Charlotte Bobcats vs. Sixers 4/7/09


1.  The Bobcats salvage the final home game of the year, beating the playoff-bound Sixers 101-98 on Tuesday night at the Cable Box.  AP story here, box score here.  The Bobcats keep their faint playoff hopes alive as they move to 2.5 games back of the idle Pistons; the Bulls won on Tuesday night to move a half game ahead of Detroit into 7th place.

2.  Decent attendance for the home closer, though for most of the game it was a disconcertingly sleepy crowd.  Totally deserved, given the Bobcats recent collapse, but disconcerting nonetheless for that many people to be making so little noise.

If it hadn’t been for the semi-hot finish, the acknowledgement of the Tar Heels National Championship win  and the halftime fan appreciation giveways (gift certificates, signed basketballs, et al.)  would have battled it out for the loudest moment.

3.  For awhile, it looked like this one was going to follow the same script the Bobcats have run into the ground over the past couple of weeks: build early lead (44-24 midway through the second quarter) running offense to perfection and defending well, gradually let opponent back into the game by slacking off (Philly won the third quarter 32-16, good for a two point lead heading at the end of the third), then go totally cold and inept in the fourth quarter to blow it.  Alas, the Cats wrote a new ending tonight.

4.  Down 98-95 after an Igoudala jumper with 1:42 left, Okafor drew a shooting foul and hit both free throws to pull the Cats to within one.  From there, the Cats locked down on defense; Philly wouldn’t score again.  After an Andre Miller miss/Okafor rebound, DJ got a decent look at a three but missed.  Okafor was able to punch the rebound back out; the Cats retained possession and Larry Brown used the opportunity to call a timeout.  36 seconds left on the clock at this point, Cats down 98-97.

Out of the timeout, the big shot was taken by (wait… wait… you guessed it!) Raymond Felton.  It was a 15 foot runner/floater that Felton shot about 12 feet.  I kid you not.  Perhaps used to Felton’s, ahem, lack of success when taking big shots, Wallace was crashing the boards and happened to be in the exact right spot at the exact right time.  He nabbed the airball and quickly put it back for the game-winning basket with 28 seconds left — 99-98 Cats.

The Cats got another stop on the other end, with Okafor getting credit for the rebound and Gerald taking the foul.  Gerald hit both his free throws, thus we arrive at the final margin, 101-98.  The Sixers still had 11 seconds left, and got decent looks at threes from Igoudala and Willie Green in the time, but both were contested well by the Cats and neither fell.

5.  Before pulling a DIop on the potential game-winner, Felton had a great game.  He set a new career high with 32 points (12-20 FG, 3-6 3PT, 5-7 FT) and added 6 rebounds and 5 assists (vs. 5 turnovers, though).  This one game sorta serves as a microcosm for Felton’s overall game.  He often shows enough that you get lulled into the sense that he might be good enough; good enough to be your starting PG for a decade, good enough to take that big shot.  But just when you start getting comfortable with the notion — boom — an airball.  And you can only hope and pray that Gerald Wallace is there to save your ass.

Speaking of Wallace: 29 points (8-18 FG, 13-17 FT), 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.

Though Okafor didn’t get many looks/touches on the offensive end (9 points on 3-6 FG) he was strong on the boards: 12 total, 5 offensive.

6.  As you might have guessed given the flow of the game that I referred to above, most of the damage that Felton and Wallace did was in the first half.  In fact, both had 20+ points in the first half, and only a fraction of that afterwards.

This is a problem that the Bobcats have to figure out for next year.  Why does the offense run so well in the first half, then grind to a halt in crunch time? Obviously, this has a lot to with the simple fact that the defense tightens up as the game goes on.  Playoff teams can generally still find a way to score in high pressure situations; but the Cats, without a clear go-to guy, haven’t figured it out yet.

Hopefully, the team will learn from all these close, important games they’ve played in the last month and figure out how to manufacture more buckets in crunch time.

7.  Four games left, all on the road as the Cats give up the arena to Bob Johnson’s ego and a bunch of smelly horses (i.e. The Jumper Classic).  Next up we will see Kevin Durant and his improving Thunder squad in Oklahoma City on Friday night.


Charlotte Bobcats @ Sixers 1/9/09


Bobcats vs. Sixers 1/9/09

A few late observations from the ‘Cats – Sixers game Friday night.

1.The Elton Brand-less Sixers run past the Bobcats 93-87 Friday night, capitalizing on a huge 14-2 third quarter run to drop the ‘Cats to 13-24 (3-12 on the road).  AP recap here.  Box score here.

Biggest story of the night?  How about the Sixers putting up 31 points in the third quarter compared to 20 for the ‘Cats.  Philly’s young legs ran all over the place making Charlotte look as slow and old as…well, as they are.

2. My point: During a key stretch in the 2nd quarter, the supposedly young and inexperienced Bobcats trotted out a lineup featuring Nazr Mohammed (31), Juwan Howard (35) and Raja Bell (32).  I really hope Larry Brown has a plan because if this team isn’t going to be any good, you’d rather them be young and shite versus old and shite.  I mean yeah, GForce, Okafor, Augustin, Diaw and Felton are all in their early-mid 20s but none of those guys is a superstar or even an all-star.  So what exactly is with all these geezers on the floor taking up minutes?  Is the ‘Cats philosophy to “grow old and lose gracefully?”  Midway through the 4th DJ tried to find Juwan for an alley-oop.  Embarrassing is the only word that comes to mind.

3. Sean Singletary got the start.  Raymond Felton and DJ Augustin came off of the bench.  Wait, did I really just write that?  Man, I really hope Larry Brown hasn’t gone senile on us all of a sudden.  The supposed reason that Sean started was that he was playing in front of his “hometown crowd.”  What is this?  Dean Smith Senior Night Redux?  Since when do no-name rookies (on their 3rd teams in six months) get spot starts over healthy incumbants?  Does Steve Blackman get to wrestle in the main event (with kendo sticks) whenever he’s in Philly as well?  Alexis Ajinca is jacked for the ‘Cats next exhibition game in Saint-Etienne.  Anway, Sean only played 9 minutes and looked a little shaky holding on to the ball in that limited time.  Not something you like to see in your PGs.

4. The Sixers pre-game show featured all sorts of Larry Brown love for Philly and the Sixers in particular.  He couldn’t stop drooling over their roster and thier players and their coach, etc, etc.  The whole episode felt weird.  I’ve never seen an opposing coach so openly enamored with their opponent.

5. Okafor had a great game with 24 and 9 with a couple of blocks as the team seemed to really look for him in the post.  Unfortunately GFORCE and Boris couldn’t add ANYTHING as they went a combined 5-23 from the field.  Bonnell attributed this to Dalembert’s patrolling of the lane and that may have had something to do with it.  Or it could have just been an off-night.  Really, outside of the SG combo of Carroll and Bell (nice game back with 13pts on 6-9 shooting) and Felton nobody else could get anything going.  Augustin got served by Louis Williams all night long and Morrison logged another DNP-CD.

6. The Sixers looked great in the second half.  The team has so much energy and their young guys (WIlliams, Iggy, Dalembert, Speights, Young, and Green) really make the game fun to watch.  It’s no wonder they play better without Elton Brand.  The guy just doesn’t match their style.  I’m really interested to see if Philly deals Brand before the Break to a slow-ball team like the Heat (or the Bobcats) in order to unload unnecessary salary.

7. What else is there to say?  Bobcats drop another winnable game on the road and I absolutely have NO IDEA what the direction of the team is.  Yeah, Okafor looks like a keeper.  And DJ plays ok when he’s not gimpy.  GFORCE is a very good NBA starting SF.  Diaw is alright at PF.  But where is the star?  Where is the guy who will get you 20pts a night regardless?  Looks like the ‘Cats will just have to live with drafting Morrison over Brandon Roy and not make the same mistakes again.  I stand confused.