Queen City Hoops

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.

Bobcats lose 11th straight to Hawks

Atlanta Hawks 97 Final
Recap | Box Score
83 Charlotte Bobcats
Josh McRoberts, PF Shot Chart 27 MIN | 2-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -16

Atlanta made it clear that they were going to play off of McBob and pay more attention to denying post-entries to Jefferson. Like, they played way off of McBob. Is it a bit of an outlier that he was this bad from the floor tonight? Sure. That being said, teams are going to continue to keep this approach when guarding Charlotte. The effectiveness of McBob shooting the ball for the remainder of the season is an underlying storyline to just how far the Bobcats will go.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Shot Chart 21 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -3

Kept balls alive tonight off of the glass and did a decent job with Kyle Korver, other than the 3rd quarter. Got to make your free throws MKG.

Al Jefferson, C Shot Chart 39 MIN | 6-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 12 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | -13

Antic and Brand did a very nice job against Jefferson in this game. Both guys were extremely physical with him, not allowing Big Al to get where he wanted around the basket, and also stayed on their feet when Jefferson shot faked. As I mentioned earlier, the Hawks sagged so far off of McBob with Millsap that they took away the post-entry angles from Charlotte. Point being, Jefferson really didn’t get a ton of touches tonight.

Kemba Walker, PG Shot Chart 33 MIN | 7-18 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | -16

Really the only Bobcat who had it going tonight. Very good shooting the ball from distance. Kemba played with a pep in his step tonight. Does anyone think he knows it’s March?

Gerald Henderson, SG Shot Chart 29 MIN | 5-12 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | -5

This is a solid stat line for Hendo. It would have been even better if Jefferson would’ve produced what we’ve become accustomed to from him, but again, props to Atlanta for their scheme.

Anthony Tolliver, PF Shot Chart 11 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -3

Needs to find the stroke again. Minutes are dwindling.

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

Struggled, but had an awesome and-1 in the first half — running the floor like a deer and being rewarded by CDR.

Bismack Biyombo, C Shot Chart 8 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | +1

The Bobcats had 7 turnovers as a team and Biz was responsible for 2 of them. Also, he picked up 3 fouls in just shy of 8 minutes played. You be the judge.

Luke Ridnour, PG Shot Chart 15 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 3 PTS | +2

Good minutes from Ridnour tonight. Love the corner 3 that he hit and this is a major way that he can add value while on the floor. Spacing.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart 28 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -9

Neal was forcing everything tonight. Not sharing the ball, constantly looking for his shot (which is fine when every shot isn’t a bad one) and he was in a pouty mood. Not my favorite performance from Neal to say the least.

One Thing We Saw

  1. Short memory will be important here – HUGE GAME in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

Charlotte Bobcats 101, Milwaukee Bucks 92: Sunday Hangover

Charlotte Bobcats 101 FinalRecap | Box Score 92 Milwaukee Bucks
Josh McRoberts, PF 32 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +13

A typically well-rounded game from McRoberts. He scored all nine of his points on treys, bouncing back nicely from Friday’s 0-for-6 performance from long range.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF 27 MIN | 4-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | +13

Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t get any fourth-quarter minutes, as Steve Clifford opted to play Gary Neal and Gerald Henderson down the stretch, but he was effective when he was on the floor. He’s been more aggressive on the offensive end recently, seeing an uptick in both his scoring and offensive rebounding.

Al Jefferson, C 37 MIN | 10-17 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 6 TO | 20 PTS | +8

Jefferson ended up having a nice game after struggling early — the Bucks held him to just four points in the opening half, and harassed him into six turnovers total. Al kept grinding, though, scoring 10 points in the third quarter and helping Charlotte reclaim the game.

Kemba Walker, PG 31 MIN | 7-13 FG | 5-6 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | +13

Kemba didn’t attempt a shot at the rim, but that doesn’t matter when your jumper is falling. He needed a game like this after a few recent clunkers. The defense was less impressive, though, as Milwuakee’s point guards combined for 39 points.

Gerald Henderson, SG 31 MIN | 6-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +18

An excellent overall game from Henderson, as he stuffed the stat sheet and scored a very efficient 14 points on seven shots. He made several big hustle plays down the stretch, including a tough rebound in traffic that sealed the win.

Cody Zeller, C 16 MIN | 1-1 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -4

It was a quieter game for Zeller, but you can still see the growth he’s made. Even when he isn’t scoring, he looks noticeably more confident and assertive. His improved rebounding has been especially welcome.

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

Biyombo had some nice flashes on offense, hitting a baseline jumper and shaking off a defender for a bucket in the post. There were a few awkward moments when he ended up with the ball late in the shot clock (see below), but on the whole he was steady.

Luke Ridnour, PG 17 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -4

Zero turnovers was nice to see, but Ridnour still needs to learn the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Dumping the ball to Biyombo with five seconds left on the shot clock isn’t going to work, and he’s done that a little too often.

Gary Neal, SG 25 MIN | 5-6 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | -1

Neal is here to score, and he was nearly perfect in today’s game. 18 points on six shots, including a late dagger three that blew the game open, was a great way to make his return to Milwaukee.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG 13 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -12

A bit of a comedown after his good game on Friday, but he should hopefully find a little more consistency as he gets more time.

One Thing We Saw

  1. This was a weird game in general, with the Bobcats trailing for most of play despite shooting 57 percent from the floor. An uncharacteristic 17 turnovers hurt them a lot, as did Milwaukee’s 15 offensive rebounds. The Bucks had 21 more field-goal attempts than Charlotte did; they’re lucky to get out of this one with a win.

Charlotte Bobcats 105, Minnesota Timberwolves 93: Depth Charge

Minnesota Timberwolves 93 FinalRecap | Box Score 105 Charlotte Bobcats
Josh McRoberts, PF 27 MIN | 3-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +14

McRoberts was 0-for-6 from three, and most of those were wide open. His passing keeps things fluid, though, especially since coach Steve Clifford has been giving him more minutes with the second unit. McRoberts’ ballhandling there keeps the offense churning without Kemba Walker and puts less pressure on the turnover-prone Luke Ridnour.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF 25 MIN | 4-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -1

MKG was pleasantly aggressive in the first quarter, scoring six points on 3-of-3 shooting and grabbing four rebounds. His rebounding was a positive all night, especially his four offensive boards, and he helped Charlotte carve out a 54-35 rebound advantage.

Al Jefferson, C 38 MIN | 12-26 FG | 1-1 FT | 16 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 25 PTS | 0

Jefferson got his, even if it wasn’t the most efficient game. That was partially due to the refs swallowing their whistles as he fought through double- and triple-teams; Al only attempted one free throw. The team basically expects Jefferson to be excellent on a nightly basis, and he doesn’t disappoint often.

Kemba Walker, PG 34 MIN | 3-12 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 7 PTS | -1

March hasn’t been kind to Kemba. He’s averaging 13.8 points a game on just 34.7 percent from the field, and his three-point shooting has cratered to 22.7 percent. On the plus side, his assists are up (7.4 per game) and the team is winning (5-3). If he can find his stroke, the Bobcats could be very dangerous down the stretch.

Gerald Henderson, SG 25 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +3

Henderson faded after exploding for eight points in five first quarter minutes, but the team has suddenly found itself with an embarrassment of riches on the wing. His shooting, rebounding and defense were all on point in his more limited time.

Cody Zeller, C 21 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -2

Zeller didn’t exactly stretch the floor, with all five of his makes coming at the rim, but he did a very good job rebounding, running the floor and getting open looks. Three assists isn’t shabby, either. Zeller has been a dependable piece off the bench in the past 10 games, averaging eight points on 53 percent shooting and grabbing 5.4 rebounds in just 18 minutes a game.

Bismack Biyombo, C 10 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +12

Nothing flashy from Biz, but he helped clamp down the Timberwolves offense during a second-quarter run that blew the game open. Especially nice was a fingertip block on a Kevin Love fadeaway that really showed off his wingspan.

Luke Ridnour, PG 14 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | +13

The counting stats all look good, at least, but Ridnour plays out of control in a scary way. The team could use a steady ballhandler off the bench, and three turnovers in 14 minutes is too many.

Gary Neal, SG 25 MIN | 6-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 19 PTS | +11

Gary Neal was seemingly possessed by the ghost of Ben Gordon tonight (the good Ben Gordon). He started out by machine-gunning Minnesota for 16 points in the first half, and his four assists were the cherry on top.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG 21 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | +11

CDR’s been terrific in his recent stretch, helping push the pace and playing solid defense. The team suddenly has more wing players than it knows what to do with, but Clifford did an excellent job managing the rotations: Douglas-Roberts, Neal, Henderson and Kidd-Gilchrist all got at least 20 minutes, and all contributed in significant ways that played to their strengths.

Anthony Tolliver, PF DNP COACH’S DECISION

Unfortunately, that squeezed out Anthony Tolliver. Clifford has said he’ll play matchups and give minutes to the players that earn them, and it’s hard to argue against AT’s DNP-CD. He’ll be back.

Steve Clifford

This was touched on above, but the team’s rotations have been terrific recently. Chris Douglas-Roberts is playing with confidence, and Clifford seems content to let that ride as long as it’s working. Meanwhile, his tinkering with the second-unit lineups paid off tonight.