Queen City Hoops

Game #74: Bobcats vs. Wizards — The must-win of must-wins

Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs Washington Wizards

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 38-35 100.8 (23) 101.8 (8) 94.9 (21)
Washington 35-38 102.9 (18) 102.7 (11) 95.7 (17)

Injuries:
Charlotte: Gary Neal (Probable), Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)
Washington: Trevor Ariza (Questionable)

Starting Lineups

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

—-

It’s still a long-shot, but Charlotte trails Washington by three games with eight remaining. I’m stating the obvious by testifying that the Bobcats must absolutely win this game tonight if they want even a shot to stay alive for the six seed – we’ll see the Wiz in D.C. again next Wednesday.

Recently, John Wall has done what we (and Marshawn Lynch) would call ‘put the team on his back’. Wall is averaging 23.2 PPG, 48% FG, 49.1% 3FG in the past ten games. Kemba will start on Wall, but it’s fair to presume that won’t last – what’s the approach to guarding JW and is it the key for a big time win against the Wiz tonight?

Spencer: Yeah, Clifford will have to show JW some different looks tonight. Kemba will start on him, but I’d guess that Hendo, CDR and MKG, if it gets real bad, will have a crack at it. I think the key to containing Wall is to keep him out of transition, which is one of the Bobcats strengths – they don’t send a ton of guys to the offensive glass in order to corral the opposition and force them to execute in the half-court. Clifford has shown the willingness to blitz dynamic PG’s with McBob while zoning the remaining frontcourt. If JW gets going tonight, it will be interesting to see if he elects for this approach again to get the ball out of Wall’s hands.

It sounds like the Wizards could be without Ariza tonight, which is big due to how important he is for their offensive output. Wall will take on that much more of a scoring role because of Ariza’s absence and probably elevate his offensive mindset – I think Charlotte has a chance to bait him into bad shots. Again, just don’t let the guy gets into the open floor + be sound in the PnR. If you’re Kemba, I’d say it’s his best bet to go under the screen and for the screener’s man to hedge out hard – this requires solid defensive rotation behind the PnR (show-and-recover).

If Ariza doesn’t play tonight, I like the Bobcats chances. If he does, I’ll take Washington.

Greg: Forcing Wall to take mid-range shots will probably be key — he shoots below average between the arc and the rim, and it’s where you want opponents taking shots anyway. The Bobcats’ defense encourages attempts from that area, so it’ll be interesting to see if Wall takes the bait. They’ll need to be especially careful from long range, as Wall’s three-point shooting has improved this year and he’s showing a lot of confidence in it.

Michael Kaskey-Blomain: The best way to throw John Wall off of his game is to play him physically and force him to settle for shots. Sure, that is easier said than done, but the Bobcats’ defense can do a good job of eliminating paint penetration, Wall’s most effective means of offense. If the ‘Cats throw a bigger body at Wall, someone like Hendo, and make it difficult for him to get into the paint they might have a shot to take him out of his comfort zone, and alter the Wizards’ offense attack entirely. Needless to say, this would be a big win for the Bobcats.

Bobcats and Basketball Links

I came across a few links this past week that I wanted to make sure people were aware of. That suffices for an intro.

Video discussion between Henry Abbott and David Thorpe about 3s – For reference, the Bobcats remain one of the worst in the league at defending the 3. Last season, Charlotte surrendered 38.8% shooting on threes, tying for league worst. This year, the Cats are allowing 37.7% on threes, which is 3rd worst. However, thanks to other defensive changes, Charlotte has moved from league worst in defensive efficiency a year ago (108.9 points per 100 possessions) to 9th in the league this year (101.8).

So the Bobcats have improved on defense, while still surrendering high percentage shooting on threes (and still giving up a lot of attempts as well). As such, this video doesn’t really apply to the Bobcats’ specific defensive philosophies, but still seemed interesting to me, so there you go.

The other link everyone should check out: Zach Lowe at Grantland writes about the Bobcats/Hornets rebuild/rebranding.

The Bobcats watched from afar while their aging, expensive playoff team maxed out as first-round roadkill, and they hired Rich Cho, once of the Sonics/Thunder, to take his own shot. They traded away almost every relevant veteran, held back in free agency, and went an unthinkable 28-120 combined over the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.

But they suffered the inverse of Oklahoma City’s lottery luck, falling backward in consecutive drawings, including a slide from pole position into the no. 2 slot in 2012 — a draft with one clear foundational superstar in Anthony Davis and a muck of unknowns after that. Close your eyes and you can still see Cho on television, taking the gut punch and wincing when the second-to-last envelope revealed the Charlotte logo.

Magic re-appear, steal game from Cats

Charlotte Bobcats 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
110 Orlando Magic
Josh McRoberts, PF 35 MIN | 8-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | -3

Huge scoring night for McRoberts on a night his three were falling. But all Charlotte big men will take some blame for Vucevic’s big game (who out-rebounded the Charlotte bigs by himself).

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF 28 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +18

A solid but standard-ish game for MKG.

Al Jefferson, C 42 MIN | 10-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +7

Good game overall, but quiet late, and the Vucevic issue.

Kemba Walker, PG 42 MIN | 8-25 FG | 6-7 FT | 5 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 24 PTS | +6

Too bad for Kemba that fga are tracked – it would have a been a great game otherwise. Still nice stat line with 8 assists and 5 boards, but scoring efficiency is still an issue for this team, and 17 misses is tough.

Gerald Henderson, SG 40 MIN | 7-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +1

I’ll let the coach cover: “A player made a mistake,” Clifford said. “Do what we’re supposed to do, and the game ends.”
-credit to The Charlotte Observer

Steve Clifford

Concern about Vucevic pre-game proved prescient, but ultimately unable to overcome: “I think the rebounding game will be a big part of tonight. You know, we’ve played them twice.
I think that’s one of the things (Nikola) Vucevic brings, size and offensive rebounding. You know, when they play (Kyle) O’Quinn also with him, you know, they are very big.” – thanks to Brendan Galella of ShatterTheGlass for the quote

Game #73: Bobcats @ Magic Preview — Navigate the speed-bumps

Who: Orlando Magic vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Magic Home Game

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Amway Arena, Orlando, FL

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Efficiency
Defensive
Efficiency
Pace
Orlando 20-52 99.1 (27) 104.4 (17) 96.2 (16)
Charlotte 35-37 100.8 (23) 101.8 (9) 94.9 (21)

Injuries:

Orlando:
Charlotte: Gary Neal (OUT), Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Magic Bobcats
PG Jameer Nelson Kemba Walker
SG Victor Oladipo Gerald Henderson
SF Arron Afflalo Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Maurice Harkless Josh McRoberts
C Nikola Vucevic Al Jefferson
6th Man Tobias Harris Gary Neal

Orlando was in full-blown tank mode, losers of nine straight games, until a win against reeling Portland on Tuesday night. Now the Bobcats come calling in what is most certainly a must-win game against a lesser opponent. Road game or not, Charlotte simply can afford to let the games vs. the cellar-dwellers go by the wayside if they want the sixth seed in the east.

  • Again, the Magic have lost nine of their last ten, and one stat that really sticks out for them during that stretch is that they’re getting to the foul line at an alarming low rate – only 17.3 (-3.6) FTA/game in the past ten. More-or-less, this says that Orlando is probably settling for a bevy of jumpers – good news for the Bobcats, who build a wall + stay connected defensively as good as any team in the league. Charlotte opponents only average 19.8 FTA/game on the season.
  • On the flip side of this free-throw discrepancy, the Bobcats haven’t been stellar as of late. Charlotte has only attempted 20.6 (-3.8) FTA/game in the past 15 games. Adding Gary Neal + the emergence of CDR definitely impact this stat, but Hendo, MKG and Kemba can’t follow in the three-trigger footsteps of the guys who are actually efficient at shooting the ball from deep – keep attacking the rim.
  • Matchup Issue: Not sure who’s going to check Tobias Harris (15.0 PPG) coming off the bench – I’d imagine that Harris would get pretty much wherever he wants against Zeller and can simply shoot over the top of CDR. It will be interesting to see how Clifford attack Harris defensively.
  • SIXTH SEED WATCH: Washington hosts Indiana tonight at 7pm, so be on the lookout for that – Charlotte can close the gap to 1/2 game tonight with a win + Wiz loss.
  • This is very likely going to be a tight game, but I like Charlotte to eek out a W tonight in Orlando simply because of the fact that I trust their defense late in games more. 103-100 Bobcats.

Bobcats clip the Nets in OT; Draw closer to Wizards in standings

Brooklyn Nets 111 Final
Recap | Box Score
116 Charlotte Bobcats
Josh McRoberts, PF Shot Chart 39 MIN | 5-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +14

He didn’t take one three-pointer tonight and I love it. Cutting off of the ball, keeping balls alive on the offensive glass and attacking the rim when he did look to score. Overall, I’d say this was pretty close to an ideal game for McBob.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Shot Chart 27 MIN | 2-5 FG | 3-5 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +10

Good game for the hardest working guy on the floor. Defensively, MKG did a good job on Joe Johnson when he drew that assignment. Clifford actually elected to start MKG on Deron Williams in the second half and it got Williams out of the gate slowly after pouring in 20 in the first half.

Al Jefferson, C Shot Chart 41 MIN | 15-27 FG | 5-7 FT | 15 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 35 PTS | +3

How could he get anything else but an A+ for this effort? He’s unflappable. As unstoppable as Big Al is, the Bobcats did a great job as a team tonight of moving the ball quickly when the double came to Jefferson.

Ultimately, this team will only go as far as Jefferson decides to take them – I have a feeling that he’s bringing a few post-season wins to the QC. If Charlotte can catch the Wizards, maybe even a playoff series victory.

Kemba Walker, PG Shot Chart 45 MIN | 8-21 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 12 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | +8

Cardiac Kemba. He loves having the ball in close games, with the shot clock running down and when the defense thinks they’ve got that big stop they needed. He was only 2-8 in the final quarter for 5 points, but the two FG’s he hit were enormous shots that saved the momentum for Charlotte.

Obviously, the 12 assists bring a huge grin to my face.

Gerald Henderson, SG Shot Chart 37 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-2 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | +9

Struggled shooting the ball, but made some hustle plays and made some sweet dimes when trapped on corner PnR’s.

Cody Zeller, C Shot Chart 14 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -9

Great energy. Zeller is really starting to develop an NBA skill on the glass. Especially on the offensive glass. Cody and McBob both are above average with the activity on the offensive glass and it really aided the Bobcats 15 offensive boards tonight – keeping balls alive.

Zeller got fouled hard by Jorge Gutierrez in the 3rd quarter. It was called a flagrant 2 and Gutierrez was tossed from the game.

Luke Ridnour, PG Shot Chart 17 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -6

Big time offensive production off of the bench in Neal’s absence.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG Shot Chart 27 MIN | 6-14 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | -7

CDR is a legit NBA player now. On a ton of teams. He’s developed a very dependable three-point jumper and his scouting report has completely changed with the way he’s played while wearing a Bobcats jersey. The combo of CDR and Neal off the bench in the post-season will be fun – he’s going to play a very important role for this team for the rest of the season.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart DNP SPRAINED LEFT ANKLE MIN | FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS |

Neal is apparently dealing with ankle and knee issues. Clifford wasn’t sure exactly how long Neal is going to be out before the game, but stated that they weren’t going to rush it. Simply waiting until Neal is ready.

Steve Clifford

This Brooklyn team is tough to guard. They don’t run many incredible sets, but there are few teams that can spread you out and just play dribble-drive, kick like the Nets in the eastern conference. I thought that Clifford did a nice job of adjusting the defensive wall throughout the night in order to give the guys a chance to recover to shooters.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Charlotte hit a ridiculous amount of huge/tough shots in the 4th quarter + OT. Kemba with a few shot clock savers, CDR with two three’s in 4th/OT and Cody Zeller. Yes, Cody Zeller, with all 6 of his points in the 4th when the Bobcats absolutely had to have it.
  2. The Bobcats 15 offensive rebounds and 17 second chance points pretty much broke Brooklyn’s back in the end. On the contrary, the Nets only managed 3 offensive rebounds tonight.
  3. The Bobcats pursuit of the 6th seed is very much alive. Washington lost tonight to Phoenix at home and Charlotte is now only 1 1/2 game back of the Wiz. Check this out: Bobcats have 10 games remaining – only 4 of those games will come against current playoff teams (all eastern conference) – two of those are against the Wizards. If Charlotte can find a way to win both of those game then the #6 seed and a date with Toronto in the first round is happening.

Game #72: Bobcats vs. Nets Preview — The Homestretch

Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs. Brooklyn Nets

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 34-37 100.5 (23) 101.6 (8) 95.0 (21)
Brooklyn 37-32 103.9 (14) 104.1 (15) 93.8 (26)

Injuries:
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)
Brooklyn: Andrei Kirilenko (OUT), Kevin Garnett (OUT), Brook Lopez (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Bobcats Nets
PG Kemba Walker Deron Williams
SG Gerald Henderson Shaun Livingston
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Joe Johnson
PF Josh McRoberts Paul Pierce
C Al Jefferson Mason Plumlee
6th Man Gary Neal Andray Blatche

The Bobcats now trail their opponent tonight, Brooklyn, by four games in the standings. Ultimately,  it’s probably unrealistic to think we can catch the Nets with only eleven games left to play. That being said, a win tonight at home would split the season series with Brooklyn + keep Atlanta at bay, which now only trails Charlotte by two games for the 7th seed.

The Bobcats chances to catch Washington for the 6th seed are slim, but possible, considering the fact that the two teams play each other two more times before season’s end.

Digest all this and give us some thoughts on what tonight’s game means + how the Bobcats overcome a Brooklyn bunch who has been one of the better teams since the all-star break.

Spencer: First and foremost, if you haven’t already, read Zach Lowe’s article about how Rich Cho and the front-office have re-constructed this team from yesterday. Awesome perspective – points out the pros & cons of winning now, signing Jefferson to an expensive three-year deal, profits the franchise have seen + will see in future, etc.

Now, to tonight’s game and what comes for the Bobcats in the next few weeks. Every game is important from here-on-out. 1) It should still be priority #1 to catch Washington for the sixth seed. 2) Even if the Bobcats end up getting Miami in round-one, you have to enter that series with something that resembles momentum to have any chance at not being swept. I think this is important to Bobcat fans at this stage of the season.

As Brooklyn did last week with the small-ball lineup, they’re going to give the Bobcats some matchup problems. Basically, with the Nets going Pierce + Johnson at 3-4, it puts McBob on somewhat of an island – hard to expect for him to do a great job on either one of those guys.

Al Jefferson is going to play a major role tonight, as always, in order to get the Bobcats flowing on offense. Now, Jefferson can carry this team for the most part, but if the ball gets ‘sticky’ and guys don’t cut off the ball, as it’s been lately, Charlotte will struggle no matter who they’re playing. Clifford needs to address this point now, and I’m confident he will. Kemba & Jefferson are really the only guys on this roster who can simply go get buckets in one-on-one situations – the rest of the team needs to cut to open spots to manufacture some easy points and simply make the game easier.

I like the Bobcats to rebound tonight at home and split the season series with Brooklyn. 102-98 Charlotte.

Michael Kaskey-Blomain: Tonight’s battle with Brooklyn is a big one for the Bobcats. As stated, their chances of catching the Nets, who have been one of the league’s better teams since the start of the new year, are slim, but it would be good for their confidence to split the series with Brooklyn. Also, although it would be tough, catching the Wizards for that six spot is not completely out of the picture, and each win helps. The sixth seed would allow Charlotte to skip a first-round showdown with Miami, or Indiana.

If the Bobcats want to win tonight, they need to limit Brooklyn’s perimeter attack, and produce from the paint. If the wing guys can limit Paul Pierce’s and Joe Johnson’s production, the Nets will struggle to score. On the other end, they should feed Big Al early and often, and let him set the tone offensively for the team.

A win tonight would be important for several reasons, namely keeping pace with the Wizards, who have a 2.5 game lead over Charlotte, and keeping Atlanda at bay.

Houston Rockets 100, Charlotte Bobcats 89: Do Not Pass

Houston Rockets 100 FinalRecap | Box Score 89 Charlotte Bobcats
Josh McRoberts, PF 34 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | -3

Josh was more aggressive than usual, working off the dribble and pressuring his defenders. He struggled a bit on the other side of the ball, though, allowing Terrence Jones to rack up 12 first-half points.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF 24 MIN | 1-4 FG | 4-5 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +3

MKG did a very good job of defending James Harden, especially in denying him the ball. Unfortunately, it took until the end of the second quarter for Clifford to switch him onto Harden, and Kidd-Gilchrist rode the pine in the fourth. I don’t necessarily think it would have changed the game, but it’s worth mentioning.

Al Jefferson, C 42 MIN | 8-17 FG | 4-6 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | -5

It took a while for Jefferson to find his groove, with just three points in the first quarter, but he eventually scraped together a solid offensive performance. He did a credible job on defense as well, helping hold Dwight Howard to just 10 points on the night.

Kemba Walker, PG 39 MIN | 7-19 FG | 6-6 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 22 PTS | 0

Kemba bailed out the offense multiple times when it sputtered, and he had an easier time getting to the rim tonight than in recent games. Unfortunately, ball movement can stagnate when when Walker takes on more of a scoring load, and that was the case tonight. The team’s 12 assists were nearly a season low: the only game worse was an 11-assist effort against the Mavs way back on Dec. 3. The offense has come a long way since then, but they were scrapping for everything they could get tonight.

Gerald Henderson, SG 31 MIN | 5-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -4

This was another case of Henderson peaking early, as all 13 of his points came in the first half. It was a bad night for his recently hot three-point stroke to regress to the mean, too.

Cody Zeller, C 14 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -8

Zeller’s carved out a nice little niche recently, hitting the offensive boards hard and logging some easy points of putbacks and tip-ins. That seems to fit his skillset a lot better than settling for mid-range attempts, as he can use his speed and athleticism to create some efficient offense for himself. Getting closer to the basket opens up more opportunities to draw fouls, too, which was his elite skill in college.

Bismack Biyombo, C 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -6

Five rebounds were nice in short minutes for Biyombo tonight.

Luke Ridnour, PG 9 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -11

Ridnour got yanked from the floor pretty quickly as it became clear Charlotte needed Kemba’s scoring to stay in the game. Luke didn’t do much to distinguish himself in his nine minutes.

Gary Neal, SG 15 MIN | 0-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -7

Neal was due for a less-than-stellar offensive night, and this one definitely qualifies. 0-for-8 would be bad enough, but the defense fell apart in his minutes as well. Hopefully he got all those misses out of his system.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG 26 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -14

CDR’s effort on defense is admirable, and he had a little variety in his statline tonight. But the real value he brings over Kidd-Gilchrist is his three-point shooting, and that was missing.

One Thing We Saw

  1. This would have been a nice win, but Charlotte was just outclassed by Houston. Good job, good effort, on to the next one.

Game #71: Bobcats vs. Rockets Preview

Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs Houston Rockets

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 34-36 100.6 (23) 101.4 (6) 95.1 (21)
Houston 47-22 108.5 (4) 102.5 (10) 98.3 (7)

Injuries:
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)
Houston: Dwight Howard (Questionable), Greg Smith (OUT), Francisco Garcia (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Bobcats Rockets
PG Kemba Walker Patrick Beverley
SG Gerald Henderson James Harden
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Chandler Parsons
PF Josh McRoberts Terrence Jones
C Al Jefferson Omer Asik
6th Man Gary Neal Jeremy Lin

The Rockets have followed up their three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak and appear to be back on track – in their past five games Houston is firing threes from all over the floor – to a tune of 29.4 3FGA/game, making 11/game (37.4%) in this five-game stretch.

Guarding the three-point line will obviously be extremely important in slowing down a potent Rockets offense tonight and Charlotte did a great job against another dangerous three-point shooting team, Portland, on Saturday night – 9-of-27 (33%).

How were the Bobcats successful against Portland defensively on Saturday night and is the model for keeping Houston at bay exactly the same?

Spencer: Controlling dribble-penetration is very important against any team that can really spread the floor and shoot it. Charlotte did a nice job of corralling Damian Lilliard on Saturday, but Houston is a little bit of a different animal. Patrick Beverley, one of the quicker guards in the league. James Harden, a guy who is better at getting to whatever spot he wants on the floor than anyone else in the association. Jeremy Lin, well, LINSANITY! Point is, Charlotte has their work cut out for them to keep the basketball in front tonight – I really think it’s the key to having an impressive defensive performance.

I just want to touch on the opportunity that the Bobcats have tonight – back-to-back wins over Portland and Houston would not only send a message to the upper-tier of the eastern conference, but also give the team the momentum they need going into a huge matchup with Brooklyn on Wednesday.

The Rockets could be without D12 for the fourth straight game and this would certainly open the flood gates up for Jefferson. I like the Bobcats to keep the momentum going tonight — 105-102 Charlotte.

Greg: The Blazers took about as many threes on Saturday as they usually do (27 vs. an average of 25.1 on the season), but Charlotte was able to make the looks more difficult. The Bobcats successfully cramped Portland’s ball movement, keeping them significantly below their season average in assists and forcing a larger percentage of their threes to come off the dribble. If they can do the same against the Rockets, it couldn’t hurt: more of their three-pointers are assisted than Portland, and restricting passes is always a plus.

Brooklyn Nets 104, Charlotte Bobcats 99: Bobcats come up just short

Charlotte Bobcats 99 FinalRecap | Box Score 104 Brooklyn Nets
Josh McRoberts, PF Shot Chart 31 MIN | 3-5 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +4

A good passing night from McRoberts, as he put together one of his trademark box scores. His late airball three with the game on the line leaves a sour taste in the mouth, though.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Shot Chart 19 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | -4

MKG has been crushing the offensive boards lately, and he helped generate some second-chance points and easy scoring opportunities again tonight. His defensive rotations were a little off tonight, but he gave just enough on offense to help balance that out.

Al Jefferson, C Shot Chart 37 MIN | 8-19 FG | 2-3 FT | 12 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 18 PTS | -8

Jefferson’s been on fire the last few months, but he’s cooling off (just a bit) at an unfortunate time: This was the first time he’s had less than 20 points in consecutive games since Jan. 10.

Kemba Walker, PG Shot Chart 34 MIN | 2-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 7 PTS | -8

Kemba’s has seemed allergic to the paint recently, and just one of his attempts tonight came within 20 feet. A lot of that has to do with the solid defense from Brooklyn, but settling for long jumpers still hurts. On the plus side, Walker’s passing has been sharp, as he’s averaging 7.7 assists over the last 10 games.

Gerald Henderson, SG Shot Chart 28 MIN | 6-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -1

Mediocre offensively, good on defense, hustled for boards and struggled from long range. Gerald’s year in bite-size form.

Cody Zeller, C Shot Chart 17 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -9

This might have been Zeller’s most impressive game, at least as far as the highlight reel. Eight of his 10 points came on his points came on emphatic dunks, including a sweet alley-oop from Chris Douglas-Roberts and a putback slam. In the long term, Zeller will still need to develop his jumpshot, but his recent focus near the basket has helped his productivity.

Bismack Biyombo, C Shot Chart 11 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +3

The rebounds are nice, his three fouls less so. It was an issue for the whole team tonight, as the Nets went to the stripe 35 times compared to 12 for the Bobcats. The team is typically very good at avoiding fouls, and with the margin for error so thin, it more or less lost them the game.

Luke Ridnour, PG Shot Chart 14 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +3

He didn’t score much, but he kept things lively and avoided any turnovers tonight. It’s what the team needs from him, especially with Gary Neal and Chris Douglas-Roberts providing excellent bench offense.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart 27 MIN | 5-9 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | -9

Neal has been throwing flames since he got to Charlotte, scoring 13 points a game on 48 percent shooting, 53 percent from three and 97 percent from the line. Clifford trusts Neal enough to play him down the stretch, and that nearly paid off tonight. 12 of Neal’s 17 points came in the final quarter, on 3-of-5 shooting from downtown.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG Shot Chart 22 MIN | 5-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +4

CDR has been a nice spark off the bench, especially with his three-point shooting. It’s unfortunate that Anthony Tolliver has mostly been squeezed out as a result, but Douglas-Roberts brings more versatile, dynamic play on offense and some needed speed on defense.

One Thing We Saw

  1. A loss is disappointing, but the effort wasn’t. On the road, playing their third game in four nights against an evenly matched opponent, the Bobcats took the Nets to the very brink. They’ll get a shot at revenge next Wednesday.

Game #69: Bobcats @ Nets – Sixth seed still in sight; Must-win tonight? NEW PODCATS TOO!

Who: Brooklyn Nets vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Nets Home Game

When: 7:30 PM ET

Where: Live at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Efficiency
Defensive
Efficiency
Pace
Brooklyn 34-31 103.4 (15) 103.9 (14) 94.0 (26)
Charlotte 33-35 100.1 (24) 101.3 (6) 95.2 (21)

Injuries:
Brooklyn: Kevin Garnett (OUT), Brook Lopez (OUT)
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Nets Bobcats
PG Deron Williams Kemba Walker
SG Shaun Livingston Gerald Henderson
SF Joe Johnson Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Paul Pierce Josh McRoberts
C Mason Plumlee Al Jefferson
6th Man Andray Blatche Gary Neal

The Bobcats suffered a tough loss to the Hawks at home on Monday night, but short memory is now key. Tonight is a very important game if Charlotte realistically wants a chance to escape the seventh and eighth seeds (AKA: stuck playing Indiana or Miami) in the east. Not only that, but after the Hawks win at home last night against Toronto, Atlanta is now just one-game behind Charlotte for the seventh seed.

Last night, Doug Branson, Peter Haley and myself discussed the Bobcats chances of getting to the sixth seed and what tonight’s game means in order for that to happen. LISTEN to last night’s show here.

We’re going to tackle one burning question for today’s preview:

Charlotte has an enormous game in Brooklyn tonight if they want to stay alive in the race for the sixth seed in the eastern conference. So, that being said, does it make tonight’s game a must-win?

Spencer: Brooklyn has been a way different team since the all-star break – in the past 20 games Brooklyn is 14-6 overall. The Nets have been better offensively in the past 20 – 104.2 offensive efficiency (+0.8 season avg.), but the real difference has come on the defensive end – 100.6 defensive efficiency (-3.3 season avg.). This is a veteran centric Brooklyn team, so their improvement on the defensive end basically just tells me that these guys decided to start playing harder.

Tonight is a very important game for the Bobcats. As far as a must-win? I think it all depends on what you really believe this teams ceiling is – if you think they’re better than the Nets and deserve the sixth seed, then yes, it’s a must-win. I don’t personally believe the Bobcats are as dangerous in the post-season as Brooklyn is and will ultimately end up with the seventh seed, facing off with Miami in round-one. So, no, I don’t think tonight is a must-win. However, the teams performance must be improved from Monday night – that was kind of pathetic.

Greg: If they’d won against Atlanta, there would probably be a little less pressure. At this point, they need to win consistently just to maintain their current spot at seventh in the playoff rankings. Tonight’s game should be very interesting, as it’s a great dry run for the playoffs: on the road, against a good, veteran opponent, with seeding on the line. Another dud like Monday’s loss would be pretty discouraging.

Michael: Tonight’s game against Brooklyn is basically a must-win for Charlotte. If they want to enter the playoffs and match up with someone other than Miami or Indiana, then they need to hold onto the sixth seed. The Nets have been playing some of the best basketball since January 1st, and are looking to continue to build momentum. A steady dose of Al Jefferson early and often should keep Brooklyn busy and give Charlotte a shot. So while a loss wouldn’t end their season, a win is very important for playoff positioning.