Bobcats Coast Past 76ers

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Charlotte Bobcats vs 76ers, 3/31/10

The Charlotte Bobcats posted an easy win over the Philadelphia 76ers, 103-84, on Wednesday night at the Cable Box.  The Cats improve to 39-35 but remain in seventh place in the East, a game-and-a-half behind Miami, who also won Wednesday night.

AP recap here |  Box score here

After feeling out the Sixers in the first few minutes of the game, the Cats took control, building a double digit lead by early in the second quarter.  The Sixers briefly cut the lead to single digits before the half and again right after, but the Cats dominated the rest of the way.

Gerald Wallace led the Cats with 24 points (8-11 FG, 3-3 alley-oops, 2-3 3PT, 6-10 FT), 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.  Tyson Chandler had easily his best game since returning from injury (and probably one of his best games all year, really) with 15 points (4-5 FG, 7-8 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in 23 minutes off the bench.

The Sixers generally looked like the Bad News Bears.  With Lou Williams, Rodney Carney and Thad Young all out with injuries, and Andre Igoudala reportedly dealing with plantar fasciitis, the Sixers didn’t have much of a shot to begin with.  They settled for jump shots (only 11 FTs compared to the Bobcats 35), turned the ball over an astonishing 25 times (rookie Jrue Holiday accounted for 7) and were probably lucky they didn’t get beat by 30.

Tidbits

  • Bill Simmons called Elton Brand’s contract (4 years, $66 million) the second worst in the league, (behind Gilbert Arenas: 5 years, $96 million), but Brand might vault ahead of Gil soon.  Dude is just dreadful.
  • Had a question from @kimosabe71 on Twitter about Raymond Felton tonight and wanted to expand on it a bit here. Felton is quietly having his best season ever.  A look at his stats shows that he’s sporting a career best 15.4 PER (had been in the 13.5-13.9 range the past three seasons), mostly due to shooting a career best 46% from the field.  That, in turn, is due to better shot selection, which itself is largely due to the presence of an alpha-dog offensive threat in Stephen Jackson.  So what I’m saying is that when Raymond gets a fat contract this offseason, he needs to treat Jack to a steak.  Or a Bentley — whatever NBA players do these days to thank each other.
  • Post-game locker room jibber-jabber.
  • It’s really starting to look like the Cats don’t have much of a chance to catch Miami for the 6th spot.  That’s a shame, because we really would have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs against Atlanta or Boston.  Orlando, not so much.  And don’t even get me started on the inane suggestion that we’d be better off slipping to the 8th spot and facing the Cavs in the first round.  That’s borderline moronic, our flukey 3-1 record against them this regular season notwithstanding.
  • Next game is Friday night at the Cable Box versus the surprising 5th place Milwaukee Bucks, 7 PM ET.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Blow Fourth Quarter Lead In Loss To Raptors

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Raptors, 3/29/10


The Charlotte Bobcats dropped another winnable game to the Toronto Raptors, 103-101, on Monday night at the Cable Box.  The Cats led by six points to start the final period before falling behind.  A mad scramble in the closing 90 seconds resulted in one last chance for the Cats, down two, to tie or win.  However, Raymond Felton couldn’t connect with a cutting Tyson Chandler and the ball bounced out of bounds to ensure the loss.

AP recap here |  Box score here

Things looked pretty good for the Cats after three quarters.  No one was playing extraordinarily; instead it was a pretty well-rounded effort.  The Cats had contained Chris Bosh, and kept Andrea Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu very much in check.

But some issues lurked.  Stephen Jackson was in full-on “I’m more interested in barking at the refs instead of beating the Raptors” mode after being in foul trouble all game.  The Cats had not been able to turn the Raps over very much (10 Raptor turnovers, only 7 fast break points for the Bobcats).  The Cats were outrebounded 38-31.

Furthermore, the Cats had not taken enough advantage of the Raptors notoriously bad defense (only 24 points in the paint).  Being without the high-flying antics of  Tyrus Thomas (ankle) and the low-post scoring of Nazr Mohammed (back, still) didn’t help here, but the Raps also usually give up more penetration into the lane than the Cats were able to manage.

These shortcomings allowed the Raps a chance to make a few clutch shots in the decisive fourth quarter and overcome the Cats.  Jarrett Jack, Andrea Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu all hit big threes.  Jarrett Jack then added three free throws after drawing a foul on Raymond outside the arc to push the Raps lead to 100-93 with just under 3 minutes left.

From there, Stephen Jackson’s five straight points and the Raptors’ 3-6 performance from the free throw line conspired to make the finish interesting.  With 13 seconds left, the Cats got the ball down two.  With Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace camped out along the three-point line for the kickout, Raymond Felton drove into the lane, moving from right to left.  As the defense collapsed on Raymond, Tyson Chandler cut to the basket.

If you want to blame it on Tyson, say that he didn’t take a great angle to the basket on his cut (or that he probably wouldn’t have caught the pass if it came right to him — probably true).  If you want to blame it on Raymond (more appropriate) say that he flat-out threw an errant pass.

Whatever you choose, they didn’t connect.  The ball bounced out of bounds with a couple seconds left, leaving the Raps to simply complete an inbounds play to steal the win.

Tidbits

  • I’ll keep my bitching brief, because “he is who he is” and on balance, he’s been a big positive for the Cats.  But if Jack could channel half the vitriol he directs at the officials towards his opponent, he’d get that All-Star recognition he supposedly covets so much.  The Cats would also probably get an extra couple of wins over 82 games.  In the third quarter, after fouling Bargnani, getting under his skin and drawing a tech on the Italian, and hitting the technical free throw, Jack couldn’t stop yapping at the ref about the loose ball foul that started it all, eventually garnering a tech of his own.  Pointless…
  • Tyson Chandler rolled an ankle in the second quarter and left for the the locker room.  After a retape (I presume) he did return.
  • Owner Michael Jordan was back in his benchside seat and got into it with the refs in the fourth quarter when the Raps were taking the game over.  Didn’t help…
  • Shame about that last turnover for Raymond — before it he had played another really nice game with 18 points (7-12 FG, 4-5 3PT), 5 rebounds and 7 assists.
  • The loss drops the Cats to 38-35 and 7th place in the East.  We’re 1.5 games behind 6th place Miami and 2 games ahead of 8th place Toronto.  Tonight’s loss gives Toronto the season series at 2-1, should we finished tied with them.  Hollinger’s playoff odds are currently predicting that we’ll finish in 7th place, 1 game behind Miami.
  • 9 games left: 5 home, 4 away.  Next one is Monday night at home against the 76ers — follow me on Twitter for in-game tweets.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Defeat Wizards For Third Straight Win

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Wizards, 3/26/10


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

AP recap here |  Box score here

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

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

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

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

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

Tidbits

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

-Dr. E

Bobcats Cruise To Victory Over T-Wolves

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

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

AP recap here | Box score here

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

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

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

Jack Is Back (?)

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

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

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

Tidbits

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

-Dr. E

Cats Pass Overtime Reform In DC

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Wizards 3/23/10

In sharp contrast to their overtime no-show last week in Atlanta, the Charlotte Bobcats went for the kill and dominated the extra period against the Washington Wizards Tuesday night to break a two game losing streak and maintain their hold of 7th place in the conference.

AP recap here | Box score here

This Is What Happens When You Don’t Hit Jump Shots

Despite thoroughly dominating the Wiz in the paint (at last count I had the Points in Paint differential at 50-20) the Bobcats couldn’t buy a decent jumper.  Check out the shot chart: The Bobcats only made one three pointer and a total of four shots outside of twenty feet for the ENTIRE GAME + OVERTIME.  The poor outside shooting dropped the Bobcats’ overall shooting percentage for the game to 39.4% even though interior players Boris Diaw, Theo Ratliff and Tyrus Thomas shot better than 50% from down low.

Stephen Jackson takes most of the blame again tonight.  I’m hoping that his recent struggles shooting the ball are just the result of a slump.  It’s not pretty, folks (Warning: These stats are NSFW): For the month of March, JAX is 38% from the floor, 25% from downtown while adding over 3 turnovers a game.  Yet inexplicably the Bobcats went to Jackson at the end of regulation for the win with just :08 on the clock.  JAX measures, fakes and finally launches a guarded three.  Clank.  We’re goin’ to OT.

Once in OT, it was again the Raymond Felton show – Ray hit two quick buckets to set the tone for the extra period, solidifying his place as the Bobcats most clutch scorer.

MJ Has Assembled A Lot of Talent

The Wiz announcers brought it up and I’ll bring it up again, the Bobcats have a lot of talent on this roster.  While it is frustrating to watch a team with so much talent struggle in a road win against a lottery squad like the Wiz, you can’t help but be amazed at how deep the team is compared to roster just two seasons ago.  Tyson Chandler continued his recent progress with eight boards and five points in 19 minutes.  Tyrus Thomas looked solid with a 7 & 7 off the pine in 20 minutes.  D.J. showed flashes of competence.
Lord Stephen Graham, who dropped consecutive 19 point games in Crash’s absence last week didn’t even make it off the bench but is now a proven asset.  The young players stuck to the end of the bench (Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown and Alexis Ajinca) have all shown promise.  The team’s two injured centers (Nazr Mohammed & Gana Diop), despite unsightly contracts, are legitimate players in the League.  Oh, and then there’s the starting center…

Theo Ratliff

If I’m Dwight Howard, then I’m enrolling in the Theo Ratliff mentoring program this summer.  The 15 year vet was supposed to be a last ditch insurance policy in case Diop, Mohammed or Chandler couldn’t make it back.  Turns out that the Cats stole a 6ppg, 4.5rpg, 1bpg quality big man at the deadline for nothing.  He hits his free throws too.  Theo is 20-21 from the line in March — that’s good for 95% from the stripe.  Ratliff played great again tonight against the Wiz dropping 10 points and 7 boards.  What’s most amazing about the 36 year old is how spry he is after all these years.  Obviously genetics and body type help — he’s more in the mold of a Kareem or Mutumbo than an O’Neal or Walton — but damn, I never saw this type of performance coming.

Bullets

  • I’m sure Chad Ford and John Hollinger would love the Wizards’ future.  Unfortunately the present pretty much sucks.  Their players look very skilled but very raw.  I’m not sure if Flip Saunders is the right type of coach to grow these young players into a contender.  I’m certain that this isn’t what he signed up for as the Wiz seemed primed to make a Playoff push with an aggressive offseason that brought in sharpshooter Mike Miller and bench sparkplug Randy Foye from Minny in exchange for Ricky Rubio-induced blueball.
  • Speaking of Minny (whom the Cats will be facing off against at home on Wednesday night), not only do the Wizards employ the T’Wolves former head coach in Flip Saunders but they’ve also brought everyone’s favorite Roswellian and former Wolves PG, Sam Cassell, into the mix as an assistant.  I wonder if we’ll ever catch Cassell flaunting his phantom elephant testicles after diagramming a good play.
  • The Wolves game is the start of a five game homestand for the ‘Cats.  If they can take care of business in at least four of those (especially against TOR early next week), then they’ll have pretty much locked up their first Playoff appearance.

Enjoy the Win Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

Larry Hughes To Sign With Bobcats

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hughes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life As A Bobcat

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

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

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

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

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

-Dr. E

Charlotte Defends Home Court Against Miami

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Bobcats defeat the Heat 83-78 in Charlotte

AP Recap | Box Score

With the hopes of the Bobcats’ first Playoff berth swinging just close enough to reach, the home team operated like a defensive machine to move ahead in the Eastern Conference standings. Time Warner Cable Arena saw a great turnout for a Tuesday night match up against two clubs positioning for the last (8th) spot for the post-season.

For much of the game, the crowd had little to cheer about. Charlotte allowed Miami to start hot with 30pts in the first quarter, and trailed by 9pts at the half. It was a lopsided start with Miami’s strong start and the Cats’ offensive struggles – poor free throw shooting, missed layups, and almost no perimeter scoring. Anyone watching had to question if the Bobcats had what it took to stand up for themselves and become the aggressors in a big game like this.

We Must Protect This House

For the Cats fanatics that check out the Open Practices or watch the inside videos on the Bobcats.com site, it’s common to see both Larry Brown and his consultant/assistant coach brother Herb Brown decked out in black Under Armour apparel. While the apparel line is marketed to the masses in chain stores, it’s hard to think that the physique of these aging men were what the product design team had intended for use. Well, Larry and Herb must have kept their Under Armour® compression shirts on under their suits last night. The half time talk to their big men probably started with Larry Brown ripping off his shirt and tie and fuming while wearing only an ultra tight, synthetic black “Tech Tee” with some rhythm stomping by Phil Ford. We can only imagine how Brown stepped up on a chair to look Tyrus Thomas in the face and declare “We Must Protect This House!

The Bobcats opened the third period with a brief run that was immediately countered by Miami. Throughout the game, Dwayne Wade had his way in the lane with highlight reel style drives from right-to-left. He was hitting inside and out, with solid help from teammates Jermaine O’Neal and Michael Beasley (B Easy for those that believe he deserves any kind of pro nickname). Still, the Bobcats pushed forward in the third to enter the final period only trailing by 4 pts (Miami led 66– 62).

The Stand

To push forward and close on Miami’s lead, Charlotte saw the return of the “Great DJ.” On key possessions to keep the Bobcats in the game, Augustin came up huge. The revived point guard was fouled on a successful three-pointer and hit the free throw for a complete 4 point play. He followed up with two consecutive, aggressive drives, drawing fouls against Miami. DJ hit all four of the free throws and pulled Charlotte within one point of the Heat’s lead. It seemed inevitable that the momentum would swing in favor of the home Bobcats at that point.

Larry Brown used a closing line up of Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, Boris Diaw, and Tyrus Thomas. On paper, this is a group built to run. Yet, the Bobcats showed that this was Larry Brown’s dream of a defensive line squad – long, quick, and versatile athletes. Defense took center stage, as the two guys that the Bobcats count on for points (Wallace & Jackson) couldn’t score in the fourth. In the closing minutes, Raymond Felton hit a huge three-pointer to give the Cats their first lead and Miami challenged until Tyrus Thomas hit a beautiful baseline jumper to put the team ahead for good.

Wade’s Reaction

After the game, Dwayne Wade was reported to be very angry as a superstar competitor should be after such a tough loss. Still, he may have misplaced the blame for Miami’s loss when he told reporters “The ball didn’t go in the basket the same… I ain’t giving Charlotte no credit if that’s what you’re looking for.”

Wrap-Up Notes:

Where Was Wallace?
It was disappointing to see so little offense from Gerald Wallace for such a big game. His two missed dunks (from Felton lobs) made him look tired, but his stat line deserves a closer look. Only 8 Points – Really? Oh, but 17 Rebounds – Whoa!

Diaw Does Work
The average fan probably doesn’t get why Diaw is always on the court. His passing and awareness aren’t as impressive as throw-down slams or mega-blocks. Still, he played the first three quarters of Tuesday’s game like he wasn’t really fit for the NBA. Then in crunch time, he grabbed big rebounds, blocked a shot, found the open shooter, and drew fouls against the Heat. He really made up for his poor start.

O’Neal of Old
Jermaine O’Neal was hitting shots like it was 2005. It didn’t matter if Tyrus or Tyson had leaped at him with lanky arms in the air. Jermaine was nailing those baseline jumpers. The Bobcats did a good job of keeping him out of the paint in the second half, but he put an efficient offensive performance together with 19 pts.

Beasley vs Thomas

Michael Beasley had a better stat line than Tyrus Thomas, but Charlotte’s young forward had such a bigger impact on the outcome of the game. It’s odd to say, but it looks like Beasley, in his second year, would be the more polished of the two. Tyrus Thomas probably has more “upside” if coached appropriately.

Links:

NBA.com Recap

Peninsula is Mighter (Heat Blog)

Charlotte Observer