Bobcats, Brown Snag One From Sac-Town

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Jordan Watches Kwame Brown Beat The Kings

The Charlotte Bobcats pulled out a win in Sacramento to start their longest road trip thus far this season. Despite several bumbling moments late in the game, the Cats kept the Kings at arms-length throughout to notch a 94-89 win over their host in Sacramento.

AP Recap | Box Score

1st Half Notes

The game started ugly, with a lot of stoppages due to a hyped up referee crew. With so many whistles, neither team established a groove and both squads had to sit big men due to early foul trouble (Boris Diaw for Charlotte and DeMarcus Cousins for Sacramento). The first quarter was an exhibition in bad shooting.  The Bobcats could maybe blame this on time-zone difference, and the Kings could say that they suffered coming off of a back-to-back in Portland.  So, the poor shooting allowed for a load of rebounds and most of those came in the form of offensive boards for the home team.

Sacramento has a good reputation for their rebounding, and it appeared that Charlotte’s crew intentionally tried to avoid focusing on just battling them on the boards. The Bobcats were working to move the ball in transition and score quick, easy points. Had they stood around to the paint after shots, the game would have moved much slower and given the advantage to the Kings. This “strategy” led to a double-digit lead in the second quarter, where Gerald Wallace started to take over. Crash has been a bit “ho-hum” lately, and it was nice to see him drive to the hoop and finish strong. He’s capable of a lot more than he’s shown over the last month, and the team will need more of his presence on this road trip.

The Kings have some decent, young talent and guard Beno Udrih put a lot of work in to use his size against DJ Augustin early in the game. Tyreke Evans was covered by the taller Stephen Jackson, but scored easily to start. Surprisingly, Kings forward Jason Thompson showed a load of offensive ability and hustle during his first half minutes. Despite the bright spots for the Sacramento’s team, the Bobcats began to establish a flow on offense in the second quarter and Kwame Brown’s presence grew larger and larger on the defensive side of the floor. Things were rolling for the Cats to close the period, and it was great to see the guys building chemistry on the road trip as they talked and joked in the time-out huddles.

2nd Half Notes

Foul trouble was the theme for the start of the second-half of this game. Boris Diaw and Eduardo Najera both entered the 3rd Quarter with 3 fouls apiece. Diaw quickly snagged his fourth and it seemed as thought the Frenchman had barely seen the floor during the match. Najera was plugged in at the Power Forward spot, and handled his promotion excellently by nailing an open 3-pointer and getting to line on quick cuts. Stephen Jackson was fairly quiet throughout the first 2 quarters and somehow picked up 3 fouls in less than 2 minutes of the 3rd period, leading the Bobcats into the penalty very quickly. Interestingly, Kwame Brown kept taking the ball up strong and could not get the refs to call foul on the Kings defenders. Finally, after several bumps and slaps, DeMarcus Cousins was called for his 4th foul mid-way through the 3rd. Despite the lop-sided calls, Brown never lost his cool and kept working hard on both ends of the floor to snag 11 rebounds in the period.

After a streak-for-streak match by the teams to open the final quarter, the Bobcats found themselves struggling to establish offensive consistency. Shaun Livingston showed a few nice driving, pull-up shots, but that wasn’t nearly enough to settle the Kings momentum. Carl Landry threw down a strong dunk (with the beat of Snoop’s classic “What’s My Name?” playing over the arena soundsystem) to spark a rally for Sacramento. During their push, the Kings enjoyed Nazr Mohammed’s lack of presence on defense and made him look even more “ugh” on offense.

Coach Paul Silas must have seen enough, and unleashed Kwame Brown onto Sac-town about half-way through the 4th. Quickly, Brown forced Cousins into his 6th foul and eliminated the Kings’ best big man. While Stephen Jackson stepped up, Gerald Wallace went quiet for many of the final minutes. The most consistent force for the Cats was clearly Kwame Brown. Teammates worked to feed him and he defended the paint, allowing them to run out on the break. Boris Diaw re-entered the game late, and kept up a habit of making unnecessary passes until knocking down a 3-pointer that should have been the “nail in the coffin” shot with 1 minute left. Unfortunately, Charlotte finished ugly and left the door open for the Kings to cut it close. The Bobcats settled down when it counted and survived the scare to finish the game like professionals, winning 94-89.

Loose Notes:

Kwame Brown had a big double-double with 13 pts / 18 rebs! In a post-game interview, Kwame credited Asst. Coach Charles Oakley for pushing him during practice.

Boris Diaw made some bad fouls to keep him on the bench. While Najera filled in adequately, this could have been a big game for Boris to exploit the youth and inexperience of the opposing youngsters for the Kings.

Michael Jordan made the trip to see his club in Sacramento. It was also reported that he was at the Blazers-Kings game in Portland the night before. With Rod Higgins at his side, is he doing a little personnel scouting or just supporting his team on their big West Coast swing?

Gerald Henderson never found a rhythm in this game. He had a really sweet hang-in-the-air scoop lay-up early in the game, but showed nothing else. Dominic McGuire failed to impress, as well. D-Mac was forced to guard a lot bigger forwards, so he did well just to survive.

Lastly, I wanted to bring up a topic that’s been on the minds of a lot of Cats fans – rebuilding. It seems like the savvy thing to say is that a small-market team needs to follow the “build through the draft” model to succeed. If the San Antonio Spurs are the the prototype of this model, it should be noted that they are an anomaly. David Robinson and Tim Duncan don’t come around too often, and the Spurs struck gold twice. When folks (and fellow Baseliners) preach the “rebuild through the draft” method, we need to realize that a team like the Sacramento Kings are the most likely outcome of this plan. I hear that the Kings were really good about a decade a go. What’s been going on out there since?  Hmmm?

Bonus Link : Recap By Sactown Royalty

-Mike

The Bobcats After (a Little Over) the Halfway Point

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Charlotte Bobcats Mid-Season Status

I can’t believe it’s already past halfway through the NBA season. It just happened so fast!

Before I knew it, my expectations of another playoff season disintegrated to the dust that is hoping for a good lottery pick while remaining competitive and now just hoping that we remain competitive and can develop young talent.

So here we are, sitting on a record of 17-25 with a full, 15-man roster while one of our best players, Tyrus Thomas is injured for about the next two months. Let’s recap what’s happened so far before I talk about where I think we go from here.

The Initial Disappointment

The Bobcats dropped six of their first seven games in painful fashion, with three of those losses decided by four points or less. Contrasting that with the previous season which was noted for the Bobcats’ stifling defense, this team was an utter mess. The defense was all out of sorts, giving up three-pointer after three pointer and having weak a very weak interior despite decent rebounding. And the offense wasn’t much improved either, but what did you expect from former head coach Larry Brown? He has never had the greatest offenses. However, the Bobcats managed to have a mediocre record at the end of November (6-11) by beating some worse teams, including New Jersey, Minnesota, Toronto, Washington and Houston.

Individually, D.J. Augustin shone brightly as he proved his ability on the court in spite of a coach that obviously lamented his presence, significantly improving his scoring and his ball distribution while keeping turnovers minimal. Tyrus Thomas, though chained to the bench with extremely limited minutes, continued to produce and energize the team whenever he was on the court. On the flip side, nearly every other starter struggled. Boris Diaw was a non-factor, Stephen Jackson was decent scoring the ball but turned the rock over way too much and Gerald Wallace just didn’t seem to be his usual “balls-to-the-wall” self anymore, especially on defense. The bench was much improved from last year, but Larry Brown as is his nature, refused to play the young guys much, if at all. Plus, Gerald Henderson got hurt, so that didn’t help either.

In short, it was the most frustrating first couple of months I’ve ever experienced as  Bobcats fan.

Rock Bottom

Fans were beginning to get fed up with the under-performing team and the inability to turn the team around, even with baby steps. The team was inconsistent, going from high points like beating the Denver Nuggets to low points like losing to the Philadelphia 76ers by 18 points. The Bobcats lost to the Celtics by 29 a week or two later but I wasn’t as upset about that considering they’ve had our number since 2009. But then the poo hit the fan. The Bobcats lost by 33 to the Memphis Grizzlies and later to the Washington Wizards by 33, who were without John Wall and Gilbert Arenas and hadn’t received Rashard Lewis in their trade with Orlando. Then the Bobcats lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder by 18 heading into a long break over the holidays. Aaaannnnd Gerald Wallace was injured for an extended period of time. Wonderful.

Larry Brown was exceptionally melancholy in post-game press conferences, sometimes seemingly on the edge of a mental breakdown. Just a day after the Thunder loss, the Bobcats organization announced that the team and Larry Brown had mutually decided that he would resign as head coach. And so ended the Larry Brown era in Charlotte.

Beginning Life Anew

On the same day as Larry Brown’s resignation, the Bobcats announced that Paul Silas would be named the interim head coach. In the following days, the Bobcats announced the assistant coaching staff consisting of Charles Oakley, Stephen Silas and Ralph Lewis. Bobcats fans were re-energized as a past fan-favorite coach (Charlotte Hornets) returned home to hopefully become competitive once again, even if the team was struggling.

The team came out guns ablaze, winning their first two games and scoring more than 100 points – a rarity for the Bobcats under Larry Brown. The fire smoldered as the team lost a close one to Golden State and another loss to the hot-as-Brooklyn Decker Miami Heat. However, they showed heart in fighting with Gerald Wallace out once again. The Bobcats returned from the losses and rattled off a four-game win streak against Minnesota, Washington, Memphis and Chicago. They also played the tough as nails Boston Celtics closer than they had in about two years. The team continued to play tough, recording some hard-fought losses and also some hard-fought wins.

D.J. Augustin flourished as Silas permitted him to play freely as opposed to under Larry Brown. Boris Diaw was less turnover-prone, rebounded better and even recorded his first-ever triple-double as a member of the Bobcats. Kwame Brown was even much better, recording multiple games with 10+ rebounds. Gerald Wallace returned and was even worse than before, as he struggled to finish at the rim and shoot. But even worse than Gerald was Stephen Jackson who is shooting 35% from the field and 22% from the three and yet never taking fewer than 14 field goal attempts. And let’s not even touch on his problems with the referees.

In bad to worse news, Tyrus Thomas got injured with a torn left meniscus which would keep him out for about 2 months.

Where To Go From Here

The Bobcats are in the very curious position of being a bad team currently in control of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Do you go for broke and try to get the squad better in the present at the cost of getting worse in the future for the chance at a playoff run? Or do you admit that rebuilding is necessary and trade the players that have value for young talent, draft picks or cap space? Does Tyrus Thomas’ injury change those odds and thus what decision will be made? (I think so)

From what I think Jordan is like as an owner, I have to believe option one is what he would choose, unfortunately for the fans who hope for consistency in the future. As I mentioned before, the Bobcats have a full 15-man roster. This means we cannot call up any guys from the NBA-DL right now. I seriously doubt that a trade won’t come. Whether that’s Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson, I don’t know – but I think it’s likely that one of them are not on the team by the trade deadline. Nazr Mohammed’s expiring contract could accompany one of their contracts for the Bobcats to get some value in return. Regardless, with Tyrus’ injury and the team’s leaders struggling, I don’t think this team makes the playoffs. I believe they will be inconsistent, possibly getting small win streaks here or there but an ultimate lack of depth and talent across the roster will keep them out of the post-season. They should cut their losses now and try to trade for youth via draft picks or guys from other teams. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Cap space won’t win championships for a small market team.

I’ve made my thoughts clear about what I think the team should do. What do y’all think?

- 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.

Boris on the Rebound?

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Boris Diaw Improves Under New Coach

At first blush, Boris Diaw is not the all-around good player he was once thought to be. After being traded to Charlotte in December of 2008, he flourished while putting up nice stats, including 15 ppg on 50% FG and 42% 3P with 5 apg and 6 rpg. But after that season, his play declined, partially due to the Stephen Jackson trade which eliminated some of his value. It seemed that with the pressure to score lifted, Diaw mentally shrugged at the idea of scoring and even being aggressive. He didn’t work as hard in the paint, taking about three fewer shots per game than the previous season but still taking the same number of three pointers per game despite dropping nearly a full ten percentage points in shots from downtown.

But most of all, he was inconsistent. However, this was still the Larry Brown era so as long as Boris played solid defense at just about any position, it didn’t matter. He was going to start every game, which he did. But while his defense was strong, his offense was, as mentioned above, inconsistent. His shooting was off and on and for the most part, he just seemed… out of it. Bobcats fans deemed him ‘nonchalant,’ which is an apt word to describe him. He’s not the Stephen Jackson or Gerald Wallace who basically wear their emotions on their sleeves. But then again, he doesn’t have to be. It’s just who he is. The fans who get upset that he doesn’t show emotion are also the ones who say things like, “Diaw doesn’t care.” While he doesn’t have the athleticism to have the chase-down blocks like Crash, nor the outward emotion, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, as some people infer. He just needed to play with more aggression.

Exit Larry Brown.

Enter Paul Silas and Charles Oakley.

When news broke about the new head coach and assistant coach, I was very interested to see what would happen to Diaw. Silas and Oakley both were very good power forwards (emphasis on the POWER) during their respective NBA careers with both averaging about 10 rebounds per game for their career. Obviously, Diaw, an unorthodox PF, doesn’t really fit that mold that Silas and Oak had and probably would prefer. While a trade seems like an obvious solution, I much preferred to see how the new coaching staff would develop Boris’ post play and rebounding. Although it is still early in Silas’ interim coaching tenure, I think 12 games are enough to make some analysis.

So far, I’ve seen marked improvement in Diaw’s aggressiveness on offense, specifically in the paint. He used to get the ball in the post, make a three quarter-assed attempt to muscle into the paint before kicking out to a teammate. Now he’s just so much better. He’s become more assertive and in the post, utilizing spin moves, his underrated baby hook and just plain using his behind and forcing himself into the pain. And yet, his scoring average in the Silas Era (S.E.) has not improved over the Larry Brown Era (L.B.E.). But that’s just fine! In the first six games in the S.E., Boris only had one game where he took more than 10 attempts from the field. Since then, he’s had five of six games with field goal attempts in double digits. While Boris’ FG% has marginally decreased in the S.E., I’m not concerned if he takes 10+ attempts. Why? Because he’s not taking shots from Augustin, so these extra attempts are Stephen Jackson’s or Gerald Wallace’s, which is fine by me as Diaw is more efficient on offense than either of them, unless Jackson has one of those games (COUGHnearfortypercentfg%COUGH). Oh, and I guess it’s worth noting that Diaw is getting to the line more often and hitting a MUCH better percentage of his free throws. Anyway, so color me tickled pink about Boris’ newfound aggression on offense.

As for defense Boris has been fine, as usual. Against Memphis, he helped hold Zach Randolph to 15 points on 17 attempts. His main struggles so far have been with David West and Carlos Boozer (pre-injury). Eh, that stuff doesn’t worry me too much. Boozer was averaging near 23 points anyway.

But where Boris has really improved since Silas and Oakley, et al. began working with the team, is rebounding, assists and limiting turnovers. Believe it or not, according to Queen City Hoops, the Bobcats pace has not sped up under Silas, as he had said at the beginning of his tenure. What this means is that Boris isn’t getting more rebounds just because there are more rebounds to go around. Diaw is averaging a little over a rebound more per game more than with LB as head coach. What’s more is that that extra rebound is mostly offensive rebounds, which means the Bobcats are getting another possession on offense. As for assists and turnovers, this is less of Boris’ development than Silas’ offense development from Brown’s anemic, umm… “non-defense.” Silas has allowed the young players to become comfortable, notably Augustin and Henderson, who are both getting more time than ever. Whereas Larry Brown would berate D.J. until a puddle of urine formed around his feet (kidding!), Silas is taking the “catch more flies with honey” approach. And while there are setbacks and stumbles along the way, they’re making much more progress than Larry Brown was. But I digress. Anyway, Silas has the team playing more efficiently – though that’s not saying much. Whoever gets an open look better take it, in short. So when Boris drives and pulls a second defender, he can easily find Augustin or someone else spotting up for a shot. Bingo, more assists. And because the players aren’t afraid to shoot anymore, the turnovers that result from extra, extra passes are phased out for the most part, eliminating a full turnover per game for Diaw.

And all this improvement is mostly coming from the last six games. As a Bobcats fan, of course I hope his play continues to get better, but more than that, I hope that this indicates how well Silas and Oakley are coaching and instructing players on improving the game’s fundamentals.

And here’s my spreadsheet (which is correct as of Jan. 19, 2011) so y’all know I’m not just blowing smoke:

Click once, and then again on the following page to enlarge

- 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 Too Clutch for Chicago

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Bobcats march into Chi-town and outlast the Bulls 83-82 in a game that came down to clutch baskets and poor officiating.  Charlotte improves to 16-24, Chicago drops to 28-14.

AP Recap | Box Score

OBSERVATIONS

  • The Return of Gerald Wallace! Crash has looked rather ordinary since coming back from his on again/off again ankle injury but finally returned to the Wallace of old in the fourth quarter which featured a nice 7 point personal run highlighted by a textbook Crash putback slam.  A thing of beauty.  I haven’t seen Wallace elevate like that all season.  Good to know that he still has it in him.  Only 13 points but 16 big rebounds for the captain.
  • Stephen Jackson made some love to pressure with a beautiful top of the key fadeaway jumper that put the Bobcats up 81-80.  JAX followed that one by nailing two critical free throws to close out the game.  Another one of those weird Jackson games where he killed in the first quarter and then disappeared for the 2nd and 3rd only to come back and close out strong.  Sensing a pattern here.  Both Gerald and JAX shot an ugly 5-14 a piece but made shots when it counted.
  • Derrick Rose ain’t bad. Sure, his 28 shot attempts were more than the rest of the Bulls starting 5 combined but he hit half of ‘em.  Rose is such an athletic force at the point guard position and combined with the League’s rule change to prevent the hand check, has forged him into a near unstoppable offensive force.  Really like what I’m seeing from Rose in just his third year.  Easily a top 5 PG and definite MVP candidate.  Rose’s ability to get into the lane and not only get off good shots but rebound his own misses and see over the trees for the open man is unparalleled.  Can’t think of any other current point with his type of advantages.
  • Considering the size differential, Rose should be eating D.J. Augustin alive during their head to head matchups but that hasn’t been the case over their first three years in the League.  Augustin does a good job of staying in front of Rose and the Bobcats do a nice job of switching a bigger defender on him when Rose does get by.  Augustin has also historically made Rose work on the other end and did a decent job of it again tonight by dropping 15 points and hitting half his shots.  Coach Silas tried to mix it up a bit with Shaun Livingston in the 2nd and 3rd but while he has the length, I just don’t think Shaun has the lateral quickness to stay with Rose thus far coming back from the knee injury.  Will he ever?
  • Solid efforts from Diaw, Mohammed and the Bobcats bench in a near ugly game that had each team shoot (barely) 40% from the field.  Kwame Brown continues to boggle the mind. Three VERY PRETTY buckets in the first quarter and he looked like he was going to repeat the double double he dropped on Chicago back in CLT but was constantly out of position on the defensive end so Silas yanked him early and he never really got going again.
  • Finally, the officiating. In the first half you had two TURBO OBVIOUS travels by D.J. Augustin (on a fast break 3 & 1/2 step scoop to the hoop) and Boris Diaw.  Then in the waning seconds of the game, the tide swung the other way as the refs handed the Bulls not one but two additional opportunities after turning the ball over with just 8.7 seconds left on the clock.  Embarrassingly inconsistent and I hope the tapes are being reviewed as I type.

The Cats may or may not make the Playoffs.  They may blow up the team.  One thing is for certain: The Paul Silas Bobcats are a hell of a lot more fun to watch than they were under his predecessor.  Keep it comin’ Sugar Bear.

Until Next Time, Enjoy the Win Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

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 Stink Up the 3rd Quarter – Why?

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Blech. On the plus side, he didn't try that shot again. (AP Photo)

If you follow the Bobcats fairly closely, you know as well as I that the Bobcats under Paul Silas have struggled in the third quarter lately.  This was no more evident than in yesterday’s game where the Bobcats turned a 16 point lead in the third quarter into a two-point deficit. Also impressive, the Bobcats failed to score a single point in about six minutes during the third while the Timberwolves went on a 11-0 run. The quintessential Bobcats collapse was on. How can this happen every game? What is going on with the team in the third quarter? Can anything be done?

So, last night I decided to grab some comfort food, sit down with my Tivo and make my way through the third quarter often watching in slow-motion. Let’s go through the defensive problems first:

  1. Rebounding – For whatever reason, the Kwame Brown rebounding monster that left the court after the first half did not return after the break. After walloping Kevin Love and all of the Timberwolves on the boards in the first half en route to 12 (!) rebounds, he only grabbed 2 rebounds in the second half. I think that Minny’s centers just came out in the second half with more focus and energy and decided to take control of the glass. Also, our depth at the center is laughably bad, even when they’re all healthy. In the third quarter, the Timberwolves had four offensive rebounds (11 total on the night) while the Bobcats had two (out of 16 total). Whatever it takes, this team needs to come out with more focus on rebounding in the third when teams make their adjustments.
  2. Allowing too much space and losing track of assignments – These are both “lack of focus” problems. As for the former, too often I saw Beasley given the room to knock down mid-range jump shots. Remember, holding someone to mid-range jumpers is only effective when those shots are well-contested – and against Beasley, who has a fantastic offensive skill set, this might not even be enough. Losing track of one’s defensive assignment didn’t happen as often, but it did occur enough that I had to make note of it. This most notably occurred when Kevin Love set a pick for Jonny Flynn near the end of the quarter. Flynn steered away form the pick and for some reason, both Livingston and Diaw drew to Flynn, leaving Love wide open for a three.
  3. Study opponents – I understand this isn’t exactly “defense” but there were some major lapses in preparation that came to fruition for the T-Wolves in the third. It’s no secret that Kevin Love has the range to hit from behind the arc, but for some reason the Bobcats let him go 2-3 from deep in the third quarter. Giving Beasley enough space to comfortably get up mid-range jump shots is unacceptable. Whether it’s the players’ faults for not executing or the staff’s for not drilling it in enough, this needs to get fixed. Know your opponent.

Oh God. Now to the problems on offense.

  1. No one could knock down a shot – It’s that simple. And although simple, this is a serious problem. Against teams that play tough interior defense, the Bobcats will struggle because they are composed mostly of slashers. Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw are great to stretch opposing defenses but when your main two shooters (Augustin and Jackson) are just off or injured, you’re going to have major problems. Luckily for us, Augustin found his shot in the fourth and Tyrus kept us in the game as well. But in the third, with Jackson out, D.J. was finding himself  missing on many shot attempts – most of them wide open.
  2. Poor shot selection – I’ll just talk about some specific points here. From what I saw, D.J. lost confidence in his shot, especially in the third quarter. When Diaw took to posting up in the third, he often drew D.J.’s defender which leaves Augustin nearly wide open. And yet, on one specific occasion I saw D.J. pass up the open three to dribble-drive and pull up 9 feet away for a floater. It was way short. Tyrus Thomas, though excellent on the night, still had his usual problem where he gets the ball along the baseline, gets trapped on a double-team, is forced to pick up his dribble and instead of passing out, he tries a fade-away jump shot that never lands.

But can these problems be corrected?

To a degree, yes. Most of these problems are fairly easy to fix. Force the players to concentrate on boxing out and rebounding. Solve the easy, energy-related problems. As for the inability to make shots, this isn’t as easily fixed. The Bobcats are mainly comprised of slashers and not shooters. And the shooters we do have aren’t extremely talented so when a couple of our best snipers are either injured or are just missing their shots, there is no backup plan. You just have to hope that the Basketball Gods are smiling upon you and that they will bless you with Eduardo Najera treys and Dominic McGuire baseline jumpers. That’s what should really worry us about these recent troubles. It’s a problem that goes far deeper than just gameplan; it’s a problem of roster talent.

- 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.