1. The Bobcats finish off the road trip in strong fashion, defeating the Clippers 100-95. AP story here, box score here, PopcornMachine.net game flow here. That makes for a three game win streak, and a 3-2 Western Conference road trip.
2. None of the three victories were very pretty or particularly solid, and they were all against lotto teams, but the overall body of work on the road trip is nothing to scoff at. After starting off the trip with two losses, the Cats could have easily packed it in and folded, using the fatigue of West Coast travel as an easy excuse.
3. It was a strong third quarter from the starters that made the difference in this one. Everyone contributed towards a 34-20 quarter that lifted the Cats from a 51-45 halftime deficit to a 79-71 lead heading into the fourth.
4. Emeka Okafor was the statistical star of the game, finishing with 28 points (11-17 FG, 6-7 FT) and 9 rebounds. With 17 FGAs (tying a season high) Mek was obviously very aggressive in looking for his offense, doing most of his damage during the second and third quarters. He had his requisite putbacks and dunks, but also looked great heading to the basket and finishing. He connected with DJ for a great alley-oop and also hit a couple of 12-foot pull-up jumpers in the second.
5. Raja Bell also had a stong game, getting 9 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to hold the Clippers at bay and adding 7 rebounds along the way. Raja hit the biggest shot of the game, a tough three-pointer under two minutes to go to bump the Cats lead back up to five.
6. Probably the best sign from the box score is the assist/turnover numbers. The Bobcats have been struggling with turnovers since the All-Star break, and the last game of a 5-game Western Conference road trip isn’t the most likely place to change that trend.
But change it they did. Overall, the team had 29 assists versus only 10 turnovers. Felton (7 assists/2 turnovers) and Augustin (8/1) set the tone. Now if we can just get Boris (4 turnovers) under control…
7. This one puts us at 25-35 overall, with 22 games left. We’re three games back of Milwaukee, who is hanging tough in that 8th playoff spot. Chicago and New Jersey are both only one game back, while New York and Indiana have fallen to 3.5 games back.
Hollinger’s playoff odds gives us a 14.2% chance to get there, while basketball-reference.com gives us only a 7.1% chance (obviously using a different formula). 40 wins probably gets us in, which means we still need to go 15-7 down the stretch.
8. For those rooting for that 8th playoff spot, the next game is an especially big one. We have Chicago at home on Tuesday night (7 PM start) — we’ve already defeated them once this season (DJ’s best game of the season back on December 16) and will face them in Chicago for the third and last time in the last week of the season. Chicago is one of the teams that we’d likely be fighting against if we can get to 39 wins, so to secure the tiebreaker against them by winning Tuesday night would be great.
9. One last note: if you haven’t already read it, Bill Simmons’ piece on the NBA’s financial troubles is your assigned weekend reading — here you go.