Gerald Henderson Wows, Bobcats Hand Wizards’ 18th Road Loss

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Gerald Henderson put on a show on Saturday, doing just about everything (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Again without co-captain Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats took revenge against the Washington Wizards for the previous 33-point loss with a 104-89 win led by Gerald Henderson’s 19 points. And in perhaps the most awesome stat of the young year, four of the five Bobcats’ starters nearly all had a double-double with Henderson and Augustin coming up short by one rebound and one assist, respectively.

Recap | Box Score

Although Tyrus Thomas had a rough game as he battled the Flu and a healing minor knee strain, this game seemed to say that Bobcats fans should be proud of the young core that’s developing under Paul Silas’ watch. D.J. Augustin led the team in assists with nine and as mentioned above, Gerald Henderson was outstanding on both sides of the ball. This isn’t to say that the older guys didn’t play well. Stephen Jackson had a rough shooting night but poured in 21 points and Boris Diaw had an efficient though casual night, with 11 points on 5-8 shooting. Augustin also added 20 points on 6-11 from the field.

Yays

  • Henderson – He was just great from beginning to end. His mid-range game was on fire and his defense on Nick Young was excellent as well. During the first quarter, Young drove and put up a half-assed shot, which Henderson swallowed whole, blocking it with his forearm. The kid ended the game with the incredible following stat line: 8-11 FG, 3-4 FT, 9 REB (1 OREB), 2 AST, 3 BLK, 1 TO, 19 PTS. Can we give this guy a nickname? I want to call him “The Kid” but KG had that one already. I got a suggestion from @clemsonrebekah of OG, which stands for “Other Gerald.” I like it because it’s short, simple and most importantly, true. Yes, he is the other Gerald on the team, but I mean that he plays similar to Gerald Wallace so the name would be fitting. Do y’all have any other suggestions? Write them in the comments!
  • Augustin – Yeah, I don’t think he’ll ever be a defensive stopper but when he shoots well and distributes like tonight, I’m very much fine with that. He had 9 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 steals and 20 points with 3 treys. I attended the game and from what I saw, D.J. passed well, shot well, and even played John Wall pretty well.
  • Shaun Livingston’s alley-oop dunk – How can people not be happy for this guy? He was a little off tonight but still played pretty solid, especially as a back-up point guard. In his best play of the night, he trailed Jackson on a two-on-one fast-break. Jackson drew the last defender and lobbed up the ball, which Knee Man double-clutched (to gain control of the ball) before flushing it through. I also love his pull-up jumper when he drives. His ability to elevate coupled with his height advantage over other guards allows him to rise and pop, usually with excellent results.
  • Diaw – I know, he didn’t even score that much! But he did frustrate Andray Blatche defensively and he shot efficiently, making the only three he shot ending with 5-8 FG for 11 points. He also continued to impress me as far as his aggressiveness. Too often I see him pass up nice looks but his drives into the paint are getting better. His rebounding is improving as well. Some people really want to trade him ASAP, but I think his skill set complements Tyrus’ pretty well and I think he’d work well in an uptempo offense, like in Phoenix.

Nays

  • Stack Jack – Yes kudos to him for leading the team in scoring with 21 points, but it took 16 shots to get there, only making 6. He also had 4 turnovers, most of which made me wince from the 200 level.

Meh

  • Tyrus Thomas’ shot selection – Tyrus was stymied by Washington’s interior defense, making only two shots out of 13. He miss every shot outside of the paint. However, he gets a pass tonight because he has gotten hit bad with outside problems – he is struggling with the Flu and hasn’t been able to keep food down in two days. And he’s still healing his strained knee. And he saved us against the Timberwolves. So yeah, I’ll keep him out of the “Nays” tonight. Not everyone can play like Michael Jordan with the Flu.

Odds ‘N Ends

  • Yes, um Mexican Don Draper? You can’t guard Javale McGee.
  • A quick note about John Wall: he’s good, and the scary thing is that he has a lot of room to grow. If I were him, I’d be working on my outside jumper a lot. He went 0-5 from deep tonight, despite being wide open on nearly every attempt. If he can start hitting those around 40% of the time, watch out. Perhaps the key to beating this young Wizards team is to keep them off the fast break. Wall is absolutely fantastic zooming down the court, often unstoppable.
  • The last time these two teams met, the Larry Brown-led Bobcats lost by 33 to a John Wall and Gilbert-less Washington team. In both games, the Bobcats were without Gerald Wallace. However, this time, the Bobcats were even more short-handed (Nazr and Diop out) and the Wizards had their full roster (Wall back and now with Rashard Lewis). And yet, the Bobcats won by 15. I know this is only one game, but couldn’t this be the perfect evidence that Larry Brown was just holding back this team? Heck, in that previous Wizards-Bobcats game, Dominic McGuire started and played 21 minutes and ended with zero points. Meanwhile, Gerald Henderson got 15 minutes. This time around, McGuire got 10 minutes off the bench and Henderson started and played 40 minutes.
  • Also, the Wizards are 0-18 on the road. Ouch.

Enjoy the win Bobcats fans. Next up is the Memphis Grizzlies. I think we’ll be OK as long as we don’t beat O.J. Mayo in Boo-Ray.

- Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.

Bobcats Overcome Turnovers to Vanquish Wizards

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Gerald Wallace and Al Thornton battling for the ball via Chuck Myers/MCT

The Charlotte Bobcats held on to a late lead Friday night to beat the Washington Wizards 93-85, stringing together their first win streak of the season. Three players in particular stepped their game up tonight: Gerald Wallace (surprising, huh?), D.J. Augustin and Boris Diaw. The defense also played pretty well, holding the Wizards to 42% shooting, notably holding Al Thornton and Gilbert Arenas to a combined 3-22 on the night.

And it can’t be stressed enough that the Bobcats, who won a total of 13 games on the road last year, have already won three while out of town. The 2009-2010 Bobcats’ third road victory came on January 3, 2010. So maybe we can curtail our worrying a little bit?

AP Recap | Box Score

I’m going to be writing recaps in my own style, which I call Yays and Nays, Yays of course being good things and Nays being, well, I should hope you can guess that.

Yays

  • Gerald Wallace – He was in top form once again, shooting nine of fifteen from the field and adding six free throws for a total of 25 points. He filled out the rest of the box score as usual, wrenching down 14 rebounds (6 offensive), getting two steals and two blocks. Oh, and for kicks and giggles, he had an assist to boot. All that, AND he only had one turnover. You can’t really ask him to play much better. He got the job done defensively as well, helping to hold Al Thornton to a measly two points on one of eight field goals. Something that may be going unnoticed, though, is his three point shooting. He’s being very careful about picking his shots from downtown. A career 31.8% shooter from beyond the arc, he’s knocking ‘em down at a career high percentage this season with 42.9%. He only took one three tonight and made it. Also, he’s just awesome on rebounding. He has the awareness and the athleticism to pull down boards over men who are much taller. At the end of the third quarter, he ran baseline, snagged the rebound off of a Knee Man miss, and somehow noticed time expiring and shot a fade away that drained as the buzzer sounded. Unfortunately it didn’t count as replay showed the ball to be on his fingertips a millisecond after the red light flashed. Bobcats fans, never wonder why I chose to make a cardboard doppelganger of that man.
  • D.J. Augustin - November 24, 2008. That was the last (and first) time D.J. had a double-double. Until today, that is. Our new starting point guard was impressive tonight, shooting five of eight from the field for 17 points with three 3-pointers. He tacked on 10 assists with a steal and a pair of rebounds. It seems that this season D.J. is looking more often to pass than shoot, and it shows. However, he turned the ball over four times. On an up note, one one of those came in the second half. He wasn’t killed on the defensive end either tonight, which is surprising (no offense, D.J.). I was legitimately worried about Wall playing against us as he was just coming off his first triple double and we have had trouble with young, quick guards (see: Jennings, Brandon). Although Wall got off to a good first half, recording nine assists, he never shot particularly well. Augustin gave Wall a lot of space around the arc but generally played him tight inside that little line. Wall is a fantastic, talented point guard, so it’s hard for me to be disappointed with D.J. after the way he played tonight. KUDOS.
  • Boris Diaw – I haven’t given up hope with this guy just yet. He’s frustratingly inconsistent but when he comes to play, he just has an amazing skill set that ranges from three point shooting, good layups, sweet dishes and some above-average defense. Boris shot eight of ten for 19 points, including a perfect two for two from downtown. Le Miserable had five rebounds and five assists, as well. But, he also had four turnovers. And he was straight abused by Andray Blatche in the first quarter. But Blatche never fully regained his form after he took a rough tumble initiated by Nazr. Nevertheless, Diaw knocked down open shots that the Wizards D let him take, which allowed us to hold onto the lead until it was over and I could stop worrying about us blowing a late lead.

Nays

  • TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS – The Bobcats had ten, count ‘em, TEN, turnovers in the first quarter. Somehow the Bobcats stayed in the game as the Wizards could take advantage of the extra possessions and only had a three point lead after the first. However, the Bobcats reduced their turnovers immensely and cut the Washington lead to one at the half. The Cats once again had trouble with turnovers, this time in the third quarter. And once again, they managed to reduce the turnovers as the game went on and they were able to pull out the win.
  • Stephen Jackson, Quarters One Through Three – What is going on with Stephen Jackson? For most of every game except in the fourth quarters, it seems he’s the invisible man. His defense is passable but his offense just is not there. He didn’t drive nearly as much as he used to, preferring to post up and spot up on the three point line for shots. And in quarters one through three, he shot two of seven overall and zero for four from three. And he had four turnovers on the entire game. I think his turnover problem stems from his post game. His size advantage at the SG allows him to post up, nearly at will. but when the double-team comes, he gets overwhelmed and struggles to make a good pass.
  • The Bench – Coming not even a day after I posted my article on how impressed I was by the Bobcats’ second team so far, the bench arrived in underwhelming fashion. Usually the +/- statistic is one of the most misleading, but tonight it was somewhat correct (though still nowhere close to a good statistic): no one on the bench had a positive +/-. The closest person was Sherron Collins who played five seconds. They combined to shoot four of twenty, with no player scoring more than one bucket. Even Knee Man shot a miserable one of five. The only redeeming factor was Tyrus Thomas’ nine rebounds. Even he struggled with Yi Jianlian, who held Tyrus to one of six shooting and four points. On the plus side, Tyrus had five offensive rebounds. Extra possession = extra points.
  • Matt Carroll’s Free Throw Shooting - Seriously Matt? You’re going to tease  us with your 184 free throw streak in the off-season and you miss your first attempt of the season? On a technical free throw, no less? Sad face.

Odds and Ends

  • Nazr and Gana – they weren’t terrible nor outstanding, so I’ll just describe their play here. Nazr continues to frustrate me to the nth degree, by not blocking out well and just playing mediocre defense, in general. However, he can hit most open short range shots and even has some decent post-game going on. Diop coming off the bench, play good defense, rebounded fairly well and only took one shot, which if remember correctly, was not a jump shot, so I can’t complain too much. All in all, I’d give our center play a big “meh.”
  • As noted above, Sherron Collins was put in for five seconds. And who says Larry Brown doesn’t play his rookies? Just kidding, I know he has two able-bodied point guards ahead of Collins.
  • If you haven’t seen it elsewhere, here is my Shaun Livingston (KNEE MAN) photoshop:

Shaun Livingston is... KNEE MAN

  • Gotta say Larry Brown did as good as he could have with the rotation tonight, except for overusing Jackson. The bench did not play very well tonight and the starters played exceptionally well. Heck, Derrick Brown got stuff by the rim on a dunk.
  • Oh yeah, if you haven’t heard by now, Kevin Love had 31 rebounds against the Knicks. In comparison, the Wizards had a total of 30 rebounds. Yeah, that just happened.

From here, the Bobcats take on the very, very hot, nay incendiary Utah Jazz with the great play of Paul Millsap and Deron Williams. If the Bobcats are the Bobcats of old and play up to their competition, maybe (MAYBE) we sneak one out at home and prove to the home crowd that our slow start was just that – a slow start. For those with tickets in Charlotte, don’t sell your season tickets just yet, this team has a lot left in the tank and a lot of room to improve.

Don’t lose hope just yet.

Cardboard Gerald

Offseason Prescriptions for the Capped-Out Cats (Part 3)

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Chapter III: Prescription B (Not for the Faint of Heart)

capped-out-cats3

Alright.  We’ve made it this far.  First I stated the problem.  Next was an easy and elegant solution.  Now we go all in.

Quick Recap:
1.    The Bobcats are capped out before re-signing Tyrus Thomas or Raymond Felton.
2.    Team needs more consistent play from the PG position, more scoring from the low post, and more scoring in general.
3.    Team has no draft picks and few assets outside of their core players to trade in order to improve.

On the evening of June 24th, the Washington Wizards will select Kentucky PG phenom John Wall with the first overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft.  It’s a no-brainer.  After trading away stalwarts Antwan Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler during the season, the Wizards are marching confidently along the rebuilding path.  Wall will step in and immediately be the team’s poster boy for the future.  With one timely drop of a ping pong ball, things suddenly look rosy in the District.  There’s just one small, $80 million, gun-brandishing problem.  His name: Agent Zero.

PRESCRIPTION B

arenas-cats

Step 1. Charlotte trades Boris Diaw, Nazr Mohammed and Gana Diop to Washington for Gilbert Arenas, Javale McGee and a first round draft selection (2012).

The Wiz are posturing something ridiculous about having Gilbert move to the off-guard position in anticipation of John Wall.  Uh, yeah.  Does anybody really think that Washington wants The Outlaw anywhere near their new Savior?  Sure, taking on a poo-poo platter of Diaw, Diop and Nazr while giving up a potential star in McGee and a high draft pick would suck but let’s face it, having Arenas anywhere near the Wiz bench pretty much negates any new excitement that Wall would bring to the team.  Gilbert is a 28 year old Point Guard with $80 million dollars left on his contract who was just released from a halfway house and has had three knee surgeries in the past three seasons.  If somebody is willing to take a guy like that off their hands AND save the organization $35 million in the process, you gotta make the move, right?

So why would I propose such a trade for the Bobcats?
First off, let me just say that Gilbert is a PR nightmare for certain but if Charlotte fans were willing to accept Stephen Jackson (y’know, the guy who charged into the stands and attacked fans only to later one up himself by unloading a gun at a strip club), then I think we can deal with a some of the Arenas quirkiness from time to time.

Secondly, well, there’s quite a few positives so let me just list them:
1.    Bobcats get to unload The League’s Worst Contract a.k.a. Gana Diop a.k.a. Black Shrek.
2.    Diaw’s exit clears space for Tyrus Thomas to start.
3.    Team replaces Raymond Felton with an electric scorer (and, when motivated, an underrated defender) in Arenas.
4.    Javale McGee is one of the League’s best offensive prospects at the Center position.
5.    The draft choice that the Bobcats receive would recoup the one that the team traded away in the Tyrus Thomas trade.
6.    The trade would save the Bobcats over $3 million in cap space next season, allowing the team to add depth via free agency.

Obviously, the biggest drawback to the trade is long term money.  Gilbert will be 32 years old when his deal expires in the summer of 2014 (see chart).  He’ll be paid over $22 million for that season alone.  Ouch.  Yeah, the numbers are ugly.  The move is overly aggressive and could either propel the team deep into the Playoffs (if Arenas stays healthy and focused and McGee develops) or could cripple them for the next three seasons.  MJ is known as a gambler, I think he’d be inclined to make the move.

Step 2. Charlotte Re-Signs Tyrus Thomas.

Same as in Prescription A.  Three years, $18 million sounds about right.  A starting spot might pique his interest in returning.

Step 3. Sign a backup Power Forward.

As discussed in Prescription A, possible low-cost candidates include Drew Gooden or Kris Humphries.  I like Humphries potential.

Step 4. Fill out the bench.

Arenas’s scoring abilities sort of negates the need to bring back Flip Murray.  The team could go in another direction here and sign a veteran “pure-playmaking” PG in the mold of Eric Snow as well.  Theo Ratliff has at least another year in him and could serve as a mentor to McGee and Ajinca.

Prescription B Chart

CONCLUSION:

The move is ballsy. Could a volatile nucleus of Arenas, JAX, CRASH, Tyrus and one or two of their youngsters (most likely McGee and Henderson) be enough to propel the Bobcats into contention in the East over the next few seasons?
The risks are HUGE.  Zero could play another stupid prank or blow out his knee(s) again.  Jax could unload one of Gilbert’s guns in a public place.  Crash may wonder openly why he’s the only sane person in the locker room.  The team would be capped out until 2013.
But take a look at the depth chart going into next season:

PG: Arenas, Augustin, Murray
SG: Jackson, Henderson, Murray
SF: Wallace, Brown
PF: Thomas, Humphries, Ajinca
C: Chandler, McGee, Ratliff

If the ‘Cats can win 44 games with last year’s squad then upgrading via Arenas and McGee while having Thomas and Chandler (contract year) for an entire season could very well propel the team to 50 plus wins and home court in the first round of the Playoffs.  The team would also have enough draft picks and young prospects on the roster to make a move for a veteran during the following summer if they so choose and make a run for local favorite (and certain turnstile mover) Seth Curry after he completes his second and final year at Duke in the 2012 NBA Draft.

As for Prescription C, I’ve decided to save that one for later.  Let’s see how the Draft and the early days of free agency play out first.

-ASChin

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

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

Injured Felton Hits Clutch Shot To Beat Wizards

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FELTON-GAME-WINNER

Raymond Felton – Swishes A Contract Year Shot

Charlotte slips by the Wizards 94-92 to return to .500 on the season.  AP Recap | Box Score

Despite injuring his ankle a day earlier in practice Raymond Felton was determined to play Tuesday night. The Washintgon Wizards probably wish he’d stayed on the sidelines in a suit. With just seconds left on the clock and the teams tied at 92-92, Felton handled the ball, drove left and stepped-back for a  jumper contested by Wizards guard Randy Foye. With the release of his shot, Raymond made sweet love to pressure – in front of the 7,000 or so fans at the arena, Michael Jordan, Alexis Ajinca, Stephen Jackson, and the rest of his teammates. The shot had put the Bobcats up 94-92, giving Felton’s agent a video clip to play on repeated loop while negotiating his deal with Charlotte this coming off-season. Washington was left with 1.9 seconds and a failed scoop shot attempt from Antawn Jamison before the buzzer sounded, their loss was official, and Rufus celebrated on the court for the last home game before the All-Star break.

Considering their recent woes, it was surprising that the Wizards showed some fight in this game. Both teams took turns making runs and neither club looked to control the game for more than a minute at any point in the contest. Washington’s big men are surprisingly good.  Jamison (16pts), Haywood (12pts), and Blatche (15pts) can all hit from the inside and work their way in the paint. Those skills proved to be a bit of a problem for Nazr Mohammed and Boris Diaw early in the game. Over the last couple of weeks, most Cats fans have become exhausted by watching Diaw pass up good shot attempts to find his teammates for lesser opportunities.  This game showed the kind of performance Diaw should aim for on a consistent basis.  Boris was able to knock down outside shots to help spread the floor for Charlotte, and he made smart moves without the ball for easy buckets around the rim. It should be noted that he even threw down a two-handed jam at one point!

Tyson Returns

Going into the game, the Bobcats made the decision to activate Tyson Chandler after the foot injury that had shelved him since late December.  While Tyson wasn’t the difference maker in this one, he showed that he can contribute to the squad. Some of his mistakes were more mental than physical, improperly switching on the Wizards high pick-and-roll to leave DJ or Flip guarding a big man in the paint. With the addition of Stephen Jackson, this team has found a better flow on offense and Chandler may have an easier time of finding his place in their pecking order as he returns to action at this stage of the season. During the second quarter, it was nice to see DJ work to find looks for Chandler. One one possession, Augustin slid past two defenders into the paint and had an open look at the rim. He chose to lob a pass for a Tyson throw-down rather his own score.  The crowd definitely appreciated those two points a bit more than a DJ layup.

Raymond Felton surely gets the player of the game for his toughness to suit up and hitting a mega-clutch shot to close the game.  Gerald has become so steady that his 17pts / 13 rbs seemed expected. He never took over the game, but he did pose a threat throughout each quarter. The Bobcats had 5 players in double digit scoring, led by Stephen Jackson’s 22pts. Ronald “Flip” Murray put in a strong offensive performance (16pts), and once more proved how much the team needed points from their bench.

Final Notes

Check out the blocky cartoon version of Crash on the Fan Face Off online video game! Also, there’s a new Gerald Wallace video about the Dunk Contest on NBA.com.

About the game – the Washington Wizards seem to hate each other. Maybe the team has rid themselves of the rumored divisiveness caused by Gilbert Arenas, but the guys don’t seem to enjoy each other one bit.  Like a married couple that everyone knows should be divorced, they had some great times a couple of years ago. They had some laughs in the past, but these days everyone can see that they despise each other.  Each party involved would be happier going their separate ways. Caron Butler, who took over the game during the fourth, doesn’t even stand near his teammates during the breaks in the game. Only a few players even got in the huddle to listen to Coach Flip Saunders (no relation to Flip Murray).  The Wizards need to bust this up and build upon the big men they have in place. Trade rumors have swirled around Jamison and Butler. From an outside perspective, it looks like this is the best time for those guys to leave.

Speaking of trade rumors – ESPN and The Charlotte Observer have posted speculation of trade talks with Boston on their web sites. Supposedly, there is some type of DJ Augustin for Glen Davis deal in discussion.  Additionally, the Observer’s Rick Bonnell reports that the Cats might be more inclined to deal with NY (Jordan Hill) or Chicago (Tyrus Thomas).

Let us know what you think about these possible trades.

-Mike

Charlotte Bobcats @ Wizards 3/25/09

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1.  The Bobcats virtually end their chances at making the playoffs with an embarrassing loss to the Washington Wizards, 95-93.  AP story here, box score here.  The Bobcats fall to 31-40 and are now 2.5 games behind Chicago for the 8th spot with 11 games left.

2.  The Wizards entered the game at 16-56 and 0-14 versus the rest of the Southeast Conference.  They only dressed 8 players: Mike James, Javaris Crittendon, Dominic McGuire, Antawn Jamison and Andray Blatche started, while Nick Young, Javale McGee and Oleksiy Pecherov were available off the bench.

With four minutes left in the second quarter, everything was going as planned.  The Bobcats had a 55-35 lead and looked to be in command of the game.  The ball was moving well and the Cats were getting layups, dunks and open jumpers.

But in the last four minutes of the half, against the second unit featuring DJ, Cartier, Vlade and Gana, the wheels fell off.  Mike James, Nick Young and Antawn Jamison caught fire for a 15-2 run that cut the Bobcats lead at halftime to 57-50.

3.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, the third quarter would again prove to be the undoing of the Bobcats.  They went away from the ball movement and failed to attack the basket, while the Wizards continued their hot shooting.  The Wizards ended up winning the quarter 23-14 for a 73-71 lead.

4.  The fourth quarter started off promisingly with two straight DJ three-pointers.  Bricked jump shots (5 in the quarter), turnovers (3), missed free throws (7!) — you name a bad play and the Bobcats displayed it in the fourth quarter.  With under four minutes left, the Wizards led 89-81.

At this point, the Bobcats hardly deserved another chance to win; but the lowly Wizards would provide it anyways.  With a little over a minute left, the Cats had cut the lead to 4 at 91-87.  Let’s just detail the suck from there:

— Wizards turnover; Augustin steals, Raymond gets fouled on the break but misses both free throws

— Another Wizards turnover; Raymond steals, gets it to DJ on the break, who misfires badly trying to get a lob to Wallace.  Bobcats turn it back over, still down four with a minute left.  (Should be tied right now.)

Another Wizards turnover; Charlotte calls timeout.  Out of the timeout, Boris gets a mismatch and takes Nick Young into the lane.  Boris makes a tragically weak move, Young gets the clean block and corrals the loose ball.  Boris fouls in frustration, Young hits both of his free throws to extend the Wizards lead to 6 at 93-87 with 57 seconds left.  (Could/should be Bobcats up two at this point.)

— Augustin gets fouled and hits both his free throws — 93-89, 46 seconds left.

Yet another Wizards turnover (the Cats are pressing, by the way) by Nick Young; DJ steals, Raymond hits a 10-footer.  93-91, 36 seconds left.

And yes, another Wizards turnover by Mike James (seriously, I’m not making this up — it’s like the Wizards were giving away “Get Out Of Jail Free” cards); DJ steals; Gerald takes his man one-on-one to the basket but blows the layup.  Still 93-91, 14 seconds left.

— Bobcats foul Jamison, who leaves the door open again by only hitting one of his free throws.  94-91 Wizards, 13 seconds left.  Bobcats call 20 second timeout to set up a play.

— No one gets a good look at a three, but unbelievably, McGuire lets Gerald Wallace get free underneath.  Raja finds Wallace, who hits the layup which McGuire foolishly contests.  A foul is called, giving Gerald a chance to tie the game by completing a three point play with six seconds left.

— Of course, Wallace misses the free throw — but wait!  Okafor gets the rebound, misses the putback in traffic (clock ticking down to 3…2… by now); that rebound goes cleanly to Diaw on the other side of the rim, who completely botches a wide open, uncontested tap-back, sending it off the backboard and completely over the rim.  Unbelieveable.  That was a shot that you perfected by playing “tap-out” by the time you were 11, and Boris didn’t even come close.  The Wizards finally showed a sliver of competence when Antawn Jamison wrestled that rebound down, drawing a foul in the process and hitting his first free throw for the final margin.

5.  By my count, that’s five Wizards turnovers, 1 missed free throw by Jamison, a blown coverage by McGuire compounded by fouling on the Wallace layup, and an inability to grab the game-clinching rebound off a free-throw miss — all in the last 90 seconds of a close game.

And the Bobcats, for whom this was a must-win if they wanted to stay within sniffing distance of a shot at the playoffs, couldn’t take advantage of this cornucopia of incompetence.  For this game, we were as equally incompetent as the cellar-dwelling Wizards.

6.  After the game, a couple of the media guys tried to nudge Larry Brown into negativity, asking if he was “embarrassed by losing to a team with 8 guys” or “frustrated with the missed free throws”.  LB played the wizened old supportive father, saying that no one was “trying to miss those free throws” and that the team had played hard.  But in reality, he has every right to light into his team.  There is no excuse for such poor focus and execution against one of the league’s worst teams during a playoff run.

7.  Prior to the last two games, the Bobcats really had a chance to simply outplay the Bulls down the stretch and steal the 8th playoff spot.  Remember, we have the tiebreaker on them.  But after blowing these last two winnable games it seems that it is going to take an exceptional finish by us combined with a major collapse by the Bulls.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Hollinger’s playoff odds for us are below 8% tomorrow — maybe even lower.

8.  Next up is an away-home back-to-back.  In Philly on Friday night, hosting the Knicks Saturday night.

-E