Bobcats Continue Mastery Of Lakers

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Bob Leverone/AP Photo

The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 109-89 on Monday night at the Cable Box; the Cats have now defeated the Lakers 8 out of the last 10 times the two teams have played.  Gerald Wallace led the Bobcats with 20 points and 11 rebounds; Gerald Henderson added 18 points (6-9 FG, 5-5 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks off the bench.

AP Recap |  Box Score

The deck was stacked against the Lakers to start: they were finishing up a long road trip AND on the second night of a back-to-back; plus, Kobe was under the weather.  After a bit of a slow start, the Cats took advantage, building a six point lead to take into halftime.

The wheels really fell off for the Lakers late in the third.  With a laboring Kobe on the bench, the Cats went on a 14-3 run, capped by a 15-foot jumper and a short hook shot by Kwame Brown and a three pointer at the buzzer by Gerald Wallace, for a 78-60 lead after three.

The barrage continued with Kobe and the Lakers starters back on the court to start the fourth, this time headed by Gerald Henderson and Nazr Mohammed, who both appeared to be unguardable for the exhausted Lakers.  The Bobcats led by as much as 28 a couple of times before the benches emptied.

Notes

  • After oversleeping and arriving late to shootaround, Boris Diaw was supposedly going to be benched to start the game as discipline.  But Silas apparently changed his mind, as Boris started and played well with 16 points (3-6 3PT).
  • DJ Augustin was supposedly also out after being limited in shootaround with a sprained wrist.  But after pregame warmups he declared himself ready to go and notched 9 assists vs. 0 turnovers.  Still not a complete bounceback from his recent slump, though, as he shot 3-7 FG and 1-4 3PT for just 7 points.
  • This has to be said: even if you took Stephen Jackson’s proclivity for antagonizing the officials and drawing technical fouls out of the equation, Gerald Henderson would still be pushing him for playing time.  Henderson’s been that good recently.
  • With beat writer Rick Bonnell on furlough this week, the rest of the Observer’s sports crew filled in.  Check out good posts by Ron Green on what this win meant for the Bobcats and this post by Scott Fowler on Phil Jackson’s terse postgame comments/Kobe’s no-show.
  • The win moves the Bobcats to 24-31 and 1.5 games back from Indiana for the 8th playoff spot.
  • Quick turnaround as the Bobcats head to Chicago for a back-to-back against the Bulls Tuesday night, 8PM ET start.  The Bulls will be looking to avenge two losses the Cats from earlier this season.

-Dr. E

be sure to follow Dr. E, ASChin and Cardboard Gerald on Twitter

Bobcats Score Decisive Win Over Cavs (Witness This!)

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Cavaliers 2/20/10

Thomas, Ratliff Impressive in Debuts

The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-93 before a sellout crowd at the Cable Box on Friday evening.  AP recap here, box score here.  After losing their initial matchup in the opening days of the season, the Cats have since defeated the Eastern Conference leading Cavaliers three straight times.

The game was tied 50-50 at the half, but the Cats pulled away midway through the third and kept a double digit lead through the fourth quarter.  It was over when a Boris Diaw steal led to a Gerald Wallace fast break dunk to put the Cats up by 17 with just under three minutes left.

The lead storyline in this one has to be the relative performances of each team’s newcomers.  The day before the trading deadline, the Cavs traded for Antawn Jamison in a move that has been lauded around the league.  However, Jamison looked rusty and tentative in his debut for the Cavs, and probably cost them the game.  Jamison seemed passive, yet finished with the second highest FGA for the game with 12.  Furthering the problem, he didn’t hit any of them — yep, 0-12 FG.  Jamison had several shots blocked and had two airballs from three-point range.

Meanwhile, Bobcats newcomers Theo Ratliff and Tyrus Thomas probably couldn’t have asked for better debuts.  With Tyson Chandler (foot/ankle) and Gana Diop (knee) sidelined, Ratliff was pressed into early duty to back up Nazr Mohammed.  He entered the game with about 5 minutes left in the first quarter and within 90 seconds had recorded his first block for the Bobcats (on the aforementioned Jamison).  Ratliff went on to log 18 minutes in the game, mostly spent valiantly guarding Shaq and gathering rebounds.  Ratliff ended with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks, no FGA or FTA.  Perfect line for the guy.

Tyrus Thomas entered the game for Ratliff a little later in the first quarter and quickly went about filling up the stat sheet.  He recorded his first block less than fifteen seconds after checking in, and went on to block 5 more.  By the fourth quarter, Thomas’ mere presence in the lane was affecting the Cavs’ decisions in the lane.  Thomas also swallowed up tons of boards, eventually totaling 12 in his 25 minutes of playing time.

If Larry Brown can work the same magic for Tyrus that he’s worked for Gerald Wallace, then we’ll be in great shape.  On second thought, “magic” is a poor choice of words there.  There’s nothing magic about what’s happened to Gerald’s game, or what needs to happen to Ty’s game — it’s just simple maturation, getting smarter about the game, picking your spots, slowing down a bit while maintaining necessary aggression, minimizing your weaknesses and highlighting your strengths.

Beneath his morose surface, you know Larry Brown is quietly pumped about the prospect of teaching Tyrus all that he’s never been taught about basketball.  I imagine the dynamic kind of like Stellan Skarsgaard and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting; only I hope this doesn’t end with Tyrus lighting Larry Brown’s playbook on fire, then going to cry in Phil Jackson’s embrace while the Zen Master repeats “It’s not your fault.”

Witness

A secondary storyline has to be what in the world the Bobcats are doing to Lebron James.  Lebron had a quiet 22 point, 9 assist game; he has averaged 22.5 points in the four games against the Cats this year, well below his 30 ppg average.

The Cats don’t seem to be doing anything too fancy to Lebron.  It helps that Gerald Wallace is the primary individual defender, of course, and that Stephen Jackson, Raymond Felton and Boris Diaw are the guys that most frequently get switched onto him — all of those guys can at least hold their own.  But the key is more in the team defense that the Cats play — the traps in the backcourt, the aggressive help defense, the good rotations out to the jump shooters.

Odds And Ends

  • It’s unfortunate I’ve gotten this far without mentioning the guy who put the ball in the hole all night for the Cats; Stephen Jackson led the offensive charge with 29 points (9-17 FG, 3-7 3PT, 8-10 FT) while also adding 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
  • Boris and DJ both had their best games in some time, looking confident and decisive.
  • The only downside I can see to Ty Thomas being a big part of the Bobcats down the stretch (other than the general combustibility and questionable basketball IQ, or course) is that Gerald’s rebounding numbers are probably going to drop.  Not that they were going to rise back to a league-leading level without him around, but still…
  • Tyson Chandler, we hardly knew ye…
  • Does anyone else think Shaq might be pushing 350 lbs?  And those awful Chinese shoes he’s wearing look like locomotives.
  • I hadn’t realized this until looking at the standings after the game, but due to their recent stumble, the Cats have fallen down to 8th place in the East.  Which means that if the season ended today, we’d face these Cavs in the first round.  Interesting matchup, huh?
  • Not only were the Cats on point all night, but so was the Cable Box’s WiFi.  Got lots of Tweets in — follow me!
  • Quick turnaround, as the Cats have a back-to-back Saturday night in Milwaukee, 8:30 PM ET start.  This one’s important, as the Bucks are the primary threat to jump into the playoff picture in the East.  Currently, they’re only half a game behind the Cats in the standings.  Furthermore, the Cats are 1-1 against the Bucks so far this year, with Saturday’s meeting and a late season tilt still to go.  A victory tomorrow night guarantees we wouldn’t lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with them if it came down to that at the end of the year.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Lose Close Game In LA

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Bobcats Charlotte Bobcats at Lakers , 2.4.10

Lakers-99 Bobcats-97

AP Recap | Box Score

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The End of The Road

Wednesday night’s game against the Lakers marked the end of a long road trip through the West for the Charlotte Bobcats. The LA Lakers had just returned home from an East Coast swing, and a loss to the surging Memphis Grizzlies two nights earlier. Going into the game, Bobcats fans could only hope that Gerald Wallace would put together another star caliber performance to fuel Charlotte’s 4th straight win on the Lakers homecourt. Everyone expected Kobe Bryant to have a huge scoring night, with the Cats defense as the only weapon available to keep them in the game.

Well, the game ended up playing out a bit differently than anticipated. Hours before tip-off, Gerald Wallace was ruled out with a strained hamstring. Stephen Graham was placed into the starting line-up and it looked like that match up would give Kobe way too much of an edge. Remarkably, Kobe Bryant wasn’t much of a presence at all against the Bobcats. This was likely the result of early game strategy and an awkward injury late in the 2nd quarter. Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson did assert himself in this one, though. Jackson showed what the Bobcats had been lacking during that “missing offense” stretch that started the season –  an “alpha male” to take the lead role. “Jack” totaled 30 points, and kept former teammate Ron Artest to 14 on the night.

Bryant’s slow first quarter and the Bobcats steady counter-punches set the game at a pace that wouldn’t allow LA to take control. Both teams worked the ball inside-out, with Charlotte choosing to drive the lanes while the Lakers stayed with their proven formula of spacing by perimeter shooting.

Impact Players

The big men for both clubs were major influencers throughout the game. Boris Diaw was in early foul trouble, never found his rhythm, and ended the game with 0% shooting (mostly from the three point line). Still, the Cats competed from start to finish with the help of a line up shaped on the fly. Without Wallace and Diaw, Charlotte used Gana Diop to pair with Nazr Mohammed for the first time all year. This could have spelled disaster, but it actually worked out immediately. On one offensive possession in the 1st, there was a “Diop-to-Mohammed” moment for a lay in. Nazr’s strong play on the offensive end was complimented by Diop’s work on the boards and defense. Gana was hustling and it was like watching the re-emergence of Mohammed all over again. It’s hard to believe that this guy had been hidden on the bench for so long. Of course, he did bring his game down to earth with a “Classic Diop” airball freethrow.

On the other side of the court, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum showed that they are a championship tandem. There’s really no other team with such strong players at the 4 an 5 positions. Charlotte was fortunate to get great games from Mohammed and Diop to match their impact. Bynum had his way in the paint from start-to-finish. Oddly, he chose to practice his hook shot against the Cats. Luckily, his hook is still a work in progress. LA’s bench was strong, as usual. Reserves Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown really pushed their team during Bryant’s absence.

Overall, the Bobcats point guards had a strong outing against Old Man Fisher and Jordan Farmar. Raymond Felton came out of the gate focused and full of energy. He closed the first quarter shooting 4 of 6, with one of those being a cross-court heave at the buzzer. DJ Augustin stepped into the game and kept the same pattern of attack, scoring 6 quick and finding his teammates inside and out. Felton’s strong showing benefitted him late in the game, as he carried the ball and likely stepped out of bounds with 10 seconds left and the Cats down by 3. Fortunately, it appears that the refs will give you the benefit of the doubt when you play a good game and the pace quickens. Refs have missed worse things in the past.

Closing Time

With those 10 seconds left, the Bobcats worked out a three-point play during a time out.  But, the Cats gave away their opportunity to tie on a sloppy inbounds pass from Stephen Jackson to Raymond Felton. The Lakers slapped the ball away from Raymond and Jordan Farmar took the ball on a fast break to increase the lead to 5. Flip Murray hit a long 3 quickly, but only 1 second remained on the clock and LA held on for a 99-97 win.

The end was a heartbreaker, but the rest game was a great showing of the progress the Bobcats have made. With no contributions from Diaw, Wallace out with an injury, and Tyson Chandler missing his 22nd consecutive game, Larry Brown’s “system” looked like it was fully functional against an elite team. Kobe Bryant only put in 5 points and was barely on the court during the 2nd half. So comparatively, this game was about the cavalry for each squad. Beyond having the best player in basketball on their roster, the Lakers are doing fairly well with Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom. Charlotte’s supporting cast of Stephen Jackson, Raymond Felton, and Flip Murray are the kind of guys that could maybe form an opening band for stadium headliners like the Lakers.

Final Notes:

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson became the winningest coach of all-time, ever in the history of the NBA, as we know it today.  More on that here.

Lamar Odom took control of the game at the end of the 3rd and showed his full range of skills, inside-and-out, with Kobe on the bench in the 4th

Coach Brown went for a no-tie, LA look on the sidelines. Gerald Wallace looks horrible in a suit. Tyson Chandler, on the other hand, is accustomed to dressing well courtside.

Flip Murray can hit some shots, but he’s a black hole on offense. Once he gets the ball, guys stop moving because they know they aren’t getting it back. His lazy defense made Stephen Graham’s stong coverage look even better.

Shannon Brown rose up on a fast-break dunk at some type of hyper-speed. He hops so quickly, it’s like he’s in fast forward. Gerald’s going to have to pull out something big to beat Brown in the dunk contest this year.

Jordan Farmar seems to suffer from Kendrick Perkins Syndrome : They think that they have something to do with the great teams that they’re playing on. When LA’s offense is clicking, Farmar will get an open look or an easy lay up. Like the Celtic’s Perkins, he acts as if he accomplished this all by himself. I’d like to see how amped up either of those guys would be playing for the Nets or the T-Wolves.

Bobcats Trade One Weirdo, Get Back Another Weirdo

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Morrison and Radman

It took a little more than three months for Larry Brown to trade Adam Morrison.  While the trade isn’t surprising (not many people around the League thought Morrison was a “Brown” type player), it should be noted that Coach did give it the old college try by repeatedly giving Adam opportunities to succeed.

EXHIBIT A: Training Camp.  Coach Brown talks Adam up in the local press saying that Adam is, “one of the smartest players” on the Bobcats roster with “an extremely high basketball IQ” and that he has come back from the torn ACL injury at an “amazing pace.”

EXHIBIT B: December trade.  Coach Brown approves a trade that sends Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins to Dallas for Gana Diop.  One of the immediate impacts of this trade is to eliminate the glut of one-dimensional bench “scorers” and allow for Morrison to be the prime scoring threat off of the pine.

EXHIBIT C: Gerald Wallace injury.  Coach Brown opts to insert a still struggling Morrison into the starting lineup after team captain Wallace goes down with a collapsed lung.  Morrison stays in the starting lineup until the day that he’s traded.

So, do you think a guy like — I don’t know — Linton Johnson got this many chances to succeed?  And how does Morrison respond after being given the opportunity to start for his injured comrade?  Apparently by grumbling privately to Coach Brown and asking to be traded.  Way to pull a Kerry Collins when your team needs you the most AMMO.  Dude!  Your coach was talking you up in the media as recently as last week saying that you were playing “much more confident in practice than in the games” — he was trying to tell you that you had the ability to succeed!!!

Well, maybe Morrison is just a troubled kid (remember, he’s only 24) who needs a change of scenery and now he’s closer to his roots back on the West Coast after the ‘Cats sent him (along with Shannon Brown) to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vladimir Radmanovic.  How does the deal breakdown for the Bobcats?  Some initial thoughts:

1. MONEY.  By taking on the Radman, the Bobcats have added another $8 million to their payroll over the next two plus seasons and have ostensibly (barring any sort of miracle salary dump) taken themselves completely out of the SUPER HYPED Free Agent Summer of Love in 2010.  Rad’s contract has a player option in 2010 at $6.8 million where Morrison’s deal paying him around $5.3 will expire after next season. ADVANTAGE: LAKERS.

2. TALENT. So why exactly would you take on another $8mil for a guy (Radmanovic) who’s been averaging a 12.0 PER over the last three seasons???  Maybe it’s because the guy that you are trading (Morrison) has been setting a new standard for uselessness during the same time.  Morrison goes to the Lakers with a whopping 6.02 PER!!!!!  That’s even lower than his rookie campaign two years ago when he clocked in a dubious 7.91 (UGGHHH).  Also Radmanovic has actually had some success in the NBA in terms of starting for a conference champion team (’08 Lakers), in the running for Most Improved Player (in Seattle ’04) and has been in and around the League enough to figure out the pro game — something that Morrison has never shown.  Plus, having Morrison around is a CONSTANT reminder to Michael Jordan and Bob Johnson that they royally screwed up in the 2006 Draft.  I mean, every time the ‘Cats play against Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay, MJ must be going through one of those “THE WRONG SON DIED!!!!” melodramatic meltdowns when looking down the bench and seeing Chris Cornell with his head in his hands.  ADVANTAGE: BOBCATS.

3. PSYCHOLOGY.  As the headline says, the Bobcats traded away one weirdo for another one.  On one hand you have a troubled but genuinely good kid who is a long way from home, who came into the League with a lot of hype and who has valiantly continued his career in spite of having diabetes.  On the other hand you have what many around the League refer to as a “Space Cadet” or “My Favorite Martian” or “Caveman” who’s level of play changes more frequently than his hairstyle.  He forgets assignments, loses focus, lies about snowboarding accidents that occurred over an ALL STAR WEEKEND (??!!??) and is generally erratic.  Advantage Lakers, right?  No so fast.  Yeah, the Space Cadet is a nut-job but AT LEAST he’s going to give you some productivity every once an a while, which is — I’m very sad to admit– a lot more than the ‘Cats have received from a depressed Morrison in the last two and a half years.  ADVANTAGE: DRAW.

Bobcats fans should probably expect to see another deal or two go down before the trade deadline as Bonnell has mentioned in his latest blog entry.  There now seems a chance that the ‘Cats are even willing to trade DJ Augustin (perhaps packaged with Nazr) in exchange for a veteran backup PG and some shooting guard depth.  Will Charlotte make the playoffs this season?  The odds are slim given all of the trade chaos and the injuries to key players (Bell/Wallace/Augustin) but I’m liking the aggressiveness that Brown and Jordan are exhibiting and I haven’t given up all hope for a late season push into the post-season.

Things just get more interesting from here, ‘Cats fans…

-ASChin

THE STEVE JOBS – “OH, AND ONE MORE THING” COMMENT:

What’s up with the Bobcats getting all international all of a sudden.  How many foreign players did the Hornets ever employ in their 12+ seasons in Charlotte?  George Zidek?  Vlade Divac?  The ‘Cats are more multi-lingual than the Raptors these days.  Between Raja Bell, ‘Gana Diop, Boris Diaw, Alexis Ajinca and now Radman, Charlotte may as well be using the Spurs scouting department.  Bring on Ricky Rubio dammit!

Basketball Karma?

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Basketball Karma Affects the LA Lakers

Karma is action, and Vipaka, fruit or result, is its reaction.  Within four days, quite a bit happened.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ Andrew Bynum just received word that his knee injury will keep him out for over two months.  Andrew Bynum was hugely responsible for sending Gerald Wallace to the hospital for the majority of last week, so it’s going to be tough to feel bad for the guy.  Bynum’s injury occurred when Kobe Bryant crashed into him after a driving miss against Memphis on Saturday night.  From the video, it appears that Bynum failed to react before Bryant came down into his leg.  He was simply in the wrong spot at the wrong time.  Was this some type of universal calibration of the basketball world back into balance?

As an NBA fan, it’s not good to see anyone get hurt.  So, let’s just hope Gerald Wallace returns to form and Bynum can bounce back by the end of the season, as well.

Phil Jackson should understand and accept the universe at work with his roster.  Perhaps, there are only so many championship rings one can carry with them along the journey of life.  It appeared during pre-game warmups that Bynum had worked out the hitch in his Ch’i and the injury was mostly due to the misalignment of Kobe Bryant’s chakras while going to the hoop.  Although, Jackson was unavailable for comment, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama responded via text message that “a quality Center is necessary to the two concurrent triangles that exist in LA’s version of the Triangle Offense.”* Gerald Wallace’s absence nearly eliminates the Bobcat’s hopes of a Playoff berth, but the Lakers will desperately need Bynum back if they want to contend for another NBA Title.

*Not at all factual

 

Wallace Seriously Injured By Bynum, Hospitalized in L.A.

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Phil Jackson draws up a play to eliminate Gerald Wallace

The Charlotte Bobcats experienced both their biggest win and their biggest loss of the season in Los Angeles last night.  While driving into the lane, Gerald Wallace extended his body and leaped toward the hoop, when he was hit with an elbow directly into his exposed ribs and upper chest.  Andrew Bynum was the culprit, and he made no effort to check on the health of Wallace after delivering the cheap shot that sent him to the floor.  Bynum may have simply made a mistake trying to foul an airborne G-Force, but a 7 footer can’t be forgiven for throwing an elbow like that.  While Bynum might be young, he’s big enough to foul like a real center or just get out of the way.

Andrew Bynum Is A Horrible Human Being

The initial word this morning is that Wallace was hospitalized after leaving the game last night.  He was helped back to the locker room by trainers and teammates, but the news about his stay at an LA hospital was not made public until this morning.  The most concerning headlines state that he may have suffered a collapsed lung due to the hit and fall he took from Bynum’s intentional foul.

The big question right now is the health of Gerald Wallace.  Secondly, can the team push on without him for a stretch?  Thirdly, will Bynum be fined or suspended for his actions?  And lastly – did Phil Jackson call for someone to knock Wallace out of the game?

Actually, it’s necessary to ask this about Phil Jackson – Zen master or Sensei?

Did Jackson order Bynum to “sweep the leg” and eliminate the Bobcat’s greatest threat last night?  With a huge 1st quarter, Gerald owned the Lakers and didn’t let up until he had to sit out the second quarter with back spasms.  Late into the third, #3 began to pick up and resume his game all over Pau Gasol.  Then, as it looked like the Cats would pull away in the fourth, the horrendous foul and injury stopped their momentum and the Lakers seemed to show no concern over the issue.

Bobcats Baseline will keep everyone posted on the news related to Gerald Wallace and status of his health over the next few days.

Meanwhile, the Lakers hit the road after sending the Bobcats best player to the hospital. . .

Phil Jackson rides by hospital