments essentially amounted to sacrelige and Hughes’ reputation has suffered greatly since then.  It hasn’t helped that his production has continued to decline, either.

Hughes second lowlight came earlier this season when he suffered the ignominy of riding the bench for the New York Knicks.  Now we may have to look back upon this from a slightly different angle as Mike D’Antoni’s wunderkind “7 seconds or less” reputation as a coach is increasingly taking a beating as time goes on, but the fact remains that Hughes was essentially deemed useless by a 22-44 team this year.

On February 18th, the Knicks sent Larry Hughes to the Kings as part of the Tracy McGrady trade.  At the time, Hughes was out with a broken finger, but was expected to be waived or bought out regardless.  On February 23rd, he was indeed waived, which freed him up to sign with any team down the stretch once his finger healed.  Which brings us to this weekend…

Life As A Bobcat

Hughes is a 6’4 or 5″ combo guard who will essentially fill Flip Murray’s role.  This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as Larry Brown is currently without his beloved “veteran third point guard” and couldn’t have been expected to go on much longer without such a trope/security blanket.

Beyond the fact that Michael Jordan brought Larry Hughes to the Washington Wizards back in 2002, Hughes has even deeper connections to the Bobcats — Larry Brown drafted and coached him to start his career in Philadelphia, and per Wikipedia, Hughes is a childhood friend of rapper and Bobcats minority owner (still?) Nelly.

Whether Hughes has anything left in the tank, or whether he’s willing to sublimate his ego enough to play spot minutes as a combo guard (sorta the role he bristled at in Cleveland) remains to be seen.

Perhaps most concerning for Bobcats fans is that the departure of Flip Murray has been associated with the rejuvenation of DJ Augustin and the emergence of rookie Gerald Henderson (maybe “emergence” is a bit strong, I know).  If Hughes’ presence results in any regression for these two young players, Bobcats fans will certainly be up in arms.

More likely than not, though, Hughes simply represents a cheap “insurance” option for the Cats, should Felton or Augustin suffer an injury down the stretch, or Henderson prove to be completely unprepared for even short stints of playing time in a pressure-filled playoff game.  Here’s hoping we don’t have to rely too much on him, though.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Get By Clippers; Wallace Leaves With Sprained Ankle

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Clippers 3/12/10

The Charlotte Bobcats notched their fifth straight win by defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 106-98 at the Cable Box on Friday night.  Stephen Jackson paced the Bobcats with 24 points (9-21 FG) and 6 assists.  The Clippers actually outshot the Cats 57.5% to 54.2%, but committed 23 turnovers and were outrebounded by the Cats 36-30.

AP recap here |  Box score here

The Cats built a 61-45 lead by halftime, then coasted through the second half, withstanding a half-hearted fourth quarter push by the rag-tag, Eric Gordon-less Clippers.  With the win, the Cats move to 33-31 overall, 6th place in the East, and ensured their best ever home record with their 24th victory at the Cable Box.

But it was a play right at the end of the first half that will be causing Cats fans consternation in the coming days.

Crash

With the Cats already on a 6-0 run and causing the Clippers all sorts of problems closing out the first half, Gerald Wallace poked the ball away from Baron Davis.  Wallace had been dominant in the first half, with 17 points (7-8 FG), 6 rebounds and 4 steals.  The loose ball went to Stephen Jackson, who flipped it ahead to Wallace, already at full speed.  Gerald flew down the court with just seconds left on the clock, a step or two ahead of Baron.  But as Gerald took off and glided towards the basket, Baron caught up enough to make some contact.

Most of the contact he made was basically a cheap push in Gerald’s lower back with his left hand.  Gerald was fully extended and essentially defenseless, and was sent careening towards the basket support in a manner that we’ve certainly seen in the past, but not this season.  Gerald landed awkwardly on his left ankle and immediately grabbed for it.

Larry Brown soon made his way over as Gerald rolled around on the floor.  The rest of the bench was up and visibly upset. Raymond Felton fretted with both hands on his head; assistant coach Phil Ford angrily slapped some rolled up papers against his other hand.  Angry boos rained down; Baron’s perfunctory concern for Gerald and the fact that a flagrant foul was called was enough to prevent a minor incident.

Gerald was eventually able to get up and hit one of the two free throws to give the Cats 61-45 halftime lead, but headed straight back to the locker room with the trainers after that.  He reportedly had negative x-rays on the ankle, but did not return to the bench (or the game) for the second half.

With the Bulls having fallen off a cliff without Joakim Noah (and now without Luol Deng and Derrick Rose), there’s no longer much danger of the Cats finishing out of the playoff race.  But we can hardly afford to be without Gerald for too long as we try to jockey for the 6th seed and the right to play Boston (or possibly Atlanta) in the first round.  7th or 8th place buys us a matchup with the Magic or Cavs, respectively.  This season’s victories over the Cavs notwithstanding, both of those series would probably result in the Bobcats getting swept or nearly swept.

6th place or bust — Get Well Soon Gerald!

Lotsa Tidbits

  • David Stern has rubber-stamped Michael Jordan’s purchase of the Bobcats; all that remains is for the league’s board of governors to agree sometime in the next couple of weeks.  In something of a surprise, Stern indicated that the purchase price was around $275 million (not $175 million as had been rumored last week) and that Jordan put up all of the money.  He apparently is still trying to line up minority investors, but still…
  • Gana Diop was apparently planning to dress for tonight’s game, but had dizzy spells after a Thursday workout and will miss several games while getting worked up.  Check the first comment under the post in that link, it says all you need to know about this story — Cats fans are already fantasizing about a career-ending heart condition for Gana and the salary cap relief it would provide.
  • After giving up and selling the Bobcats, Bob Johnson is mercifully killing off his stupid horse-jumping competition.
  • Tyson Chandler had another solid game off the bench: 13 points (5-7 FG) and 9 rebounds in 32 minutes.
  • Here’s some food for thought for the weekend from the Wall Street Journal: there is a 50/50 split in the NBA between teams who employ dedicated statistical/data analysts.  The teams that do have a 60% winning percentage this season, while the teams that don’t are at 40%.  Now I was pretty sure that the Bobcats don’t, but a line in the story seems to contradict that (the line about only the Suns, Hawks and Jazz being the only playoff teams that don’t).  Anyone know for sure if the Cats do?
  • Larry Hughes, anyone?
  • Next game is Sunday evening at 6 PM in Orlando versus Superman and the Magic.

-Dr. E

Boozer Demolishes Bobcats, Sale Imminent? Hughes Signing Soon?

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Utah 2/24/10

Charlotte can’t hold onto an eleven point half-time lead as Carlos Boozer and the Jazz TapouT™ the ‘Cats in Salt Lake City 102-93.

AP recap here | Box Score here | Bonnell recap here

The Game

Bobcats start out strong in Utah, avoiding the usual Insta-Road-Deficit but were bullied by a physical Jazz team in the second half.

Jerry Sloan countered Larry Brown with an all-too-obvious adjustment at halftime by pounding the ball inside and destroying a small Bobcats lineup that was without centers Nazr Mohammed (back), Gana Diop (knee) and Tyson Chandler (testicles).

Without the $64 Million Dollar Men, Larry Brown was again forced to play Theo Ratliff north of 30 minutes for the second consecutive game – Ratliff had played a total of 37 minutes in 2010 before being traded to the Bobcats.  The 36 year old veteran did his best but the Bobcats had no answer for former Dookie Carlos Boozer (33 points on 13 of 16 shooting).  Even Boris Diaw, who is regularly singled out for his one-on-one defensive abilities by John Hollinger, had no chance against ‘Los.  Boris’ -23 plus/minus pretty much sums up his night.  THE RESULT: Jazz outscore the Bobcats 31-16 in the third, 29-24 in the fourth.  LB would watch the rest of the game from the locker room after being tossed late in the final period (reportedly over being jealous of Kyle Korver’s tan).

QUICK NOTE ON TYRUS THOMAS:
I’m sure that the Bobcats believed that the acquisition of Thomas would allow them to throw different looks at opposing forwards.  The problem is that Thomas is a much better help defender than a Dennis Rodman-like pest on the low block and although Tyrus put up a nice line tonight (20 points, 3 steals, 4 rebounds), he’s gonna need some coaching before he becomes anything more than a game-changing gimmick player off of the bench — much like Gerald Wallace during his first few years in Charlotte.

Bullets:

  • Derrick Brown only scored two points in two minutes in this game but it was on a seriously rad dunk (check out the highlights above).  Why he and Henderson aren’t getting any extended burn is beyond me.
  • How is that this guy is two thirds of the way through his third NBA season and I’m just now finding out about Kyrylo Fesenko?  A 7-foot, 300 pound “hoss,” Fesenko could feasibly stick around in the League for the next decade.  If Marcin Gortat is worth the full mid-level, this kid is worth at least half that.  Gotta commend the Jazz organization for loading up on quality bigs (Boozer, Milsap, Okur, Kirilenko, (last year’s) Koufus and now Fesenko.  The Jazz not only have incredible depth at the 4 & 5 positions, they could also trot out enough Euro-Heavies to finally bring down Jason Bourne.

Help on the Way?

The Kings officially cut ties with Larry Hughes today which brought on an onslaught of speculation that the ‘Cats would sign him.  On paper this makes lots of sense as Hughes seems to be from the Flip Murray School of Instant Offense.  As a 26+ game rental, Hughes could provide the slashing and jump shooting that the team lost in Murray with the added benefit of being a much better defender.  The team could ink him at the veteran’s minimum and still be under the luxury tax.
Bonnell has a nice write up of the logistics and probabilities of the move in his blog.

Going Once, Going Twice, SOLD!

How funny is it that while the financial world lies shaken from the fallout of the Greek sovereign debt crisis, some Greek-American dude is about to take on one of professional sports’ most debt-laden franchises?  You’ve probably read the quote before but the official line goes something like “most of the franchise’s value lies in it’s debt” — yeah, isn’t that how the world got into this economic mess to begin with?
The truth of the matter is that the Bobcats are going to be sold for far less than what Bob Johnson paid for it (before calculating inflation and all of the other money Johnson has thrown away during the past 6-7 years) and if George Postolos’ Group has the slightest inkling of how to run a major sports franchise, the team should be profitable within the next 3-5 years (pending a 2011 lockout).
Charlotte led the league in attendance for close to a decade, they have an incredible facility (controversially gifted to them by taxpayers), a quality city, educated fans, good weather, lots of home grown, regional talent and are the only NBA team in a region that spans south of D.C. and north of Atlanta.  It would take a certified moron to screw up a situation like this (as we’ve witnessed).  Barring a last minute rally from Michael Jordan’s “Ownership Group,” we’re likely to see Postolos take control of this franchise very soon.

Until Next Time, Enjoy the Loss Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin