Close, But No Cigar; Magic Go Up 3-0

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Magic, Game 3, 4/24/10

Playoff basketball returned to Charlotte on Saturday, but the inspired Bobcats still couldn’t quite get over the hump and fell to the Orlando Magic 90-86.  Jameer Nelson continued his domination of the Bobcats with another 32 point effort.

AP recap here |  Box score here

Game 3 is usually the lower-seeded team’s best chance to steal a game in round one of the NBA Playoffs (e.g. the Bulls and Thunder earlier this week) and this was no exception.  A fired-up, sellout crowd donned giveaway Jordan Brand Bobcats t-shirts and waved towels for a “whiteout” that drove the Cats to an improved performance relative to Games 1 and 2 in Orlando.

The Cats got off to a decent start per the scoreboard, trailing the Magic just 29-27 after the first quarter.  But if you look back on it, that first quarter can really serve as a microcosm for the whole game.

  1. Dwight Howard got into early foul trouble (2 in the first quarter) and had only moderate effect on the game early; things stayed that way the rest of the way and Howard eventually fouled out with 3:31 left in the fourth after having only played 26 minutes.
  2. Jameer Nelson picked up the slack with 19 first quarter points, including four threes and a four-point play to close the quarter as he continued to outplay Raymond Felton.  This trend would also continue through the rest of the game, as Nelson would finish with 32 points (12-21 FG, 5-9 3PT), 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists — and had a big bucket down the stretch to fend off the Cats.
  3. The Cats and the crowd fed off each other in the first, fueling an 8-0 run that had the Cats up by four late in the quarter.  This would happen a couple more times in the game: a 9-2 second quarter run had the Cats up 41-33 briefly and a longer 19-9 stretch spanning the third and fourth quarter had the Cats up 77-73 halfway through the final period.
  4. But just as the Magic ended the first quarter strongly to take the lead (the aforementioned four-point play by Nelson), they ended the game with a show of experience and dominance as well.  After the Felton three-point play that fouled Howard out with 3:31 left put the Cats up 80-79, the Magic outscored the Cats 11-6 by hitting clutch shots and getting to the free throw line.

The Cats had a chance, though.  Down one with 31 seconds left, Larry Brown used a full timeout, then added another 20-second timeout to draw up what must have been the world’s most complicated basketball play.  It worked, too.

Early in the set Stephen Jackson popped off a screen at the three-point line and had a wide open look.  Some will criticize the fact that the first option on the play was a look at a three-pointer when the Cats were down just one with 30 seconds left, but let them criticize.

This is one of the best basketball minds in the world, a master at drawing up plays in timeouts we’re talking about, teamed up with Stephen Jackson, Mr. “I Make Love To Pressure”.  A three probably would have won the game.

Unfortunately, Jack did not come through.  The shot was short, Orlando grabbed the rebound, the game, and any remaining hope that the Bobcats could make this a series.

Tidbits

  • Lack of bench production has plagued the Cats in every game thus far.  In Game 1, only Tyson Chandler was helpful off the bench.  In Game 2, Nazr Mohammed was alone in contributing off the bench.  In Game 3, it was Larry Hughes who played well, with 14 points (5-6 FG, 2-3 3PT, 2-2 FT) and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes.  The lack of signficant contributions from DJ Augustin and Tyrus Thomas continues to hurt.
  • A couple of my in-game Tweets:  “I think D Howard might bitch to refs more than Stephen Jackson. Impressive feat.” and “I’d be stunned if Ty Chandler didn’t lead the league if offensive fouls due to bad screens. Another here early in 4th”
  • Raymond Felton.  How can I say this diplomatically?  Let’s just say his agent won’t be using video of this series in his contract negotiations this summer.  And the Bobcats need to keep it in mind when Miami or New York makes an offer that the Bobcats consider matching.
  • Lots of celebs at the game: Jordan was there, obviously.  Commissioner David Stern observed the proceedings.  Legends Robert Parish, David Thompson, and Muggsy Bogues were in attendance, as was coach Tubby Smith.  And lest we forget, Bobcats minority owner Nelly sat courtside.
  • Game 4 is Monday night at 8 PM ET at the Cable Box.  I would expect some golfers courtside with the Quail Hollow starting up next week.  Maybe even this famous Magic fan and friend of MJ?

-Dr. E

Bobcats Can’t Handle Magic; Go Down 0-2

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Magic Game 2, 4/21/10


The Orlando Magic scored another definitive victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, 92-77, in Game 2 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night.  Stephen Jackson led the Bobcats with 27 and keyed a fourth quarter rally that briefly made things interesting late, but the Magic ultimately led wire to wire, putting all five starters in double figures.

AP recap here |  Box score here

This one had an even uglier start than Game 1.  8 minutes into the first quarter, the two teams had only combined for 16 points; problem was, the Cats only had three of those.  Fortunately, the Cats got a few buckets to make the count a not-quite-as-embarrassing 18-14 after the first quarter.

But frankly, the damage had been done.  Orlando’s zone-ish defense rendered the Cats offense (not exactly potent to begin with) into a bogged-down, turnover-filled mess.  The Cats finished the game with 21 turnovers, and no one outside of Stephen Jackson ever figured out how to score.

The fact that the Bobcats  play some pretty good defense themselves kept the game reasonable; the Cats were only down 11 at the half, and cut the lead to 8 with 3:15 left in the game before succumbing.

The Magic simply had too many weapons tonight.  Though Dwight Howard was held to a modest line (15 points on 5-10 FG/5-12 FT, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) he was absolutely dominant for a stretch early in the third quarter that set the tone for the rest of the second half.

Vince Carter, infamous for shrinking into a jump-shooter when the going gets tough, had smooth sailing into the paint all night long, resulting in 9-11 free throws.  (As a team, the Magic shot 35 free throws.)

Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson were solid and reliable, if unspectacular, while Mickael Pietrus and Ryan Anderson provided an onslaught of threes off the bench, combining for 5-7 from distance.

There were almost no silver linings for the Bobcats in this one.  The late run that cut the deficit to 8 was intriguing for a minute, but rationally you knew it was too little, too late.  Nazr did show some signs of life (5-6 FG for 10 points in 16 minutes).

But basically, I’m grasping at straws here.  The only one that may be worth a damn is simply that the Cats have played much better at home this year and Games 3 and 4 are in Charlotte.  The Cats had the biggest home/road record differential amongst all the playoff teams this year, for no reason that anyone could logically explain.  At this point, I’d give up trying to explain it if I could just see it for Games 3 and 4.

Tidbits

  • Apologies for recycling my Twitter posts, but is anyone else getting the same feeling they used to get watching Jeff McInnis a couple of years ago when watching Larry Hughes these days?
  • Raymond Felton and Boris Diaw have been frustratingly ineffective, as have Hughes and Tyrus Thomas off the bench.
  • The Cats have a couple of days to stew on this one.  Game 3 is on Saturday afternoon at 2PM ET at the Cable Box.

-Dr. E

Quick Thoughts On Game 1

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Doug Benc/Getty Images/ESPN.com

Doug Benc/Getty Images/ESPN.com

The Charlotte Bobcats fell 98-89 to the Orlando Magic in their playoff debut Sunday night.  We’ll have a more in-depth recap up later, but I wanted to post some quick thoughts and have a place for you guys to make some comments as well.

  • Here’s the AP recap and box score.
  • That first half couldn’t have gone worse.  The Bobcats were attacking the paint, but in a half-hearted manner that allowed Howard to rack up 8 blocks.  Meanwhile, Jameer Nelson was frying Raymond Felton (see above picture) and the Magic were draining three after three (9-18 3PT in 1st half).
  • However, the Cats showed some resolve in battling back in the second half.  Gerald Wallace beasted it (25 and 17), Stephen Jackson gutted it out on a hyperextended knee, and the Cats were able to cut the lead to as low as 4 late in the game.
  • The Cats got nothing beyond Gerald, Jack and Felton.  Diaw or someone from the bench is going to have to step up in order for us to take a game or two.  Chandler did have a nice stretch in the third quarter to key a Bobcats run, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
  • We’ve noted how rusty Nazr has looked in the couple of games he’s played since returning from back problems.  But rusty just ain’t cutting it anymore.  As fellow Baseline contributor Deesdale noted in a text message during the first half: “I think Nazr gave up on life.”
  • Game 2 on Wednesday.  Thank goodness for the 2 day break in between Games 1 and 2 — Jack’s knee is sure to swell and tighten up, but hopefully he’ll be ready to go again by Wednesday.  Let’s hope it’s not too bad.  Make sure you’re following us on Twitter in the meantime.
  • UPDATE: At halftime of the Spurs/Mavs game, the TNT guys indicated that Jack will have an MRI on the knee (no brainer) and showed a quick post-game interview of Jack in which Jack dismissed any concerns, saying he’d be ready to go if Game 2 were tomorrow.

-Dr. E

Bobcats vs. Magic Playoff Preview Part II

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Bobcats Magic 2010 Playoff Preview Bobcats Baseline

Bobcats have hit the Bigtime and are going up against last year’s Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic.

If you missed part one of our preview, check it out here.

ASChin: One more thing that I wanted to touch on before we get to the wings and guards:  We’re dealing with the League’s second best offense (behind Phoenix) going up against the League’s best defense (points allowed).  If defense does indeed win championships, the Bobcats might be able to pull an upset in this series.

On to spots 1-3…

Dr. E: Out on the wings, we’ll have Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Stephen Graham and Larry Hughes matching up against Matt Barnes, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and JJ Redick.  Barnes is a solid player who brings some much-needed toughness to the otherwise soft Magic.  But he’s not going to intimidate Gerald Wallace.

Wallace broke through this season as the Bobcats first All-Star, but is still not appreciated much beyond hardcore NBA fans.  A playoff series against the Magic would be the perfect opportunity for Wallace to insert himself into mainstream basketball consciousness.  Obviously, the Cats need Gerald to play well in order to make the series interesting.

ASChin: Crash is great and we all love him but I’m really hoping that the big stage doesn’t intimidate him like it did during All-Star weekend.  I’m tempering my expectations until I see Wallace handle the higher stakes of the postseason.  Fortunately, Wallace’s ability to settle into BIONIC ROLE PLAYER mode when his shot’s not falling will at least allow him to pull down a dozen boards and alter a few shots until he can ignore the butterflies.  On talent alone the Bobcats win this matchup but if you’re measuring experience, then the Magic’s combo of Barnes and Pietrus trumps here.

Dr. E: I like Pietrus a lot.  On the Magic, he’s a bit redundant; another soft wing who loves the three-pointer (which is why the tougher Barnes starts).  I’d love to see what Pietrus could do on another team where he’s not just encouraged to stand 25 feet away from the basket and launch threes.

PlayoffRoster_1Unit

ASChin: The shooting guard matchup should be fun.  You have Vince Carter, famously maligned for his Playoff dissappearances going up against Mr. Makes Love To Pressure himself, Stephen Jackson.
Carter’s Playoff numbers don’t look so bad at first glance it’s only when you factor in his 42% FG percentage and some of his late game fades that you realize why he’s earned the reputation.  Jackson’s Playoff averages are actually much worse than Carter’s (39% in 54 games) yet JAX has two major notches on his postseason belt: Winning a Championship with the Spurs in 2003 as a starter and then leading the 8th seeded Warriors past the top seeded Mavs in 2007.
I see these two guys negating each other during the series.  With Vince getting most of his points early in the game and JAX contributing a little more towards the end.  The real battle might be with the backups as sharpshooter JJ Reddick has come on in the second half of the season.  If he can provide a much more consistent bench scoring threat than Bobcats new addition Larry Hughes, the ‘Cats might be in some trouble

Dr. E: In addition to getting Howard into foul trouble and Gerald Wallace being Gerald Wallace, one of the other breaks that the Bobcats need to make the series interesting is for Vince Carter to do what Vince Carter does in the playoffs: underwhelm and shrink.  Bill Simmons mentioned this in his NBA regular season wrapup/playoff preview column, and it bears repeating: last year, down the stretch, the Magic put the ball into Turkoglu’s hands to make a play and he was great at it.  Will Vince, when the pressure’s on, be able to deliver like Hedo did in that role?

I can’t wait until Redick enters game 3 in Charlotte for the first time.  By the way, why do we say that someone was “booed lustily”?  It doesn’t make much sense.  I can understand staring lustily, like Sean May does at crab bread, but booing lustily?  Strange adverb choice.  Whatever the case, Redick will be booed lustily.

ASChin: And the sad part is is that JJ is a much better pro than 2006 #3 pick Adam Morrison will ever be.  Ugh.

PlayoffRoster_2Unit

Dr. E: And at the point, we have Jameer Nelson vs Raymond Felton.  I have to admit, I was stunned to look at Jameer’s numbers this season and see how far he’d fallen off. His FG% and 3PT% are way down, as is his scoring average, and he’s only playing 28 minutes a game.  I know Jason Williams has been a pleasant surprise at backup PG for the Magic, but jeez.  What happened?  Anyways, the diminutive-but-not-super-quick Nelson is a good matchup for Raymond Felton.

Felton is easily having his best year as a pro — a contract year too, how nice.  Now, the sharps know that Raymond’s improved stats/PER are mostly due to the fact that Stephen Jackson is now around to take all of the tough shots.  Raymond has been able to be much more selective in the shots he attempts, and his FG% has accordingly improved significantly.  But I still worry that he’s already made himself a lot of money this year — more money than the Bobcats might be able to pay.  A strong showing in the playoffs could give a team like New York or Miami googly eyes for Raymond.  I hope Raymond’s not thinking too much about that, but he’s human, so…

ASChin: Hey, now.  I thought this was a Playoff Preview not a 2010 Free Agency Breakdown.  Felton has proven himself to be a solid starter in the League and I imagine that he’ll do well in this series.  He’s played in big games in college (winning a championship with UNC) and (at least according to 82games.com) he’s been the Bobcats best offensive player in the clutch.  He’s bigger and stronger than both Jameer and White Chocolate and still has the speed to beat anybody down the court.  If Ray can keep his shooting percentage up, turnovers down and play his usual solid D, I could see him being the series’ most valuable player in a potential upset.

As for DJ Augustin, I almost don’t want to write anything about him.  He had a terrible sophomore season until finally coming around in April.  I hope he’s figured it out because the Bobcats will need all the scoring (especially outside shooting) they can get.

-DrE & ASChin

Augustin, Hughes Push Bobcats Past Pistons

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Pistons, 4/10/10


The Charlotte Bobcats survived a late Pistons push for a 99-95 victory at the Cable Box on Saturday night.  With Raymond Felton out due to flu-like symptoms and coach Larry Brown trying to limit the minutes of banged-up stars Gerald Wallace (33 minutes) and Stephen Jackson (28), the Cats needed their backup guards to pick up the slack.  DJ Augustin (13 points/9 assists in 40 minutes) and Larry Hughes (18 points on 6-10 FG/4-6 3PT, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals in 26 minutes) obliged.

AP recap here |  Box score here

With Raymond Felton scratched due to flu-like symptoms, DJ Augustin got the start and 40 minutes of playing time.  The Cats and Pistons played a pretty close first half, with the Cats coming out on top 50-43.  The Bobcats proceeded to build 11 point leads a couple different times during the third quarter, but the rest of the way the Pistons made it interesting.

Ben Gordon and Jason Maxiell led the Pistons on a 27-13 run over a 9 minute stretch spanning the 3rd and 4th quarters that culminated in an Austin Daye three for an 88-85 Pistons lead with 5:15 left.  The Pistons accomplished this against an odd Bobcats lineup of Hughes/Jack/Graham/Brown/Chandler that just wasn’t getting it done; so down the stretch Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw and DJ Augustin returned to the floor to restore sanity.

DJ hit a tough, fading jumper with just over a minute left to put the Bobcats up 96-95.  Some scrambling Bobcats defense and a little luck would make that lead hold up.

The ensuing Pistons possession seemingly lasted forever; for the record, it included 0-5 field goals (2 of them threes), 4 offensive rebounds, 2 Pistons timeouts, and accounted for almost a full minute of game time.  Gerald Wallace finally ended the fiasco with a rebound with 16 seconds left, but only hit 1-2 free throws to keep the Pistons hopes alive.

Fortunately, the Pistons would miss again; this time Larry Hughes secured the rebound, then hit 2-2 free throws to secure the win.

Tidbits

  • The Cats were rocking some awesome black warm-up t-shirts with “Clinched” across the chest — a blue version was available in the Team Store.  Well played, Bobcats, but still no match for our SarcophaCrash Gerald Wallace t-shirts, now on sale for the playoffs for $18!
  • Tyson Chandler was 9-10 from the free throw line — he added a tip-in for 11 points total.
  • Stephen Graham was solid-as-usual off the bench: 11 points on 5-6 FG/1-1 3PT in 20 minutes.
  • Ty Thomas sat out again with his bad thumb.
  • I saw this kid coming up the stairs near my section at halftime and thought, “Wow, that looks like NCAA Champion Jon Scheyer’s 16-year-old doppelganger.”  Eventually, after he posed for a few pictures with fans, I realized it was Scheyer himself.  Damn, I feel old.
  • Strange box score tonight: the Cats outshot the Pistons 53.8% to 45.6% and beat them at the free throw line 22-26 to 17-26.  Rebounds and assists were essentially even.  So how did the Cats almost lose this one?  2 issues, both concerning.  1) the Pistons nabbed 13 offensive rebounds and 2) the Cats coughed up 15 turnovers.  Can’t be giving up extra possessions in the playoffs like that.
  • The win pushes the Cats to 31-9 at home on the year.  Pretty amazing.
  • Technically, there’s still a chance the Cats could get the sixth seed.  If the Cats win out (away at New Jersey, home against Chicago) and Miami goes 1-2 to finish the regular season, we’d tie them at 45-37, and would get the nod due to winning the season series against them.  But the Heat have the Knicks, Sixers and Nets in their last three games, and figure to go 2-1 at the absolute worst.
  • The Cats get a day of rest on Sunday before taking on the Nets in New Jersey on Monday night (7:30 PM ET start).  In case you’ve been under a rock for the past few months, the Cats have turned in a couple of embarrassing performances in losing two in a row to the Nets, the NBA’s worst team this year.  Don’t count on it happening again on Monday.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Hold Off Shorthanded Hawks for 41st Victory

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Hawks, 4/6/10


The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Atlanta Hawks 109-100 at the Cable Box on Tuesday night.  The win ensures that the Cats will finish no worse than .500 for the season; however, the Cats remained mired in the 7th spot in the East as the Bogut-less Bucks also won again.

AP recap here |  Box score here

The Hawks started Jeff Teague and Mo Evans in place of Mike Bibby (toe) and Joe Johnson (thumb) and did not get off to a good start.  The Bobcats throttled them 34-14 in the opening quarter, with Gerald Wallace slashing to the basket on Evans at will.  Wallace finished with a game-high 28 points (10-18 FG, 8-8 FT) and 6 rebounds.

The Cats continued to shoot well (51% on the game) and went into halftime with a 23-point lead.  Things were looking good for banged up stars of the Bobcats to possibly have an easy night.  Gerald Wallace played the game with some sort of mini-shoulder pad thing on his left shoulder, while Stephen Jackson wore a wrap around his left hamstring that he readjusted frequently throughout the night.

But alas, it’s the NBA and everyone makes a run.  Atlanta was able to chip away at the Cats lead in the third quarter behind Jamal Crawford and Mo Evans.  The persistent Hawks were eventually able to cut the Bobcats lead to 9 points with 8 minutes left, forcing Larry Brown to keep the starters in for the bulk of the fourth quarter.

The move worked, as the Hawks were never able to get the lead below 9.  After Raymond Felton weaved through the Hawks backcourt pressure to get a driving layup to put the Cats up by 13 with two minutes left, the Hawks conceded by subbing Randolph Morris and Mario West into the game.  But with 3 more games remaining this week and an outside chance of overtaking the Bucks for the 6th spot, it would have been ideal night to have been able to give the starters some rest in the fourth quarter.

Tidbits

  • Boris Diaw came thisclose again to notching the Bobcats first triple-double: 17 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists.
  • The Cats were the aggressors all night, finishing with 32 free throw attempts to the Hawks 13.  Both teams were lights out from the line: Cats 28-32, Hawks 12-13.
  • DJ Augustin was perfect from the field in 13 strong minutes off the bench: 4-4 FG including 3-3 3PT for 11 points.
  • The Bobcats hit the road for a quick 2-game trip.  They’ll face New Orleans Wednesday night at 8 PM ET, then Houston Friday night at 8:30 PM ET.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Gut Out Overtime Win Over Bucks

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Bucks, 4/2/10


The Charlotte Bobcats scored a tough overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks, 87-86 on Friday night at the Cable Box.  The teams exchanged defensive blows all night amidst a playoff atmosphere, with Stephen Jackson (32 points) supplying the offense for the Cats.

Though the ruggedness of the game had a distinct mid-90s feel (generally regarded as an ugly period of basketball for the NBA), this was one of the most fun games I’ve attended in the past two seasons. Bring on more playoff basketball.

AP recap here |  Box score here

This one was intense right from the get-go, and tight throughout.  The biggest lead either team held was 7, by the Bucks halfway though the second quarter.  That was just after Larry Brown was ejected after arguing about a non-call, inciting a brief “Lar-ry, Lar-ry, Lar-ry” chant from the crowd.  Assistant Dave Hanners assumed the lead role the rest of the way.

The Bobcats appeared to be primed for victory late in regulation after Jack hit a monster three with just over two minutes left to put the Cats up 76-73.  The Bobcats maintained that three point buffer, only to see John Salmons bury a contested three to tie it at 80 with 10 seconds left.

The Cats called timeout to set up a gamewinner, but Raymond Felton only managed a contested jumper that was off the mark.

The slugfest continued in overtime until Stephen Jackson stepped back and drained a deep three (again) with under a minute left to put the Cats up three 87-84.  After Salmons responded with a bucket to cut the Cats lead to one, disaster nearly struck.

With the shot clock running down and about 20 seconds left in the game, Jack was working against Bucks defensive bulldog Luc Mbah a Moute.  Mbah a Moute poked the ball away and a mad scramble ensued.  Jack was able to get a hand on it first and drew a foul on Mbah a Moute in the process — ball could’ve bounced the other way just as easily.

The Cats weren’t in the bonus, so had to inbound the ball.  The Bucks decided not to foul with a four-second shot clock/game clock differential.  Raymond worked himself free for another chance at a game-clinching shot and missed again, but Tyson Chandler was able to get a hand on the rebound and tip it back out to Felton, who grabbed it as time expired to seal the win.

It was an appropriate finish as the Cats only shot 37.5% on the game — they made up for it at the free throw line, making 20 free throws to the Bucks 10.  It was as if both teams, the officials and the fans all agreed early on that this was going to be physical, intense playoff-style basketball.  And the Cats were up to the challenge.

Tidbits

  • Tyrus Thomas (ankle) played a few minutes in the second quarter, but didn’t get back into the game after that.
  • Nazr Mohammed (back) dressed but did not play.  Gerald Henderson was inactive.
  • Stephen Graham was awesome in 10 minutes off the bench: 7 points on 3-4 FG and 1-2 3PT.  Larry Hughes was decidedly not awesome off the bench: 0-7 FG in 16 minutes.
  • The loss actually drops the Bucks back into 6th place as the Heat continue to surge against their weak schedule downthe stretch.  Tonight it was the Pacers who were unable to do us a solid in falling to the Heat.  The Cats are now a game-and-a-half behind the 5th place Heat and one game behind 6th place Milwaukee.
  • The Bobcats travel to Chicago to face the Bulls Saturday night.  The Bulls are on the outside looking in — four games behind the Cats and a game-and-a-half behind 8th place Toronto — and would love nothing more than to take us down.  8 PM ET start on SportSouth.

-Dr. E