Charlotte Bobcats vs Cavaliers 2/20/10
Thomas, Ratliff Impressive in Debuts
The Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-93 before a sellout crowd at the Cable Box on Friday evening. AP recap here, box score here. After losing their initial matchup in the opening days of the season, the Cats have since defeated the Eastern Conference leading Cavaliers three straight times.
The game was tied 50-50 at the half, but the Cats pulled away midway through the third and kept a double digit lead through the fourth quarter. It was over when a Boris Diaw steal led to a Gerald Wallace fast break dunk to put the Cats up by 17 with just under three minutes left.
The lead storyline in this one has to be the relative performances of each team’s newcomers. The day before the trading deadline, the Cavs traded for Antawn Jamison in a move that has been lauded around the league. However, Jamison looked rusty and tentative in his debut for the Cavs, and probably cost them the game. Jamison seemed passive, yet finished with the second highest FGA for the game with 12. Furthering the problem, he didn’t hit any of them — yep, 0-12 FG. Jamison had several shots blocked and had two airballs from three-point range.
Meanwhile, Bobcats newcomers Theo Ratliff and Tyrus Thomas probably couldn’t have asked for better debuts. With Tyson Chandler (foot/ankle) and Gana Diop (knee) sidelined, Ratliff was pressed into early duty to back up Nazr Mohammed. He entered the game with about 5 minutes left in the first quarter and within 90 seconds had recorded his first block for the Bobcats (on the aforementioned Jamison). Ratliff went on to log 18 minutes in the game, mostly spent valiantly guarding Shaq and gathering rebounds. Ratliff ended with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks, no FGA or FTA. Perfect line for the guy.
Tyrus Thomas entered the game for Ratliff a little later in the first quarter and quickly went about filling up the stat sheet. He recorded his first block less than fifteen seconds after checking in, and went on to block 5 more. By the fourth quarter, Thomas’ mere presence in the lane was affecting the Cavs’ decisions in the lane. Thomas also swallowed up tons of boards, eventually totaling 12 in his 25 minutes of playing time.
If Larry Brown can work the same magic for Tyrus that he’s worked for Gerald Wallace, then we’ll be in great shape. On second thought, “magic” is a poor choice of words there. There’s nothing magic about what’s happened to Gerald’s game, or what needs to happen to Ty’s game — it’s just simple maturation, getting smarter about the game, picking your spots, slowing down a bit while maintaining necessary aggression, minimizing your weaknesses and highlighting your strengths.
Beneath his morose surface, you know Larry Brown is quietly pumped about the prospect of teaching Tyrus all that he’s never been taught about basketball. I imagine the dynamic kind of like Stellan Skarsgaard and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting; only I hope this doesn’t end with Tyrus lighting Larry Brown’s playbook on fire, then going to cry in Phil Jackson’s embrace while the Zen Master repeats “It’s not your fault.”
A secondary storyline has to be what in the world the Bobcats are doing to Lebron James. Lebron had a quiet 22 point, 9 assist game; he has averaged 22.5 points in the four games against the Cats this year, well below his 30 ppg average.
The Cats don’t seem to be doing anything too fancy to Lebron. It helps that Gerald Wallace is the primary individual defender, of course, and that Stephen Jackson, Raymond Felton and Boris Diaw are the guys that most frequently get switched onto him — all of those guys can at least hold their own. But the key is more in the team defense that the Cats play — the traps in the backcourt, the aggressive help defense, the good rotations out to the jump shooters.
Odds And Ends
- It’s unfortunate I’ve gotten this far without mentioning the guy who put the ball in the hole all night for the Cats; Stephen Jackson led the offensive charge with 29 points (9-17 FG, 3-7 3PT, 8-10 FT) while also adding 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
- Boris and DJ both had their best games in some time, looking confident and decisive.
- The only downside I can see to Ty Thomas being a big part of the Bobcats down the stretch (other than the general combustibility and questionable basketball IQ, or course) is that Gerald’s rebounding numbers are probably going to drop. Not that they were going to rise back to a league-leading level without him around, but still…
- Tyson Chandler, we hardly knew ye…
- Does anyone else think Shaq might be pushing 350 lbs? And those awful Chinese shoes he’s wearing look like locomotives.
- I hadn’t realized this until looking at the standings after the game, but due to their recent stumble, the Cats have fallen down to 8th place in the East. Which means that if the season ended today, we’d face these Cavs in the first round. Interesting matchup, huh?
- Not only were the Cats on point all night, but so was the Cable Box’s WiFi. Got lots of Tweets in — follow me!
- Quick turnaround, as the Cats have a back-to-back Saturday night in Milwaukee, 8:30 PM ET start. This one’s important, as the Bucks are the primary threat to jump into the playoff picture in the East. Currently, they’re only half a game behind the Cats in the standings. Furthermore, the Cats are 1-1 against the Bucks so far this year, with Saturday’s meeting and a late season tilt still to go. A victory tomorrow night guarantees we wouldn’t lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with them if it came down to that at the end of the year.