Queen City Hoops

PLAYOFFS: Bobcats-Heat — Dissecting the match-ups

This bruised Charlotte fan-base has waited ten grueling years for the franchise to churn out a product like this one – 2009-10 was the first ever playoff team in the team’s history, but was a efficiency nightmare on the offensive end, and quite frankly not as trusty of a unit as the one we have in front of us now.

I’m hardly breaking news by stating that no one had expectations for this group coming into the season, and when Jordan, Higgins and Cho decided to throw the bank at Al Jefferson last summer, the Bobcats laughing stock wagon only appeared to be gaining steam. That was ultimately halted by a rookie head coach who has molded the 5th most efficient defense in the entire NBA and a 29-year old Jefferson who is having the best season of his career. Charlotte has made many of their critics eat crow already, but the most daunting challenge lies less than 24 hours away in Miami, FL.

A meeting with the defending champions Miami Heat is not what I would have drawn up for you if you would have told me that the Bobcats would win 8 of their last 9 games to close the regular season, but by hook, or by crook, that’s what we have. There’s, of course, Lebron, Wade and Bosh – also known as the ‘Big Three’ – matching up with these guys is going to be difficult, but it is for everyone. Charlotte will have some advantages and match-ups that they can feed off of – let’s dive into the key match-ups, see just how everyone is going to be used and try to predict what the ultimate outcome will be.

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Kemba Walker / Mario Chalmers – The eyeball test would suggest that this one would favor Kemba, but the numbers suggests otherwise. With Chalmers on-the-court in 4 games this season Kemba shot 33.3% from the floor and just 11% from behind-the-arc. With Chalmers off-the-court Kemba was a totally different player – 41% from the floor + 40% from deep. On the same token, Kemba had 17 dimes with Chalmers guarding him and only 7 without Mario on the floor. The on vs. off-the-floor difference in minutes is not enough to chalk up any of these numbers to being flawed.

Ultimately, this matchup does favor Kemba. Chalmers is known to play uninspired defense in stretches and will gamble for steals. Speaking of gambling for steals, Kemba loves to as well. Walker will have to choose wisely whether he goes under or over ball-screens when guarding Chalmers – he can make you pay when you go under will his shooting ability. Personally, I’d make him a driver.

Walker has to be able to attack the paint off of pick-and-rolls and leave Mario in the dust. If Kemba is able to turn the corner in PnR’s and force the hedge defender to commit, it will open up space for Jefferson to start knocking down the pick-and-pop jumper – a shot I think is key to stretch the Miami defense + make them think twice about how aggressive they want to be at guarding Kemba on PnR’s.

Gerald Henderson / Dwayne Wade – Henderson did not fair very well when Wade was on-the-court and guarding him this season. Hendo shot 35.3% + turned the ball over 3 times in 42 total minutes. He shot 44.4% with Wade off -the-court + got to the foul line 5 more times.

Those are some Hendo quick hitter numbers that may not mean all that much in this series. Why? We have no clue how healthy Wade is coming into this series with a hamstring issue.

Now, let’s look at some numbers that I promise will make you smile – in 42 total minutes, Wade shot 10% from the floor and committed 6 turnovers when Hendo was guarding him. Hendo is definitely one of those guys that picks-and-chooses when he’s going to give solid effort on the defensive end – I think it’s safe to say that Wade brings out the best in Hendo defensively. From watching these two go against each other, trust me, they aren’t exchanging pleasantries in the same group iMessage chat away from basketball. To add fuel to the fire with this matchup, I have to believe that Clifford and the Bobcats are going to try and attack Wade with Hendo on the offensive end of the floor with his unknown health. He’s far from the most efficient offensive player on the planet, but Clifford is going to have to trust Hendo in this series – he’ll badly need him to wear out Wade and break into Miami’s bench to give Charlotte some depth matchup advantages.

If Wade is healthy, there’s no question that he has the upper-hand here, but that’s the unknown – this is likely going to be the biggest matchup that no one is talking heading into tomorrow afternoon.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist / Lebron James – MKG essentially didn’t play if Lebron wasn’t on the floor in 4 games this season. Needless to say, it didn’t go great. We all remember Lebron’s 61-point outburst against MKG this season, but just wrap your mind around these numbers. With MKG guarding James in 4 games this season, the King shot 67.5% from the floor, 70% from 3 land, grabbed 12 rebounds, had 12 assists and just 4 turnovers. So, dominance basically.

None of James success is predicated on a lack of effort or will from MKG, but there likely is an intimidation factor at work here – MKG must be able to get past that. If he needs to use his fouls early-on to keep James from getting whatever he wants then so be it – MKG likely won’t be on the floor much at the end of the game anyways because of his liability as an offensive player.

Lebron will be able to play as far off of MKG as he would like, defensively, because MKG can’t shoot. At all. This presents a real problem for the Bobcats and their offensive efficiency as Lebron will likely be coming to double Jefferson when MKG is on the floor. One way to negate this is to have MKG being the guy to enter the ball to Jefferson as much as possible – MKG post-entry + a rim cut will force Lebron to at least account for his man who can be a problem on off-the-ball cuts.

We know who has the upper hand in this matchup, but I’m excited to see if MKG can simply get Lebron off to some rocky starts. History tells us know, but this is the post-season now. Yikes, that may mean something even worse for MKG. Say a prayer, everybody.

Josh McRoberts / Chris Bosh – If Miami goes with Haslem in the starting lineup, which everyone is expecting them to, in order to guard Jefferson then it’s very likely that McBob will be matched up on Bosh. There are a few reason for this – 1) Bosh can stretch the floor much more than Haslem can so McBob will have to inherit the role of being is Bosh’ grill on jump shots due to his superior mobility over Jefferson. 2) McBob is solid on PnR coverage, so he’ll be able to show/hedge hard on the ball-handler while also being able to recover to Bosh on pick-and-pops. Many have predicted that Bosh will be the X-factor for the Heat in this series and I wouldn’t disagree with that, but McBob is going to be physical with him + make Bosh work for everything. As key as Bosh is for Miami, McBob is equally key for the Bobcats because of the fact that he plays with so much energy – when things do get chippy in this series, I can almost guarantee that McBob will be right in the middle of it.

McBob may be put in some situations where he has to guard Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis in this series – similar concept to guarding Bosh in that they both will space the floor, but most notably in the corner. Very little, to zero, PnR coverage for McBob when matching up with either one of these guys.

Pulling Bosh away from the rim will be key and McBob will be able to do that as the connector to the offense. He’ll need to find a way to knock down a few 3′s per game in order to confuse Bosh as to how much he must contest McBob when he catches the ball at the top-of-the-key.

Al Jefferson / Udonis Haslem – It sounds like the Heat are going to start with Haslem against Jefferson, but the two didn’t log many minutes on the floor together in 4 match-ups this season – just a 26 minute sample size to go off of where Jefferson shot 37.5% – meh, throw that out the window. To small of a sample to mean much, truly. Haslem is going to surrender height & weight to Big Al, but he plays very strong and physical defensively, which is likely why Miami is going to start with him in this role.

Jefferson will likely guard Haslem, and not Bosh, on the defensive end so he doesn’t have to chase all the way out to the 3-point line and can anchor the paint as much as possible. Haslem will be involved in some PnR, but again, he doesn’t terrify you on the pick-and-pop. He can knock down the mid-range jumper, but not as efficiently as Bosh. Where Haslem does present a problem is in his habit to float to the short-corner off of Wade/James dribble-penetrations – Haslem likes this short-corner shot and can make defenses pay when they think they’ve got Wade/James corralled at the rim.

We’ve all heard about Jefferson’s success against the Heat this season – 3 games: 25.3 PGG on 57.5% from the floor. Essentially, this means that Miami doesn’t have anyone to truly matchup with Al. They’ll come at him by committee – fronting with Haslem + Bosh, with heavy backside help ready to double if a post catch is made. Spolestra will likely elect to only single cover Jefferson when Greg Oden is on the floor for Miami.

There’s no getting around it, Al Jefferson is absolutely key for any level of success that Charlotte hopes to have in this series. If he keeps pace with what he’s done to the Heat in 3 games so far this season then it’s very realistic that the Bobcats can push this series to 6 games.

Key Reserve Roles For the Bobcats, it starts with Gary Neal. He’s been solid post all-star break from behind-the-arc at 40% – making 3′s and stretching the floor is going to be key to open things up some for Jefferson down low and the bulk of this duty will fall into the arms (literally) of Neal. If he plays well, then the Bobcats will be right in the mix during the 4th quarter of every game.

Chris Douglas-Roberts has also emerged as a key reserve for the Bobcats in the second half of the year. First of all, he could be asked to guard Lebron late in games if Clifford elects to go with CDR and an offensive mindset. Secondly, he just needs to bring exactly what he did in the last 10 games to end the regular season – 27 MPG, 9.6 PPG, 45.6 FG%, 35.3 3FG%.

As fast as Miami likes to play, especially off of opponents turnovers, Charlotte will have to seek easy baskets in the open-floor as well. Cody Zeller is the most dynamic big that the Bobcats have in terms of speed and ability to finish. Also, Zeller is great at keeping balls alive off of the offensive glass – not something that Clifford asks his team to sell out on, but Zeller is one of the best at keeping possessions alive for Charlotte.

Remember reading earlier that the Bobcats will have to guard Lebron by committee? Well, a member of that committee will be Anthony Tolliver. He will likely have to guard him in spurts during this series. In part due to some foul trouble that could present itself for Charlotte and also because there will be a point-in-time when Clifford is seeking outside shooting, which Tolliver can provide. I think this guy will play a sneaky important role in this series.

Bismack Biyombo will have one job while on the floor. Protect the rim and rebound.

Prediction – Miami wins the series 4-2.

– All stats from compiled in this article are per NBA.com/Stats

Bobcats Playoff Preview: Around the web

As the Bobcats’ prepare for their second (and final) playoff appearance, we have scoured the web to provide a list of content to help in your preparation. On to the links.

First up, a simple illustration that was posted at TrueHoop which summarizes expectations:

It’s not a unanimous expectation, but it is the prevailing one.

Here’s a video from TrueHoop, talking about the improvements the Heat need to make in their defense to have a successful post-season:

(and a link in case the video embed doesn’t work – The challenge facing the Heat’s D)

Hardwood Paroxysm has a couple of posts of interest to the Bobcat brethren:

Though they face a likely cameo appearance in the 2014 playoffs, that isn’t the be all and end all for Charlotte. This is about gaining experience for the future and learning what it takes to succeed as a playoff team. For players like Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist getting their first taste of playoff basketball, they will be imbued with a desire to get back again and again. For rookie coach Steve Clifford, this will also be a learning experience for him as well.
- Derek James at Hardwood Paroxysm – I can’t wait for the Bobcats to return

To expect more than one victory from Charlotte in the series can only reflect a belief that the Heat are still idling in neutral warm-up mode. It would be a token victory, perhaps hollow solace compared to the opportunity to enter this year’s vaunted lottery. But the Charlotte NBA Franchise is on a journey of a thousand miles and they need to take as many steps as possible. I hope, for just one evening, that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can bamboozle LeBron James, that Al Jefferson drives Chris Bosh to tears with dozens of plodding possessions from the left block, that the majestically bearded Josh McRoberts can find more arrows in his quiver than Ray Allen.
- Miles Wray at Harwood Paroxysm – I can’t wait for the Bobcats to steal one

Miami Heat (2) versus Charlotte Bobcats (7): The Bobcats have made the playoffs for the second time in franchise history and will look to leave behind the Bobcats name with as big of a bang as possible. For the Heat, they look to make the Bobcats another stepping stone to their third consecutive championship.
- Derek James again – Hidden subplots of the 2014 NBA playoffs

Over to RufusOnFire for a couple of links:

Who comes up biggest for the Bobcats in the series?

Ben: I think it’s got to be Al Jefferson. Miami can afford to throw double teams at him, but Charlotte can counteract that to a degree by flashing cutters from the elbow. Chris Bosh is a tough defender but Jefferson’s strength on the block is hard for him to defend. The Bobcats will post Jefferson up, re-post if needed and try to work him on screen and rolls — whatever different looks Clifford can give the Heat with Jefferson, he should and will try.
- Roundtable on the series at RufusOnFire – Bobcats vs Heat playoff roundtable

One of the the scariest parts about Miami’s collection of upper echelon starters is that they can rotate the rest for them so that they minimize being without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all at the same time.

Still, even when they give them time on the bench, Miami’s got a talented group of role players. They’re an odd bunch of veterans, journeymen and reclamation projects, but they fill their roles pretty well.
- Ben Swanson at RufusOnFire – Bench battles: How do Charlotte and Miami match up?

This one is not necessarily playoff related, but Bobcats Baseline did an interview with one of the people behind the web series on Chris Douglas-Roberts return to the NBA, and you should check it out: BobcatsBaseline – Never turn your back on the grind.

I’ll finish with a great rundown of the Bobcats’ rebuilding process from Rick Bonnell:

In the spring of 2010 the Charlotte Bobcats got a fleeting glance at the NBA playoffs.

It was four games against the Orlando Magic, all losses to a Dwight Howard-led team that reached the Eastern Conference finals

Turns out the only participant in that playoff series who ended up mattering to the Bobcats was a Magic assistant coach named Steve Clifford (more about that later).
- Rick Bonnell at the Charlotte Observer – Charlotte Bobcats followed plan to 2014 NBA playoffs

EDIT – Whoops, forgot about the 5 on 5 our very own Spencer Percy took part in over on ESPN:

2. What’s the scariest thing — good or bad — about the Bobcats?
Gutierrez: The inside-outside threat. The Cats may not be overflowing with deadly 3-point shooters, but if the Heat pay extra attention to Al Jefferson and his old-school, efficient post game, then the combination of Kemba Walker, Gary Neal, Gerald Henderson and possibly even Josh McRoberts could make life difficult for Miami. That fear starts with Jefferson, though, who averaged 24.5 points, 14.3 rebounds and 53 percent shooting in eight April games.

Krolik: For most teams, it would be Charlotte’s greatly improved defense, but for the Heat, it’s Al Jefferson. The Heat are as undersized as ever inside, and Greg Oden’s glacial lateral movement has kept him from being a post-stopper.

Percy: Al Jefferson is the politically correct answer, but honestly, I believe it’s that they’re a complete team. They can be 10 guys deep, and they’ll come at you by committee from night-to-night. They are deceivingly tough to devise a game plan for.
- Heat and Bobcats 5 on 5

Bobcats outlast Bulls; Ride wave of momentum into South Beach Sunday

Chicago Bulls 86 Final
Recap | Box Score
91 Charlotte Bobcats
Josh McRoberts, PF Shot Chart 35 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +2

Battled with Taj Gibson for what seemed like the entire second half. This felt like a playoff game and I can’t say enough about McBob’s effort. Seemed to make the right play, in the right moment, most of the night. Would be nice for him to rediscover that touch from deep starting Sunday.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Shot Chart 23 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +1

I would be totally remiss if I didn’t give MKG credit in this game. Loved the aggressiveness on the offensive end front that start. It was clear that the team had a plan to get to the rim early on and MKG led that charge with the first offensive possession.

Al Jefferson, C Shot Chart 42 MIN | 4-14 FG | 2-4 FT | 18 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +9

Don’t let the grade fool you. Jefferson did his job on the boards and even made some stops at the rim with two blocks. I can’t justify not giving him a below average grade, though, because of what he has been doing on the offensive end. We’ll go ahead and assume this to be a factor of 1) Joakim Noah’s defensive effort, and 2) a simple outlier from the season sample.

Jefferson left the game in the second half with a left-knee contusion. Fans were holding their breath when Big Al left for the locker room, but it appears to be all-for-not and he should be good to go for Sunday in Miami.

Kemba Walker, PG Shot Chart 40 MIN | 6-16 FG | 10-11 FT | 7 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 22 PTS | +7

As is the case usually in close game for the Bobcats, Kemba made all of the big plays when the team needed it. Kemba scored 8 points in OT to propel Charlotte. Zero turnovers tonight, folks. Zero.

Gerald Henderson, SG Shot Chart 33 MIN | 5-13 FG | 1-3 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +11

Hendo pretty much did what he does. Had some moments that had you jumping out of your seat like when he cut backdoor and punched one on Noah’s head. And he also had some moments where he forced bad jump shots and clearly wanted nothing to do with the shot in the first place. Here’s me, hoping for all of us, that Hendo peaks in the post-season.

Cody Zeller, C Shot Chart 18 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | +3

Cody had a phenomenal first half and set TWC Arena ablaze with his highlight dunks in transition. Clifford decided to go small + go with McBob in the second half, so his minutes were very limited. Don’t let the one rebound fool you – Zeller kept plenty of balls alive off of the offensive glass, as he usually does. He led the team with three turnovers tonight and it’s simply a product of how sped up he can get when forced to put the ball on the floor, going to the rim – a slowly developing skill.

Bismack Biyombo, C Shot Chart 11 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -4

Looked competent offensively tonight when he had opportunities around the rim. He has a highlight block that will blow the roof of TWC and lead to a transition bucket in the playoffs.

Luke Ridnour, PG Shot Chart 13 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | -2

After an unreal 4th quarter in Atlanta on Monday, Ridnour took some jump shots tonight that missed so bad that I’ll likely wake up tonight with cold sweats dreaming about them. He redeemed himself by knocking down a big three-pointer though, so all is forgotten. The second honestly just struggled tonight with Luke manning the show.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart 20 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -6

Not a great shooting night, but the effort across the board was fantastic. Crashing the defensive glass, diving for loose balls, and overall just playing with playoff passion. Neal is going to be key for Charlotte against the Heat in the first round – this is why we acquired the guy at the trade deadline.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG Shot Chart 30 MIN | 4-10 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +4

When you need a big shot during a game. Or, when you need three of them – call on CDR. The combination of knocking down the clutch corner three’s late in game + having an instinct to be around the ball off of the offensive glass are the kind of tools CDR adds to the arsenal for this team.

Steve Clifford

This.

Four Things We Saw

  1. This game started with Chicago getting most of what they wanted around the basket with their 16 points-in-the-paint in the first quarter. That changed quickly as the Bulls only managed 12 points from that distance for the remainder of the game and the Bobcats poured in 34 points from up close in the last three quarters.
  2. Kemba Walker. If the Bobcats continue to play close games in the first round against Miami then it’s going to ride on Walker’s shoulders. He’s made for late games and, again tonight, proved that by carrying Charlotte with 8 of their 11 points in OT.
  3. BRING ON THE HEAT. You may cringe as you read that and I don’t blame you, but it is what it is now. The Wizards blew out Boston tonight and actually managed to fight their way all the way to the 5th seed in the east with Brooklyn’s loss to Cleveland. Whatever. We get Miami and the bid for arguably the biggest upset in playoff history begins Sunday at 3:30 PM ET in Miami. It will be the Charlotte Bobcats first appearance ever (and likely last) playing on ABC.
  4. Here we go everyone. As the Bobcats exit and the Hornets prepare to take over the reigns of the franchise in Charlotte, the 2014 NBA Playoffs provide for the ideal transition. Have fun.

Game #82: Bobcats vs. Bulls — Sprint to the finish + NEW PodCats!

Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs Chicago Bulls

What: NBA Basketball – Bobcats Home Game

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Efficiency
Defensive
Efficiency
Pace
Charlotte 42-39 101.3 (23) 101.3 (6) 94.8 (21)
Chicago 48-33 99.9 (27) 97.8 (2) 92.8 (28)

Injuries:
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)
Chicago: Greg Smith (Questionable), Derrick Rose (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Bobcats Bulls
PG Kemba Walker Kirk Hinrich
SG Gerald Henderson Jimmy Butler
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Mike Dunleavy
PF Josh McRoberts Carlos Boozer
C Al Jefferson Joakim Noah
6th Man Gary Neal Taj Gibson

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Last night was another wonderful edition of PodCats. Doug Branson and myself discussed the Bobcats huge win in Atlanta + broke down the final play that put Chris Douglas-Roberts in the spotlight with his game winning shot – I also make a case for why CDR needs to see the court more in the post-season and what that means for one current starter.

We also discussed the playoff seeding scenarios for Charlotte – it all comes down to tonight. LISTEN HERE!

Join Doug and I LIVE this Friday at 6:30 PM ET when we breakdown the upcoming playoff series for the Bobcats. LISTEN LIVE HERE!

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  • It’s pretty simple for both teams tonight – win and keep hopes alive that you move up in the eastern conference seeding. The Bobcats have to win and have a Washington loss in Boston in order to stay alive for the sixth seed. That’s big, of course, because it means avoiding Miami in the first round. Chicago is currently tied with Toronto in overall record, but the Raptors own the tie-breaker – the Bulls need to win tonight in Charlotte and hope for a Raptors loss in New York in order to move into the third seed.
  • The Wizards and Raptors both tip tonight at 8:00 PM ET, so whoever comes out on top between Charlotte and Chicago should be able to watch their playoff fate unfold live in the locker room in Charlotte.
  • Coach Thibs has made it very clear that Chicago will play to win tonight — “We’re playing to win. When you look at where our guys minutes-wise, total minutes-wise, health-wise, that’s what we should do.”
  • Coach Clifford has downplayed the seeding issue for the Bobcats recently and stated that it’s more important for this team to start playing better leading into the post-season, regardless of who they end up matched up with. That being said, everyone would like to avoid Miami in the first round so it’s safe to say Coach Cliff and the team understand the importance of winning this game.
  • Bulls center Joakim Noah could very possibly end up being the defensive player of the year in the NBA and he’s going to give Al Jefferson problems tonight, make no mistakes about it. For Big Al the key is to simply stay disciplined, don’t let Noah get under your skin with his emotional tactics and get him into foul trouble early.
  • The Bobcats will have to get more from the starting backcourt than they did on Monday to have a chance tonight. Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson were a combined 2-18 from the floor on Monday. These two guys are extremely important to Charlotte’s success in the post-season as the attention on Jefferson will only continue to elevate.
  • Prediction: 94-90 Bulls. Bobcats finish regular season 42-40 and will play the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Unlikely heroes; Bobcats second unit keep possible 6th seed alive

Charlotte Bobcats 95 Final
Recap | Box Score
93 Atlanta Hawks
Josh McRoberts, PF Shot Chart 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +6

Like most of the starters tonight, he was pretty insignificant. Clifford subbed him in before the last play of the game to inbound to CDR for the game winner.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Shot Chart 23 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-7 FT | 9 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -2

There are some real bright spots here: points and rebounds. 2-7 from the foul line is horrid, though, and it still really frustrates me that he cannot finish through any contact – MKG would be twice the offensive player if he could only learn to finish stronger around the rim.

As usual, great hustle every second on the floor.

Al Jefferson, C Shot Chart 35 MIN | 11-17 FG | 5-7 FT | 15 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 27 PTS | -3

Ho-hum kind of performance from Jefferson. Atlanta did all they could with him and became somewhat effective in forcing him to catch away from the basket and doubling in the second half, but ultimately it didn’t matter. Jefferson hit the go-ahead shot to make it 93-91 late in the 4th and the Bobcats never trailed again.

Kemba Walker, PG Shot Chart 25 MIN | 1-9 FG | 2-4 FT | 0 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -5

This was one of Kemba’s worst games of the season. Maybe the worst. He didn’t play at all in the final quarter.

Gerald Henderson, SG Shot Chart 24 MIN | 1-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -10

I don’t know how to justify giving him any better of a grade than Kemba. Outside of the almost monster put-back Hendo almost had, it was all ugly. So yes, the best memory I have of his game tonight is actually a shot that he almost made. Anything else? Okay.

Anthony Tolliver, PF Shot Chart 20 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +5

Tolliver got the Bobcats going early in the 4th with a three-pointer. The team chipped away on the Hawks lead from there and Tolliver came up with some big time rebounds to help fuel the comeback.

Cody Zeller, C Shot Chart 12 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | -9

Hit two mid-range jumpers which was nice to see, but nothing else to write home about for Zeller in this game.

Bismack Biyombo, C Shot Chart 13 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +5

Played his usual role as an imposing rim-protector while on the floor + came down with two big offensive rebounds in the 4th quarter that eventually led to a Ridnour bucket.

Luke Ridnour, PG Shot Chart 23 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +7

Sweet stroke Luke. He took on a large portion of the scoring role in the Bobcats 4th quarter comeback – scored all 10 of his points in the final quarter on 5-7 shooting.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart 25 MIN | 5-11 FG | 5-5 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +8

10 of Neal’s 17 points came in the final quarter as he teamed up with Ridnour to continuously snipe Atlanta and keep Charlotte alive in their hunt for the 6th seed in the east. I was very impressed with his defensive effort in the final period, along with the entire second unit, when the team had to have it.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG Shot Chart 23 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +8

CDR had nothing on the stat sheet other than 2 fouls going into the 4th, then he impacted just about every aspect of the game in the final period.

CDR hit a right-handed floater as time expired to put the Bobcats over the top in their incredible comeback. The play was a double downscreen decoy that eventually brought Jefferson to the right block to set a pindown screen for CDR – he caught it, gave a few power dribbles and tossed up the eventual winner.

Steve Clifford

Will be interesting to see the approach that Clifford takes with his starters tomorrow in practice after their uninspired effort on the defensive end tonight.

Two Things We Saw

  1. Charlotte has guaranteed an above .500 record on the season with their 42nd win and will play their final regular season game Wednesday night at home against Chicago.
  2. Scenario for the 6th seed: Bobcats must beat Chicago and Washington must lose in Boston. Any other outcome keeps Charlotte in the 7th seed and in a first round series with the defending NBA champion Miami Heat.

Game #81: Bobcats @ Hawks — Stay away from the Heat. New PodCats!

Who: Atlanta Hawks vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Hawks Home Game

When: 7:30 PM ET

Where: Live at Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Efficiency
Defensive
Efficiency
Pace
Atlanta 37-43 103.3 (15) 104.0 (15) 96.9 (13)
Charlotte 41-39 101.3 (23) 101.3 (6) 94.9 (21)

Injuries:

Atlanta: Paul Millsap (OUT-rest), Kyle Korver (OUT-rest), DeMarre Carroll (OUT-rest), Al Horford (OUT)
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Hawks Bobcats
PG Jeff Teague Kemba Walker
SG Louis Williams Gerald Henderson
SF Cartier Martin Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Mike Scott Josh McRoberts
C Pero Antic Al Jefferson
6th Man Shelvin Mack Gary Neal

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First of all, if you haven’t heard the PodCats Show from Friday, you have to go ahead and catch up here. Doug Branson, Greg Pietras and myself debate Charleston, SC, why I cannot pronounce too many NBA names correctly and, of course, everything Bobcats.

We’ll be LIVE again tomorrow at 6:30 — LISTEN HERE.

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  • Let’s start with the fact that Atlanta has won 11 straight games over the Bobcats. So, there’s that to chew on. Although, Atlanta has elected to rest three starters tonight since they’re locked into the 8th seed – Millsap, Korver & Carroll.
  • All Bobcats fans will be paying close attention to two games in the association tonight. Of course, our game, but the Wizards will host Miami. A Bobcats win + Wizards loss means Charlotte will move back into the six seed with just one game remaining. Currently, Washington does control their own destiny for the sixth seed if they win out (vs. Miami, @ Boston).
  • Unfortunately for Charlotte, Atlanta has been playing solid basketball as of late — it’s started on the defensive end. In the past five games (4-1) Atlanta is sporting a defensive rating 96.1 (-7.9 from season avg.), which would be on par with the best NBA defensive team, but this is a very small sample and obviously not sustainable. Nonetheless, as I’ve mentioned numerous times, playoff teams begin to defend much harder this time of the year.
  • Atlanta sophomore, and ex-UVA standout, Mike Scott has been a secret weapon for the Hawks this season. In the past ten games Scott is only getting around 16 minutes per night, but he’s been extremely effective with those minutes — 8.6 PPG + 53.5% FG. Scott can stretch it all the way out to the three-point line, although he’s not great from there – he’s an excellent mid-range shooter. He’ll certainly be a factor tonight and will start in the place of Paul Millsap.
  • Hawks center Pero Antic will play tonight. In the last meeting between these two teams back on March 17th Brand & Antic held Jefferson to just 16 points on 6-15 shooting.
  • Atlanta’s horse Paul Millsap will sit tonight for Atlanta. Good thing, because Millsap has carried the Hawks all year long and hasn’t shown too many signs of slowing down recently — 18.6 PPG + 11 RPG in the past five.
  • Kemba did go through shoot-around with the team this morning in Atlanta and is expected to start tonight.
  • With Atlanta sitting three starters tonight, they’re lending as much of a hand as possible for the Bobcats to track the Wizards down in search of the sixth seed.
  • Prediction: Bobcats 102-92.

Boston Celtics 106, Charlotte Bobcats 103: No Kemba and No Defense in Bobcats Loss

Charlotte Bobcats 103 FinalRecap | Box Score 106 Boston Celtics
Josh McRoberts, PF 30 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | +13

With Kemba Walker out, Charlotte really needed McRoberts’ passing and shooting tonight. He responded well, going 3-of-4 from three and dishing a team-high 10 assists.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF 20 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -1

A pretty decent game for MKG, too — he created some points on the fast break and on second attempts, played solid defense (with two very nice blocks), rebounded and passed. What you’d ideally like to see from him.

Al Jefferson, C 39 MIN | 16-26 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 32 PTS | -4

No knocks on another very good offensive night, but Jefferson’s slow foot speed means he struggles against centers with range. That included Jared Sullinger tonight, who stepped out and hit some wide-open threes.

Luke Ridnour, PG 31 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +11

The offense was solid, the defense less so. Ridnour really struggled to run around screens, giving the Celtics several open looks at the top of the arc. They took advantage, shooting 11-of-23 on the night.

Gerald Henderson, SG 25 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | +2

Efficient but quiet night from Hendo. It’s nice to see him knocking down the threes, at least.

Cody Zeller, C 18 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -16

A pretty poor game after a relatively hot stretch for Zeller. Like most of the Bobcats tonight, he looked noticeably lost on defense.

Bismack Biyombo, C 9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1

Hey, some rebounds and blocks. Not much else in Biz’s 9 minutes.

Jannero Pargo, PG 17 MIN | 2-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -14

Pargo’s overcaffeinated style works for him on some nights, but it’s mostly dependent on how well his shot is falling. 2-for-10 from the field, 0-for-4 from three won’t work.

Gary Neal, SG 23 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | -5

They probably could have just started Neal at point guard, since he did a ton of ball handling in his 23 minutes. The Celtics struggled to keep up with his speed, and Neal got a handful of easy looks in the paint as a result.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG 28 MIN | 3-8 FG | 6-7 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -2

CDR was the only Bobcat that could buy a foul, as he shot more free throws than the rest of the team combined. He picked a bad night to struggle from three, as he couldn’t convert any of his four attempts from long range.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Everyone gets docked in the grades tonight because of some truly awful team defense.
  2. Charlotte obviously missed Kemba a lot, both because he’s their second-best player and the team’s real lack of depth at point guard. Let’s hope it’s a speedy recovery.
  3. With Washington’s win in Orlando tonight, the Bobcats have been knocked back into the seventh seed. It’s possible they’ll need to win their three final games to make up the ground they lost in the standings.

Game #79: Bobcats @ Celtics — Momentum over everything. New PodCats!

Who: Boston Celtics vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Celtics Home Game

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Live at TD Garden, Boston, MA

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Efficiency
Defensive
Efficiency
Pace
Boston 23-55 99.4 (29) 105.0 (20) 95.7 (17)
Charlotte 40-38 101.1 (23) 101.2 (6) 94.8 (21)

Injuries:
Boston: Kris Humphries (Questionable)
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Celtics Bobcats
PG Rajon Rondo Kemba Walker
SG Avery Bradley Gerald Henderson
SF Jeff Green  Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Brandon Bass Josh McRoberts
C Jared Sullinger Al Jefferson
6th Man Jerryd Bayless Gary Neal

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It’s officially a debate — are the Bobcats better off playing Indiana in the first round as a seven seed (assuming the Pacers end up second) rather than seeing Toronto/Chicago? Doug Branson and myself debated on PodCats Wednesday + we previewed Bobcats-Wizards, where I think it’s safe to say we were quite accurate.

Programming note: We’ll be LIVE tonight at 6:30 PM ET. Listen here.

  • Charlotte goes for their sixth straight win tonight in Boston and will look to keep the momentum going with just four games remaining in the regular season. Technically, the Bobcats are still alive for the fifth seed, but they’d obviously need a lot of help as Brooklyn currently sits three games ahead in the standings. Washington, who has an identical record with Charlotte but have lost the tie-breaker, will play in Orlando. Very winnable games for both the Bobcats and Wizards tonight as they jockey for the sixth seed.
  • Boston has lost 14 of their past 15 games. It’s clear that the Celtics are folding the tent (AKA: tanking) and the effort, or lack thereof, has started on the defensive end. In the past 15 games Boston has a defensive rating of 111.7 (+6.7 from season avg.). Not good. At all. It’s been clear for quite awhile that Rajon Rondo is unhappy with the direction of the franchise and I’m not sure that I’d call the Rondo-Brad Stevens mixture oil & water, but you get the picture. The effort simply isn’t there from this squad right now and the reasons why are obvious from the front office to the actual play on the court.
  • Tonight is the rubber-match in the three-game season series between these two. Both have won on each other’s floors. The Celtics have actually been somewhat effective in guarding Al Jefferson. Relatively speaking. Jefferson is avg. 18 PPG + 7 RPG on 45% shooting in two games against Boston. Jared Sullinger certainly has his hands full with Big Al, but the horse that is Brandon Bass gives a lending hand and the length of Jeff Green really helps get Jefferson off of the glass.
  • Kemba vs. Rondo will be an interesting matchup to keep an eye on. Obviously, Rondo has a height advantage on Kemba. Don’t be surprised to see Stevens draw up some action to get Rondo ISO’d around the basket against Kemba.
  • Charlotte must make it a point to get the ball to the rim against what has been a pathetic Boston defense recently. The Bobcats have become rather lazy in this category recently – only 35.6 PITP in the past 5 games – that’s 4.5 PITP/game less than their season avg. The team has been 37.3% from behind-the-arc in the past 5, which is +1.9% from season avg., but that’s likely an outlier and isn’t sustainable. Get the ball to the rim in order to setup the defense for open three-point shots – one of the oldest concepts in the book.
  • The Bobcats are a very driven bunch right now and it’s very hard to talk myself into them losing a winnable game at this point.
  • Prediction: Bobcats 100-90.

Bobcats take over 6th in the east + tie-breaker from Wizards

Charlotte Bobcats 94 Final
Recap | Box Score
88 Washington Wizards
Josh McRoberts, PF Shot Chart 34 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | 0

McBob was huge in the first half with all 12 of his points. The second half wasn’t nearly as desirable as he went 0-5 from the field, but I’ll take this as a first game back from injury.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Shot Chart 21 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -10

He impacted the game in the way that we’ve all expected MKG too. Two big offensive rebounds + two steals. Solid on defense as usual.

Al Jefferson, C Shot Chart 43 MIN | 9-20 FG | 2-2 FT | 18 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | +5

Big Al struggled on Gortat defensively, which will ultimately hurt his grade, but he gobbled up rebounds and picked his spots well offensively when the double teams came. And they came often.

Kemba Walker, PG Shot Chart 44 MIN | 6-21 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 12 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | +9

Kemba is going to miss shots through the course of a game. A lot of them, typically. That being said, how much has this guy improved defensively in terms of defending gaps and gambling less into shooting passing lanes?

Speaking of defense, it’s what keeps the Bobcats in games late. Oh, and speaking of late in games – Kemba takeover time. It’s simply when this guy truly comes to life as a basketball player. He lives for hitting the big shot late in games. Talk about his inefficiency offensively all you want, but how many times has he come to the rescue for Charlotte this season when the game hangs in the balance? A lot.

Gerald Henderson, SG Shot Chart 33 MIN | 4-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +2

Hendo’s three trey balls tonight are really what gave the Bobcats legs when they appeared to be stumbling. Especially the one he hit late in the 4th quarter to tie the contest at 80.

Cody Zeller, C Shot Chart 19 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +6

Limited minutes with McBob back. No complaints here. Continues to become one of the best rebounders of all rookies, per minutes played.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart 31 MIN | 5-14 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +13

You can live with Neal on the offensively and die with him defensively. I have zero doubts that Clifford bites his lip every single defensive possession with GN in the game.

Neal continues to be versatile offensively with his ability to put the ball on the floor when defenders run at him hard, knowing how capable of a shooter he is.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG Shot Chart 21 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +7

I completely understand what Clifford means when he references what CDR does on the floor just makes sense.

Steve Clifford

Hats off. This team seems to just get better defensively as the season wears on. Can’t say enough about how connected they are defensively, how sharp the rotations are and how quickly they jump to protect gaps on dribble-penetration.

Four Things We Saw

  1. Charlotte built a 20-point first half lead and ultimately that’s what made the difference when you consider these facts: Bobcats scored 28 PITP to Washington’s 50. Bobcats shot 38% to Wiz 45%.
  2. Coming into tonight Washington was the second best in the NBA at 3P% at 38.6%. Tonight they were 1-15 (6.7%).
  3. The preview stated that “six means something”. Everyone see how hard Charlotte played tonight, especially defensively, and agree with that now? This team doesn’t care who they play in the post-season. They’re focused, have quality leadership, play to win + having a ton of fun. I don’t care who this team matches up with in the playoffs – they’re going to give that squad a serious run for their money.
  4. The Bobcats have clinched the tie-breaker with Washington – both teams are 40-38. If the season ended today Charlotte would be the 6th seed in the playoffs and matchup with Toronto.

Game #78: Bobcats @ Wizards — Six means something

Who: Washington Wizards vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Wizards Home Game

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Verizon Center, Washington D.C.

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Efficiency
Defensive
Efficiency
Pace
Washington 40-37 103.0 (17) 102.7 (12) 95.5 (18)
Charlotte 39-38 101.2 (22) 101.4 (6) 94.8 (21)

Injuries:

Washington: Nene Hilario (Questionable), Trevor Ariza (Probable)
Charlotte: Josh McRoberts (Probable), Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Wizards Bobcats
PG John Wall Kemba Walker
SG Bradley Beal Gerald Henderson
SF Trevor Ariza Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Trevor Booker Cody Zeller
C Marcin Gortat Al Jefferson
6th Man Martell Webster Gary Neal

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  • For starters, if you haven’t checked out any of these links centered around the Bobcats, they’re a must-see: Al Jefferson talks to Marc Stein on ESPN’s TrueHoop TV about everything centered around this season and how Charlotte has helped his career blossom. Over at Hardwood Paroxysm Scott Rafferty portrays the Bobcats as the renewed product that they are and what lies ahead for the franchise.
  • As for tonight, I don’t need to go into a ton of detail of why this is a huge game for both teams. A Charlotte win tonight seals the season series with the Wiz 3-1 and gives the Bobcats the tie-break with Washington with only four games to play.
  • Charlotte goes for their fifth straight win tonight while Washington seems to be simply trying to keep their head above water – they lost by 18 at home to Chicago on Saturday night and only scored 26 total points in the first half of that blowout loss.
  • Gerald Henderson was quoted saying that tonight’s game will be treated “like a playoff game” by the Bobcats.
  • You have to wonder just how much the locker room is focusing on the collapse that’s going on with the Pacers right now – wouldn’t anyone in Charlotte and Washington’s shoes rather play the Pacers currently? Maybe. Kemba Walker was on ESPN radio yesterday, and when asked how much he’s paying attention to Indiana lately — “not at all”.
  • Charlotte has created a locker room identity of confidence and a full focus on winning. That’s not going to change down the stretch regarding what’s going on elsewhere in the standings. If the Bobcats somehow run the table leading into the playoffs, let’s be honest here, does anybody want a part of these guys?
  • The Wizards like to live from behind-the-arc and they can be very effective from there – Washington actually only averages 20.8 3PA/game on the season (about middle of the pack), but they convert on 38.5% of 3-pointers and that’s good for second in the entire NBA. John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster have all been deadly from deep this season.
  • Washington may also get Nene Hilario back from injury tonight and that drastically changes the dynamic of how they space the floor. Nene is multi-tooled post scorer, and with likely four shooters spaced around him at all times – well, you do the math on how dangerous the Wiz could be offensively.
  • The Bobcats definitely want to win this game tonight, but I have to believe the Wizards are treating it as a must-win after the embarrassment Saturday night against Chicago. It would seem fitting that these two teams split the season series, so I’m going with Washington in a very competitive 98-95 game.