Bobcats Decimate 76ers For Fourth Straight Victory

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Charlotte Bobcats @ 76ers, 3/10/10

The Bobcats took care of business Wednesday night in Philadelphia, soundly defeating the 76ers 102-87.  The Cats are now 32-31 and in 7th place in the East with 19 games left in the season.

AP recap here |  Box score here

After briefly falling behind by a few points in the opening minutes of the game, the Cats got it rolling and went on to score 37 points in the opening quarter.  They dominated the rest of the way, leading by as much as 29 late in the third quarter.  The Cats shot 50% on the game and basically made this one look easy.

Gerald Wallace led the way with a 28 point effort on 9-10 FG and 10-11 FT.  Stephen Jackson had another off night shooting the ball (6-19 FG, 2-7 3PT) but added 10-11 FTs for 24 points overall and added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

The Sixers looked dreadful in turning the ball over 20 times and committing 27 fouls, putting the Cats on the line for 41 free throw attempts.

What A Difference A Week Makes

Just  seven days ago, the Bobcats were coming off a bad loss to the Celtics, their 6th out of 8 at the time.  They had fallen a full game off the 8th playoff spot and their Hollinger projection had fallen down to around a 60% chance of making the playoffs.

Cut to tonight: the Cats have won four in a row, including rousing victories over the Lakers and Heat and tonight’s road win over the Sixers.  The Cats are now in 7th place in the East, only a half-game out of the 6th spot, and hold the tiebreaker over the 8th place Heat.

DJ has his groove back (10 points, 5 assists tonight), Tyson Chandler is looking semi-competent as he works his way back into shape, and Gerald Henderson has broken into the rotation.  If we can get Nazr Mohammed back into the lineup, we could potentially go 9 deep in the playoffs, with Henderson, Stevie Graham and Derrick Brown available for spot minutes in a pinch.

Tidbits

  • As alluded to above, Tyson Chandler had his best game since coming back from his foot/ankle issues.  He scored 12 points on 3-3 FG and 6-9 FT and added 5 rebounds in 15 minutes.  Of course, that was against Sam Dalembert, Elton Brand and Jason Smith, but whatever.
  • Next game is Friday night — the Cats will be hosting the similarly reeling LA Clippers at 7 PM ET.  The Clips have lost 5 in a row, and will be on game 5 of a 6 game road trip.  I’ll be there tweeting live at the Cable Box.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Salvage Road Trip In Memphis

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Grizzlies, 2/26/10

The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 93-89 on Friday night to wrap up their 4-game road trip at 1-3.  AP recap here, box score here.

This game was not televised locally, and the news that Michael Jordan will become the controlling owner of the team is overshadowing, so our comments on the game will be pithy.

Needless to say, after dropping the first three games of this road trip, 7 of the last 10 overall and falling out of the eighth spot in the East, this was nearly a must-win.  On top of all that, we have the Mavs, Celtics and Lakers this coming week.

As of Saturday, the Cats are still on the outside looking in regarding the playoffs, a half game back of 8th place Miami.  Both the Bulls (currently 6th) and Bucks (currently 7th) are have won 8 of their last 10 to push the Cats back out.  Basically, every game is huge the rest of the way, and the Cats should be happy to have a relatively benign and home-heavy schedule down the stretch.

The Cats will take the weekend off to rest up, while continuing to work Tyrus Thomas and Theo Ratliff in the mix.  Hopefully, we can get Nazr back to bolster the frontline.  Next game is Monday night, 7 PM ET, hosting Dirk and the Mavs at the Cable Box.

-Dr. E

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Sixers 4/7/09

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1.  The Bobcats salvage the final home game of the year, beating the playoff-bound Sixers 101-98 on Tuesday night at the Cable Box.  AP story here, box score here.  The Bobcats keep their faint playoff hopes alive as they move to 2.5 games back of the idle Pistons; the Bulls won on Tuesday night to move a half game ahead of Detroit into 7th place.

2.  Decent attendance for the home closer, though for most of the game it was a disconcertingly sleepy crowd.  Totally deserved, given the Bobcats recent collapse, but disconcerting nonetheless for that many people to be making so little noise.

If it hadn’t been for the semi-hot finish, the acknowledgement of the Tar Heels National Championship win  and the halftime fan appreciation giveways (gift certificates, signed basketballs, et al.)  would have battled it out for the loudest moment.

3.  For awhile, it looked like this one was going to follow the same script the Bobcats have run into the ground over the past couple of weeks: build early lead (44-24 midway through the second quarter) running offense to perfection and defending well, gradually let opponent back into the game by slacking off (Philly won the third quarter 32-16, good for a two point lead heading at the end of the third), then go totally cold and inept in the fourth quarter to blow it.  Alas, the Cats wrote a new ending tonight.

4.  Down 98-95 after an Igoudala jumper with 1:42 left, Okafor drew a shooting foul and hit both free throws to pull the Cats to within one.  From there, the Cats locked down on defense; Philly wouldn’t score again.  After an Andre Miller miss/Okafor rebound, DJ got a decent look at a three but missed.  Okafor was able to punch the rebound back out; the Cats retained possession and Larry Brown used the opportunity to call a timeout.  36 seconds left on the clock at this point, Cats down 98-97.

Out of the timeout, the big shot was taken by (wait… wait… you guessed it!) Raymond Felton.  It was a 15 foot runner/floater that Felton shot about 12 feet.  I kid you not.  Perhaps used to Felton’s, ahem, lack of success when taking big shots, Wallace was crashing the boards and happened to be in the exact right spot at the exact right time.  He nabbed the airball and quickly put it back for the game-winning basket with 28 seconds left — 99-98 Cats.

The Cats got another stop on the other end, with Okafor getting credit for the rebound and Gerald taking the foul.  Gerald hit both his free throws, thus we arrive at the final margin, 101-98.  The Sixers still had 11 seconds left, and got decent looks at threes from Igoudala and Willie Green in the time, but both were contested well by the Cats and neither fell.

5.  Before pulling a DIop on the potential game-winner, Felton had a great game.  He set a new career high with 32 points (12-20 FG, 3-6 3PT, 5-7 FT) and added 6 rebounds and 5 assists (vs. 5 turnovers, though).  This one game sorta serves as a microcosm for Felton’s overall game.  He often shows enough that you get lulled into the sense that he might be good enough; good enough to be your starting PG for a decade, good enough to take that big shot.  But just when you start getting comfortable with the notion — boom — an airball.  And you can only hope and pray that Gerald Wallace is there to save your ass.

Speaking of Wallace: 29 points (8-18 FG, 13-17 FT), 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.

Though Okafor didn’t get many looks/touches on the offensive end (9 points on 3-6 FG) he was strong on the boards: 12 total, 5 offensive.

6.  As you might have guessed given the flow of the game that I referred to above, most of the damage that Felton and Wallace did was in the first half.  In fact, both had 20+ points in the first half, and only a fraction of that afterwards.

This is a problem that the Bobcats have to figure out for next year.  Why does the offense run so well in the first half, then grind to a halt in crunch time? Obviously, this has a lot to with the simple fact that the defense tightens up as the game goes on.  Playoff teams can generally still find a way to score in high pressure situations; but the Cats, without a clear go-to guy, haven’t figured it out yet.

Hopefully, the team will learn from all these close, important games they’ve played in the last month and figure out how to manufacture more buckets in crunch time.

7.  Four games left, all on the road as the Cats give up the arena to Bob Johnson’s ego and a bunch of smelly horses (i.e. The Jumper Classic).  Next up we will see Kevin Durant and his improving Thunder squad in Oklahoma City on Friday night.

-E

Charlotte Bobcats @ Pistons 4/5/09

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1.  Aaannd CUT!  That’s a wrap on the Bobcats’ playoff chances.  The Cats can’t execute down the stretch again and drop a must-have game against the Pistons Sunday night, 104-97.  AP story here, box score here.  The Cats drop to 34-43 and are now a full three games behind Detroit and Chicago, who are tied for 7th place.

2.  Without Raja Bell, Larry Brown went with Cartier Martin as the starting 2.  Tough matchup against Rip Hamilton for the rookie, and Brown must not have liked what he saw, as Cartier never saw the floor again after his initial 9 minute stint.  Dontell Jefferson made his Bobcats/NBA debut with 9 minutes in Raja’s spot in the second quarter.  Radmanovic started the second half in the spot; then in the fourth quarter, the extra minutes went to DJ.

Sensing a theme here?  No one could quite fill Raja’s shoes.  On a crucial night, we needed one of the guards to step up and no one did.

3.  The Bobcats came out of the gates hot, hitting their first four shots for a 10-2 lead.  However, things would quickly cool off and the Bobcats eventually found themselves down by 17 midway through the second quarter.  They clawed their way back and went into halftime down 51-44, then overtook the Pistons in the third, taking a one point lead into the final period, 69-68.

4.  Then the fourth quarter happened.  Thus far, I’ve buried the lead, which is that Will Bynum singlehandedly finished off the Bobcats tonight.  It would be one thing if Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Walllace came together to shut down the plucky Bobcats, but it was nothing like that.

Chauncey’s been traded to Denver; Rip was ejected after picking up his second technical at the end of the third period; Prince had a quiet 14 points and a -4 +/- for the game, and Rasheed was rusty and pretty quiet himself (12 points, 6 rebounds).

Will Bynum, formerly of the Roanoke Dazzle and Maccabi Tel Aviv, obliterated the Bobcats by scoring 26 points in the fourth quarter.  The Bobcats as a team had only 28.  Only a few of Bynum’s points were on jumpers; most of them came after Bynum blew by DJ Augustin and either got a layup, got fouled, or both.  I suppose this performance may answer the question: Why isn’t DJ playing more in the fourth quarter?

Bynum set two records in the process.  He set a new career high with 32 points (25 was his previous best).  And his 26 in the fourth represents a Pistons record for points in a quarter.

5.  Meanwhile, the Cats couldn’t get anything sustainable going.  DJ and Boris both missed a couple of threes apiece, any one of which would’ve been huge.  Again, no one seemed to be able to figure out how to get Gerald Wallace involved; he eventually fouled out.

The closest the Cats got was within 3 a couple of times with under a minute left; but each time, the Pistons were able to get the ball in Bynum’s hands.  By this point, he was locked in and hitting his free throws like they were afterthoughts.

6.  Okafor had a decent game: 14 points (6-10 FG) and 16 rebounds.  DJ led the Cats with 22 points, but as previously mentioned, was scorched by Bynum.  And Raymond Felton again led the Bobcats with 17 FGAs, only hitting 7.

7.  Well, this dalliance with the playoffs was very fun while it lasted.  Next game is the last home game of the season — Tuesday night against the Sixers.

-E

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

Friday Night Heat

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Miami Heat vs Charlotte Bobcats

To reiterate the good attitude mentioned in the “Get AI” post, things are certainly looking up with the Bobcats. Tonight, the Cats host the Heat for another sellout at the arena and Charlotte is finally showing some real interest in the club. The Bobcats are playing at a level worthy of the support and the fans are getting a chance to see the best team that the organization has assembled thus far.

With a spot in the Playoffs still a possibility, the Bobcats are playing strong and have a good chance to score a win at home even against a solid Miami team. Let’s hope Dick Bavetta is not calling tonight’s match, because D-Wade + Dick Bavetta = unbridled Miami superstar lust.

As a bonus to tonight’s game – The Cats are “Goin’ Green”. . . It’s NBA Green Week and the League has made the bold move of playing all of it’s games without electrical lights, sound systems, or illuminated shot clocks. From what I understand, automobile drivers will not be allowed into the arenas unless they show a receipt for biodiesel at the gate.

Okay, so the NBA Green Week is a bit of a stretch. Rather than concerning themselves with reducing their arena’s impact on the environment, home teams will be sporting a green jersey (probably not made of biodegradable materials – Patrick Ewing would’ve sweated right through that stuff). Here’s a quick look at what the Bobcats’ jerseys will look like tonight.

Bobcats Green Jersey

Note : Not All NBA teams are required to tattoo their players with the shoulder tiger.  But at least 6 members of each club should have a shoulder tattoo of their choosing this week.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Celtics 4/1/09

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1.  An absolutely painful choke job by the Bobcats as they lose 111-109 to the Celtics in double OT.  AP story here, box score here.  The Bobcats fall to 34-41, 1.5 games back of the idle Bulls for the 8th playoff spot.

2.  Going to try to keep this short tonight as I’m a bit under the weather.  The bottom line is that the Bobcats, as they’ve done numerous times in the past, played the Celtics very tough tonight.  So tough, in fact, that they led 85-73 with 8:48 left in the fourth.  Eddie House caught fire and brought the Cs back, but the Bobcats still led 93-85 with just over two minutes left.

However, the Cats would go completely cold while the Cs turned it up a notch, scoring 8 straight to pull into a tie with a chance to win at the end of regulation.  Fortunately, Rondo missed a runner at the buzzer to allow the Cats another chance in overtime.

3.  In the first overtime, the Bobcats (after a half dozen chances) scored with 20 seconds left to go up by three.  But Ray Allen got a wide open look for a three at the elbow and drained it to tie the game up.

Raja Bell got a decent look at a potentially game-winning jumper at the buzzer, but missed.

4.  In double-OT, the Cats had the lead (109-108) and the ball with under 20 seconds left.  However, Felton couldn’t manage a better shot than a wild, tightly contested, jumper/floater while falling away from the basket from 13 feet.  Needless to say, he didn’t make it.

The Cs took the ball the other way with 10 seconds left.  The ball ended up in Paul Pierce’s hands on the elbow, with Diaw guarding.  The Cats had a fould to give, but didn’t use it.  Pierce easily blew by Diaw, forcing Wallace to close the gap.  Problem was, Wallace had been guarding Ray Allen in the corner.  Pierce found Mr. Shuttlesworth, who drained the three for a 111-109 lead.

The Cats called timeout to set up a final shot with two seconds left.  Larry Brown called a winner, as Raja Bell got a great look at a three-pointer from the elbow.  However, it was just a bit strong, and bounced harmlessly off back rim.

5.  Not that I’m counting, but here’s Raymond Felton’s shooting from the last 12 minutes of the game (2 minutes of regulation, plus both overtimes): 2-7 with 2 missed layups for four points.  I’ve said this before, but I guarantee you that every team’s advance scouting report on Raymond Felton has a line like this somewhere in it: “Let him shoot, let him try to beat you, especially in end-of-game situations.”

Yet Larry Brown was insistent on calling a 1-4 flat play for Felton at least three different times in the last 12 minutes.  This is the play (also known to old Larry Johnson/Charlotte Hornet fans as “Dallas”) whereby the “1” holds the ball in the frontcourt with the “4” teammates evenly spaced flat along the baseline.  The idea is that the “1”, given all that space, can break his man down and get a good look, get fouled, or maybe even get to the basket and force help for an easy assist.  Felton didn’t get any of these any of the three times I remember the play being run.  It was painful to watch.

(And if you want some statistical support for the Bobcats’ overreliance on an inefficent option in cruchtime situations, check this TrueHoop post from a couple of days ago).

(And by the way, Felton’s complete line for the game was: 14 points (on 7-20 FG, 0-0 FT), 12 assists vs. 2 turnovers, and 4 rebounds).

6.  Gotta call out Diaw as well.  Over the last 14 minutes of the game, here’s his line: 2-5 FG for 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 turnovers.  Four turnovers in crunch time from one player, who is supposedly a maestro with the ball.  His bad passes drive me nuts.  The local media treat him like some kind of passing savant, excusing the turnovers by claiming that his teammates “are still learning” how to play with him, but that doesn’t jive anymore.  Maybe he needs to learn how to play with his teammates — or just how to stop imagnining passing lanes that aren’t really there.

7.  Seven games left, five on the road:

Fri, Apr 3    Miami    7:00 PM
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

Pretty much need six of them to have a shot.

-E