Score: 93-89 CLT
Charlotte Bobcats record: 28-29
Offensive Efficiency: 103.3
Defensive Efficiency: 100.0
Meritorious Player: Stephen Jackson, who led the Bobcats in scoring and rebounding (!) with 32 on 25 attempts and 11 boards. Jax also tied for the team lead with 2 steals, part of the Bobcats 9 takeaways on the night – which, again, were just part of the 20 turnovers the Bobcats forced (hence the title – the Bobcats forced the Grizz into handing over the ball and ultimately the game – cut me some slack – it is Friday and I am very tired).
No Nazr Mohammed, no Tyson Chandler, and no DeSagana Diop – just Theo Ratliff and Boris Diaw to slow down Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the post. Yes, I was a bit worried coming into this game about how that would play out. But the Bobcats proved me overanxious by holding a strong offensive squad to a measly point per possession for the game. How did they do it? Well, Zach got his, with 24 points on 15 attempts, but he also turned the ball over 4 times against the swarming (and poking and prodding and maybe even pushing) Bobcats – between the turnovers and 6 free throw attempts, Zach is not as far above a point a possession as it initially seemed. For Marc – he got his normal number of attempts, with 10, but hit just 3, scoring 6 and fouling as many times as he had points, banished from the contest after logging 31 minutes. Oh, and he had a couple of turnovers as well. Not that the big men were alone in gifting the ball to the Bobcats – as mentioned, Memphis had 20 miscues in the game – and in a game with just 89 possessions, that is significantly too many.
The Grizzlies other 2 big guns, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo combined for just 34 points on 27 attempts – so while Gerald Wallace did not have his best night offensively, he did help slow down a fairly dynamic wing. And Stephen Jackson was banging down 3s while stopping Mayo from matching him, as Mayo went just 2 of 8 from deep (good thing, as the rest of the team was 7-12 – if O.J. made just one more, it is an entirely different ballgame in the closing seconds). Watching the game as the Grizzlies commentators weighed in, I got to hear the opposition describe the Bobcats defense. And it basically sounded like I expected (paraphrased): “The Bobcats foul every trip down the court and dare the officials to call it. And even if they do call it, that works to their advantage as it slows the game down to the pace they want.” There is no denying the Bobcats hang their hat on their aggressive, physical defense (I feel compelled to describe it as such in virtually every post) – even their television commercials demonstrate it: Think about it, in that “Play the right way” spot where D.J. and Gerald strip the ball from Paul Pierce you could have called both Cats for fouls on the steal and that is a highlight Charlotte uses to sell tickets. And I love it. This is a tough group of guys and they battled tonight against a bigger opponent and fought out a win on the road. They may be on the outside of the playoffs right now but this was a good step in the right direction to correct that.
A couple of other notes before I close:
Tyrus Thomas was strong again – 13 points (on 6 of 7 shooting), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks in just 22 minutes of work. Oh, and a poster worthy dunk on Zach Randolph where Tyrus beat his man and climbed the ladder for a nasty throw down. Keep it up, Ty-Rise.
Aside from Thomas, the bench was nearly invisible in 24 minutes of combined action between Derrick Brown, D.J. Augustin, and Stephen Graham. This led to Gerald, Jax, and Boris Diaw all crossing the 40 minute mark again – Gerald and Boris are still somewhat young in age – but they have been in the league several years. And Jackson has been in the league longer – making the playoffs is the goal, but it would be good if they had something left for it as well.
Boris Diaw had another solid game with 18 points on 12 attempts and 5 rebounds. Yes, Zach scored 24 (largely on him), but he held his own for the most part and made Randolph work for them. And I still really like seeing Boris at the 5 with Tyrus at the 4. Let's see that a bit more going forward (I know it depends on matchups – but please, Larry – this is good tv).