Bobcats Stump Lakers Again

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Lakers, 3/5/10

The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 98-83 in front of a packed house at the Cable Box on Friday night.  AP recap here, box score here.  With the win, the Bobcats avenged their loss to the Lakers in LA earlier this season and continue their mastery over the elite squad — the Cats have now won 7 of their last 9 against the Lakers.  More importantly, the victory keeps the Cats in the hunt for the Eastern Conference playoffs, one game behind 8th place Miami.

The Lakers held a modest lead through most of the first quarter; the Cats overtook them in the second and steadily built on the lead through the third and fourth as the Lakers faded.  Stephen Jackson led the Cats in scoring with 21 points on 7-14 FG.

This was a weird game for numerous reasons.  First, the Lakers looked spent and/or disinterested.  We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say it was spent, after an overtime loss in Miami on Thursday night.  Kobe played well enough (9-21 FG for 26 points) but didn’t get any help from his supporting cast — the rest of the team shot 34%.

Then, though it was a packed house on a Friday night against a superstar and his elite team, the energy in the arena was just a bit off.  It was as if all the Kobe/Laker fans were infected with the same malaise that seemed to infect Pau Gasol (5-14 FG, 3 turnovers), Ron Artest (1-9 FG), Shannon Brown (3-9 FG, 3 turnovers) and Lamar Odom (4 turnovers).  Meanwhile, Bobcats fans appear to be in a mixed state of anxiety and straight-up confusion: Is this a playoff team or not?  3-1 vs the Cavs, beating the Lakers down, but losing two to the Nets?  Wha?

Perhaps the strangest development was seeing Gerald Henderson on the floor.  The first round draft pick has been languishing on the bench, looking not-ready-for-prime-time in his brief appearances.  But tonight, Gerald played 12 minutes — including an important stretch spent guarding Kobe Bryant in the second quarter — and looked good.  He jacked up 7 shots, hit 3, and added 2 rebounds, a steal and a block and no turnovers.  Maybe it was just because Stephen Jackson got into foul trouble guarding Kobe, maybe Larry Brown could sense that he needed to tweak the rotations as the Cats had gone stale over the past couple of weeks, maybe Henderson’s been showing signs of “getting it” in practice recently.  Whatever the reason, it was great to see him out there contributing.

Tidbits

  • Surreal moment during pregame warmups when Lamar Odom came over to Ric Flair courtside for an enthusiastic exchange of dap.  And you have the marvel at Charlotte’s relationship with the Nature Boy — less than two weeks after his wife was arrested after a “domestic incident” at his house, the Bobcats dragged him out to center court to cut a promo before the fourth quarter to a chorus of “whooo”s .  That’s our Naitch.
  • Tyson Chandler was active for the first time in weeks and acquitted himself nicely with 6 points (2-2 FG, 2-2 FT), 4 rebounds and a block in 15 minutes of relief of Theo Ratliff.  Then again, it’s sad when I’m handing out compliments to a player who’s making $12 million for 15 decent minutes.
  • Tyrus Thomas continues to impress: 7-12 FG for 14 points, 9 rebounds and 2 more blocks.  This guy is a keeper.
  • DJ had another of his patented “every dozen games or so, I’ll play great so you think I’m breaking out of my sophomore slump” games: 5-8 FG for 12 points, 5 assists and 2 steals in 22 minutes.
  • Adam Morrison played a few minutes for the Lakers — when he checked in in the second quarter, he actually got booed.  Not sure I can get behind that.  Then, during garbage minutes in the fourth, the crowd was egging him on to shoot every time he touched the ball.  He didn’t oblige  Thank goodness, because it sure felt snarky — like egging on the mentally challenged team manager who gets to dress out on senior night to shoot, so that you can guffaw if he misses or get a cheap thrill if he happens to make it.  Anyways, I hope Ammo finds some peace playing overseas next year, or maybe on the professional XBox 360 circuit.
  • Next game is Saturday night against Steph Curry and the Warriors in a rare home-home back-t0-back.  Tipoff is at 7:00 PM ET as usual — I’ll be there and tweeting.

-Dr. E

All-Star Saturday Wrap-Up

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Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Slam Dunk Contest

Along with former Bobcats Shannon Brown, Gerald Wallace was eliminated in the first round of the least memorable Slam Dunk Contest in years on Saturday night.  After a missed attempt, Gerald threw down a two-handed, double-pump reverse jam for his first dunk, garnering a 38 from the judges.  On his Flip Murray-assisted second dunk, Gerald again missed his first attempt.  On a second try, Gerald took a bounce pass from Flip while flying from right to left underneath the basket, eventually throwing it down one-handed.  That one got a 40 and ended Gerald’s night.  Oh well, here’s a nice profile on Gerald from the Observer’s Scott Fowler anyways.

Nate Robinson and DeMar DeRozan went on to the finals, where Nate finally finished off the yawnfest with a “pretty great for a little guy” reverse jam after a toss off the backboard.  Good for Nate, as it’s a record-setting third Slam Dunk Championship for him; but unfortunately Charles Barkley stole the show with his sarcastic “maybe no one will win” comment while they were waiting for the internet votes to be tabulated.  Good luck to the league as they will undoubtedly be looking into ways to spice up the Dunk Contest next year (if they don’t kill it off altogether).

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Taking Care of Business

Two interesting stories that concern the Bobcats emerged from David Stern’s media availability.  First and foremost, Stern confirmed that the Bobcats sale will most likely go through within the next sixty days.  It’s been reported in the past that former Houston Rockets president George Postolos is leading a group that has made a respectable offer; it’s also known that current minority owner Michael Jordan has some kind of right to match any offer.  What isn’t known at this point is whether or not Jordan is rounding up the partners to match said offer.  He probably is — at the craps table at Atlantis.

The other interesting story is the ongoing quest by the NBA and the Players Union to come up with another Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Stern projects almost $400 million in losses league-wide this year, which does not bode well for the players as the current CBA has less than a year to go.  One thing that would help the Bobcats (and other small-market teams) in the new CBA would be some kind of revenue-sharing agreement, and both Stern and players’ rep Billy Hunter have mentioned strengthened revenue-sharing as a likely component of the next CBA.  Donald Sterling cannot be pleased.

Trade Rumors

The Wizards have finally begun their demolition, dealing Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to Dallas for Josh Howard + flotsam + jetsam.  This should start to loosen everyone else up, and things will likely be fast and furious on the transaction front between now and Thursday’s trade deadline.  The next piece to fall into place may be Amare Stoudemire to the Cavs.

The Bobcats are almost certainly still on the lookout for a power forward, with DJ being the likely bait.  I haven’t seen any new published rumors, except for the tidbit that the Cats rejected the Wizards offer of Andray Blatche for DJ.  Easy call, we’re looking for someone that will help us in the playoffs this year, not a young guy who still has a ways to go.

All-Star Game

The big game is at 7PM ET on TNT, live from Cowboys Stadium.  I’ll be tweeting as Gerald Wallace will become the first Bobcat to play in an All-Star game, and we’ll be back with some postgame thoughts either later tonight or tomorrow morning.  Happy Valentine’s Day, Baseliners.

-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.

Charlotte Bobcats Season In Review – Part 3

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Trades & Acquisitions

The All New, All Improved Bobcats

Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Vlad Radmanovic

The Charlotte Bobcats made three major in-season trades during the ’08-’09 season involving eleven different players. Coupled with the free agent signings of Juwan Howard, Cartier Martin and assorted other D-Leaguers, Charlotte suited up a total of 24 players – most in the League. One anonymous fan commented on SI.com that “the Bobcats make more roster moves than a fantasy team.” It sure seemed that way.

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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!

Charlotte Bobcats @ Lakers 1/27/09

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1.  Lots of drama out on the West Coast, as the Bobcats beat the Lakers in double OT, 117-100.  AP story here, box score here.  The Bobcats have now defeated the Lakers five out of the last six times they’ve matched up, and move to 1-1 on the current road trip and 19-26 overall.

2.  Quick television notes: this one was picked up by NBATV, giving Charlotte their first nationally televised game of the regular season (we did have a preseason game with the Lakers televised by TNT back in October).  I’m actually watching in HD on FSN Carolinas HD — the first time I’ve been able to see one of these HD telecasts on Time Warner.  Looks great, wish all the road games were in HD like this.

3.  Since this one’s a 10:30 PM ET start, I’m going to be writing as the game goes.  Nice pregame show with lots of comments from Raja Bell about guarding Kobe, a confident Juwan Howard essentially predicting a victory, and lots of talk about the Bobcats spirited performances against the Lakers in the past.

Speaking of, ever since Ari dissed the Cats, it hasn’t gone so well for the Lakers against us.

4.  First quarter is a good one for the Cats, as the starters play well and get out to a 23-16 lead.  All five starters scored, with Gerald Wallace playing particularly well.  Crash was very aggressive going to the basket, getting 10 points on 4 layups and a dunk.  The Lakers, meanwhile, were flat and oddly out of synch.  Kobe was 0-4, but Bynum was strong, going for 10 points/7 rebounds in the quarter.

5.  The second quarter saw the Lakers roar back, doubling their first quarter output and cutting the Bobcats lead to 49-48.  Kobe heated up and scored 12 in the quarter,  Bell had a rough sequence guarding him midway through the quarter, picking up three fouls in less than a minute.

The Cats second unit of Sean Singletary, Shannon Brown, Adam Morrison, Juwan Howard and Gana Diop saw significant minutes in the quarter (though always with one of the starters — never all together) and didn’t totally crap the bed, so that’s something.  Gerald Wallace came out early in the quarter and didn’t come back due to back spasms — he briefly came back to the bench with a heating pad on, but then left for the locker room again.  Hopefully this is just a minor thing…

Tough ending to the quarter: with a little over a minute left, Diaw gets a steal from Bynum, and the Bobcats run out for a fast break, which ends with a beautiful Raymond-to-Shannon alley-oop for a 47-40 lead.  However, the Lakers quickly went back the other way, and found Gasol back cherry-picking behind Morrison.  Adam tried to foul, but caught Gasol awkwardly on the arm/head as he slipped in the dunk.  Flagrant foul, Gasol hits the free throw, then Kobe hits a jumper for a 5 point possession.  Ouch.

6.  Wallace is back out for the third quarter and looking fine.  Ariza apparently suffered a concussion at some point in the first half and won’t be returning — I didn’t catch that at all.  Anyways, strong third quarter for the starters again, Felton in particular.  Adam Morrison punctuated things with a tough three pointer on the Bobcats last possession to push the lead out to 76-70.

7.  Fourth quarter begins with a bang, as Shannon hits a tough three to extend the lead to 79-70.  However, things get stagnant and we’re still stuck on 79 several minutes later.  Gerald picks up offensive fouls on two straight possessions, then a technical arguing the second one, so the Lakers cut it to 79-78.  Diop gets a tip in to stop the bleeding for the Bobcats.  Midway through the quarter, and the Cats and Lakers are playing even-up basketball.  Crucial stretch comes with just under five minutes left, when Boris Diaw goes on a little personal run to bump the Bobcats out to a 90-83 lead.

Then a killer: Crash has an open lane to the basket and takes off, only to be met by Andrew Bynum.  Bynum’s a bit late closing off the lane, and throws a brutal elbow right to Gerald’s exposed ribs as he was lifting towards the basket.  Gerald goes down in a heap, stays down, and has to leave the game.  Flagrant foul on Bynum gives us two free throws and the ball, but Raja Bell blows both free throws.  On the next possesion, Diaw gets fouled but also misses both of his free throws.  Meanwhile, Kobe is taking over with seven straight points, then an assist to Derek Fisher for a huge three pointer that ties the game with 15 seconds left.  WIth the game on the line, you know who’s taking the shot for the Bobcats: Raymond Felton.  Ray shakes free for a decent look at a 20 footer at the buzzer, but misses short and we’re off to overtime.  Five missed free throws in the final minute of regulation — ugh…

8.  Overtime begins ominously, with the LA crowd buzzing and the Lakers looking sharp in scoring the first 6 points of the period.  Bobcats battle back, though, and down three with forty seconds left, Shannon Brown induces Kobe’s sixth foul — DQ.  Diaw then gets a huge 3-pointer to tie the game at 103 with 30 seconds left.  Another missed, golden opportunity follows, as Okafor knocks the ball away from Gasol in the post and has a chance to come up with the ball, but it eventually squirts away out of bounds off the Bobcats with six seconds left. Miraculously, Diaw tips the inbounds away from Odom and Shannon Brown secures the steal, timeout Bobcats.  Five seconds left, inbounds to Diaw, who gets smothered by good Laker defense and barely even gets a shot up.  Double OT, Bobcats/Lakers, again.

9.  2nd OT, no Kobe, no Gerald Wallace.  Shannon Brown steps up huge for the Cats, with a putback, then a big three pointer.  But Bynum is big for the Lakers, and we’re at 112-110 Bobcats up with a minute left.  Okafor hits a clutch baseline 12-footer to go up 114-110, then forces a Bynum miss on the other end.  The Lakers are now forced to foul, and Felton hits both to push the lead to 116-110.  Okafor hits one more free throw to close the scoring, and the Bobcats win it 117-110.  Larry Brown gets treated like the old friend that he is to the Lakers celeb fans, getting congrats, hugs and handshakes courtside from Andy Garcia, Lou Adler, and Jack Nicholson.

10.  Phew!  What a game — so many solid individual performances tonight.  As usual, all of the Bobcats starters were solid.  Raymond Felton was one assist away from a triple-double: 22 pts/11 rebs/9 assists with only 2 turnovers.  Boris Diaw was one assist and one rebound away: 23 pts/9 rebs/9 assists.  And Shannon Brown was huge off the bench, with 14 points.  But the glow of this win will quickly fade, as the Bobcats will have to deal with Gerald Wallace’s rib injury and a tough back-to-back game against the Trailblazers on Wednesday night.

11.  Some postgame notes/links: The DJ Augustin injury has necessitated a quieting of all the Raymond Felton trade rumors; meanwhile Felton’s strong, steady recent play has had many Bobcats fans lamenting the seemingly inevitable trade.  But wait, Bonnell is now estimating that the probability Felton gets traded has dropped to about 30%.  I’m an unabashed Raymond Felton apologist, but not moving him while we can get something back for him would be a huge mistake.  Augustin is the future at PG, so we may as well hand over the keys now.  There are several teams that could use a PG like Felton down the stretch, so it would seem that we could get an interesting player or pick in exchange for him.  Meanwhile, ESPN’s Chad Ford estimates the chances of a Felton trade at 75%.

-E

Charlotte Bobcats @ Wizards 1/10/09

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1.  Ugly and gutsy victory on the road over the Wizards tonight, 92-89.  AP story here, box score here, PopcornMachine.net game flow here.  Bobcats grab just their fourth road win of the year and improve to 14-24 overall; Wizards fall to 7-29.

2.  The Bobcats essentially did to the Wizards what most good teams usually do to the Bobcats; that is, the Cats slow-played the first two and a half quarters or so, weathered injuries to and off nights from some of their key guys, and eventually did just enough to scoot by an inferior squad in the fourth quarter.

Difference is, when good teams do this to the Bobcats, you get the feeling that it was part of the plan — to save some energy — and the opponent was always in control.  But the Bobcats tonight were more fortunate than anything — fortunate that the Wizards folded down the stretch.

Overall, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw provided some steady play and leadership tonight, leading the way with 19 and 18 points, respectively.

4.  Bad first quarter, as the Bobcats couldn’t get anything consistent going on the offensive end and gave up easy baskets to a variety of Wizards — leading to a 31-23 deficit.  The Bobcats played the last few minutes of the quarter with the dinosaur backcourt of Howard and Mohammed.  The Wizards raw-as-hell rookie center Javale McGee punctuated the quarter with a humiliating coast-to-coast into a ridonculous windmill jam.

5.  The second and third quarters went like this: Wizards regress to their mean, allowing the Bobcats to chip away at the lead.  With Gerald Wallace completely absent and Raymond Felton missing time getting his ankle retaped after rolling it early in the third, things didn’t look good.  But when Raymond returned, the Cats went on a run with significant contributions from Juwan Howard (12 points on 6-9 FG), Adam Morrison (11 points on 4-6 FG) and Shannon Brown (+12 tonight!) to pull within one by the end of the third quarter.

6.  The Bobcats took the lead early in the fourth quarter, then went back and forth the rest of the way.  With the score tied at 85 with just a few minutes left, Shannon Brown hit the shot of the night.  With the shot clock trickling down, Brown rose up and drained a contested three from the wing to put the Bobcats up for good.  Still, the Wiz had two chances to win with the score 90-89 and under a minute left: Mike James missed a driving layup on the first chance, then Nick Young missed a jumper.  Felton grabbed the rebound, took a foul, and hit his free throws to seal the deal.

7.  The biggest subplot to the game (which goes strangely unmentioned in the AP story) was the lack of Gerald Wallace.  Take a look at this line: 20 minutes, 0-0 FG, 5 rebounds and 1 assist.  That’s it.  Wallace didn’t play for a large swath of the first quarter, and was then benched for the entire fourth quarter.  When asked about it post-game, Larry Brown blamed it on Crash’s lack of energy.

Let’s hope we never see a line like that from Gerald again.

8.  Another big story is that DJ Augustin only played four minutes in the first half after apparently aggravating some kind of abdominal strain.  Let’s hope that’s all it is, though, as Larry Brown also ominously slipped “sports hernia” into his postgame comments.  With Matt Carroll inactive tonight with an Achilles, and Raymond’s sprained ankle sure to be nagging him in the coming days, we’re suddenly kinda thin at guard.  Hello, Sean Singletary and Shannon Brown!

9. One last note, on Emeka Okafor: it’s one (of many) things that drives me crazy about him.  Okafor was outplayed by both Andray Blatche and Javale McGee tonight, especially in the first half.  But instead of showing some passion and ratcheting up the effort and intensity, Okafor’s expression never changed, and he pretty much shrunk away from the challenge from these young punks.  C’mon Mek, you need to go all Eastwood in Gran Torino on ‘em.

10.  Next game is Tuesday night, on the road in Detroit as the Cats wrap up a four game road trip.

-E