Queen City Hoops

Game #61: Bobcats vs. Pacers 3-on-3 Preview

Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs Indiana Pacers

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 27-33 99.3 (25) 101.6 (7) 95.3 (21)
Indiana 46-14 102.7 (18) 94.5 (1) 96.1 (16)

 

Injuries:
Charlotte: Gerald Henderson (DTD), Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)
Indiana:

Starting Lineups

Bobcats Pacers
PG Kemba Walker George Hill
SG Gerald Henderson Lance Stephenson
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Paul George
PF Josh McRoberts David West
C Al Jefferson Roy Hibbert
6th Man Gary Neal Evan Turner

3-on-3 TrueHoop Network 1- The Bobcats last two opponents, although OKC & Miami, have scored 115+ points. Charlotte gets the east best, Indiana, tonight. The Pacers have won five of six and also put 100+ points in four of those games. What has to happen for the Bobcats to shore up things on the defensive end tonight against another league heavyweight?

Spencer: Getting back to playing as a unit defensively. Charlotte has been lit up on individual performances in the past few – Westbrook, Durant and Lebron. Tonight they’ll have to find a way to contain Paul George and it may come to bringing an extra defender for Clifford – not something he believes in doing, but elite individual offense beats elite individual defense just about every time in this league. Sometimes you have to be willing to adjust the scheme in respect of elite talent – it’s what Charlotte has elected not to do in the past two games vs. OKC and Miami.

Greg: I hope they got a good night’s rest. Charlotte actually started strong against the Heat on Monday, leading at the end of the first quarter and keeping things close at halftime, but they pretty clearly ran out of gas (and Lebron went supernova).

Tactically, it’s obviously a tough matchup. The Pacers are very good from mid-range, which puts them in good position to break some of the Bobcats’ defensive schemes. One area they do have a slight advantage is on free throws; the Pacers draw freebies at an average rate but do a very good job of converting them, while the Bobcats very rarely foul on defense. Taking away those free points will help, but the Bobcats still need a very strong offensive performance to compete.

Michael: The Bobcats need to lock down Indiana’s perimeter players. Jefferson and McRoberts will have their hands full with Hibbert and West, but if Charlotte wants to get a victory tonight they need to limit the offensive output of Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and Evan Turner.

Henderson and MK-G will have to put up a great effort on the defensive end, but if the can limit the Pacers’ point production, they should have a shot at a W.

2- Through three games, what’s your assessment of Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour? Pretty much what you thought, or will these two help/hurt the team in ways that were unforeseen prior to them stepping on the floor?

Spencer: Both have been what I expected up to this point.

Ridnour has been a little bit more careless with the ball than I expected through three games — 5 assists and 5 turnovers.

Neal gives the Bobcats rotation flexibility and spacing, as we all expected. He’s also a better ball-handler than most realized, I think, and does look to attack the rim knowing that teams have his shooting prowess scouted well. More versatile offensive player than advertised, probably.

Greg: About what I expected — Ridnour isn’t going to create much for you, but he’s been OK in limited minutes. He’s turned the ball over a little too much, but 40 minutes is too small of a sample to judge him on there.

Neal seems promising, especially if he can shore up his defense. He’s as good a shooter as advertised, but he’s also willing to put the ball on the floor and create. That hasn’t worked out as well, but he seems like he’ll be an aggressive offensive spark off the bench. Henderson’s defense, rebounding and size make him a better fit with the starting unit, but Neal at least gives them other options.

Michael: The Bobcats have gotten about what I expected out of their new acquisitions. Ridnour can provide some decent point play in small stretches, but his worth doesn’t go much further than that.

Gary Neal has been a little underwhelming so far, but he has shown signs of why the Bobcats wanted him. He spaces the floor and is a decent defender. Hopefully he gets slightly more accustomed to the team and his new role for the playoff push.

3- Two-part question: 1) Is this a must win for the Bobcats even though it’s against, technically, the best team in the NBA? 2) Who ya got?

Spencer: 1) I don’t quite believe it’s a must win, but from a psyche standpoint, I firmly believe that the Bobcats must play well tonight. Jefferson is doing all that he can through this tough stretch, but it’s time for Kemba to wake back up. This team hasn’t attained the success they have this season because they’re drastically inferior to the NBA’s best – tonight is an opportunity to open people’s eyes back up to that.

2) Indiana. They currently have the best record in the league and I do believe they’re the best team, with the most depth, on both ends of the floor.

Greg: 1. Not really. Despite the last three losses, they haven’t given up much ground in the playoff chase, and their schedule to close out the season is relatively easy. They should be able to bounce back. I think February’s four-game winning streak put people’s expectations out of whack; Charlotte’s barely sniffed .500 this year, and expecting them to beat both a top team and the schedule is a tall order. It’s OK if they drop this one.

2. The Pacers. They’re really good.

Michael: I wouldn’t say that this is a must-win for Charlotte, but it could certainly be seen as a statement game. The Bobcats aren’t necessarily expected to win, and a W could send a message to other teams in the East.

A loss wouldn’t be devastating, but three straight losses to the NBA’s top teams doesn’t generate a whole lot of fear or respect from the other awards they might be facing come playoff time.

Although I expect the Bobcats to keep it close, as they have been able to do, at least early on, in the end I expect the Pacers to pull it out. They just have too many offensive options and a dominant defense to match.

Thunder pull away from Bobcats in 4th

Charlotte Bobcats 99 Final
Recap | Box Score
116 Oklahoma City Thunder
Josh McRoberts, PF Shot Chart 29 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -17

McBob’s second straight disappointing game from a scoring perspective and he’s now just 2-14 in the past four games from behind-the-arc. He still continues to be productive in the other areas we expect from McBob – he’s a high IQ player – always looking to exploit advantage that his team has on the offensive end. Hence, McBob being such a good passer.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Shot Chart 20 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | -10

He was always setup to have a poor game due to the fact that he drew the assignment of guarding KD, but look at this stat line – what am I supposed to say? Not to mention that the two shots he did take equaled one air-ball + a mid-range jumper that barely brushed the rim.

Al Jefferson, C Shot Chart 36 MIN | 10-16 FG | 5-8 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 25 PTS | -15

This is the game we’ve all pretty much come to expect from Jefferson. Steven Adams + Hasheem Thabeet never really had a chance at containing him tonight, though.

Kemba Walker, PG Shot Chart 33 MIN | 3-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | -18

Kemba finishes 6-28 (21.5%) from the floor in the Bobcats two big road games against the west bests (SAS, OKC). Inconsistency, to me, still continues to be Kemba’s achilles heel – after a 31-point, 8 rebound, 5 assist outburst vs. Memphis at home, and then these last two.

Gerald Henderson, SG Shot Chart 28 MIN | 2-7 FG | 5-7 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -17

Took some bad shots in the second half tonight in what seemed to be quality offensive possessions that deserved better – that’s what good defensive teams do, though, and OKC is there on-the-catch in most instances defensively. Hendo probably deserved an assist or two tonight due to looking for Tolliver in the corner when he did force the action to the rim.

Anthony Tolliver, PF Shot Chart 25 MIN | 5-12 FG | 3-3 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | +4

Came in and gave Charlotte a very nice offensive burst in the first half, but couldn’t keep the stroke going in the second (1-5 3FG). About all you can ask from a guy who has to come in and score + guard KD when he’s on the floor. Toll – 11 three’s is probably a tad ambitious. Just saying.

Cody Zeller, C Shot Chart 19 MIN | 2-3 FG | 6-7 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | 0

Liking what I’ve seen from Z in the past few games. Simply looking more comfortable on the floor. Teams don’t help on him when he catches the ball at the top of the key and actually make it a key to stay connected to shooters – Zeller is getting much more efficient at exploiting this – ball/head fake and more of a controlled power dribble motion to the basket is resulting in offense.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart 20 MIN | 2-5 FG | 6-7 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -14

OKC was draped off of Neal all night when he was on the floor – mostly Derek Fisher. Neal will have to develop more of a PG mentality being on this roster – teams have him scouted as basically the most dangerous threat from deep for Charlotte.

Steve Clifford

Is it worth thinking about implementing some kind of zone defense before the playoffs? I say this basically only because we could end up playing Indiana or Miami.

Four Things We Saw

  1. When the Bobcats turn the ball over 18 times they probably aren’t going to win. That’s what happened tonight and it led to 25 Thunder points.
  2. Charlotte wanted to keep OKC in front of them and concede no run-outs, so they hardly sent anyone to the offensive glass – in theory, this is fine, but you can’t flip the script on yourself and allow your opponent to grab 11 offensive boards that lead to 19 second chance points. Overall, the Bobcats were out-rebounded 44-29.
  3. OKC led 85-81 after three quarters – the game was within reach. The Bobcats turned it over 7 times in the final period to dig their own graves.
  4. Tonight will be the last opportunity for Charlotte to make something of this brutal three game road stretch. It’s hard to be too optimistic, though, as the Bobcats come into Miami on heavy legs and the Heat are fresh on one night’s rest.

Bobcats Sign D-League All-Star Justin Hamilton To 10-Day Contract

Mere hours after the Bobcats cut ties to controversial veteran guard Ben Gordon, Rich Cho and company signed D-League All-Star Justin Hamilton to a 10-day contract. While Al Jefferson has undoubtedly been Charlotte’s shining star during their potential playoff run, the team has lacked a consistent backup center with the continued up-and-down play of Bismack Biyombo.

While Hamilton is a relative unknown in NBA circles, he’s made his impact in the NBADL as one of the best offensive big men in the entire league. As I mentioned in a recent piece on Ridiculous Upside, Hamilton made his impact by his ability to help his teammates in the PnR. By being aligned next to current Heat guard DeAndre Liggins and former UCLA star Larry Drew, Hamilton was able to be the perfect pick and roll big because of his wide arsenal of offensive skills.

Even though Hamilton has been more efficient with his work in the low-post, he quickly implemented himself as one of the lone D-League bigs who could effectively shoot from the perimeter. Despite the fact that it’s been shown in small doses, the 7-foot center shot an efficient 38.5% from beyond the arc. With his perimeter skills in mind, Hamilton is extremely quick for a 7-foot, 260 pound center which has allowed him to be a solid cutter.

While his low-post skills will probably never be compared to the likes of Al Jefferson, Hamilton has still been able to showcase his abilities from inside the paint. By utilizing his solid 7-foot, 260 pound frame, Hamilton is able to extremely effective because of his ability to utilize his quick footwork in the low-post. While he has a less than stellar 7’1 wingspan, Hamilton is use that footwork to break away from the opposition to launch a pretty solid right handed hook shot.

Besides his arsenal of offensive weapons, Hamilton was also one of the best offensive rebounders in the D-League as he averaged 3.5 offensive boards per game.

Defensively, Hamilton isn’t the most spectacular or stellar athlete but he’s still able to be solid. One of his main defensive assets rests on his ability to be a 7-foot defensive stopper without drawing fouls. By averaging 2.1 fouls per game, Hamilton’s numbers are extremely low compared to the grand majority of front-courts players in the NBA or D-League.

With that in mind, the 7-foot center had one of the best defensive ratings (98.5 defRTG)  and blocks per game (2.0 BPG) numbers in the NBADL.

Even though Hamilton is currently signed to a 10-day deal, he’s definitely talented enough to be an NBA role player. Because of his all-around offensive game and solid work on defense, he defined himself as one of the best overall front-court players who didn’t have an NBA contract.

Will there be a chance that Clifford buries Hamilton on the Bobcats bench until his 10-day contract runs out? Absolutely, that’s happened to a lot of skilled D-Leaguers in the past. But with that in mind, Hamilton could definitely be a solid backup center behind Al Jefferson. As previously mentioned, Hamilton’s solid work in the PnR could fit in extremely nicely with Kemba Walker. Also, he’s a solid help defender which would make Hamilton an instant fit in Steve Clifford’s defensive scheme.

 

TEAM: Bobcats waive Ben Gordon

The headline doesn’t read like anything that shocks you, but oh wait, there’s more to this. The team announced today that they have elected to waive Ben Gordon and officially end a relationship that’s been rocky basically since it began. Like getting waived when you’re owed $13.2 million in that same season isn’t insulting enough, the team did this the day after the deadline for free-agents to be eligible to sign with a potential playoff team – If this isn’t a ‘stick-it-to-the-man’ move then I don’t know anymore.

Look, I’m not in the locker room and really have no idea what the relationship was like between Gordon and the front office, but I would make my reservations to go ahead and state that it was very ugly. Unless, of course, this is a move to keep Gordon from teams that Charlotte will be competing with for a playoff spot (Atlanta, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Detroit) then it appears that the front office was always poised to get their payback on this guy – they now have. Personally, I think it appears to be a little bit too low of a blow, but again, none of us really understand the true context to this move.

Gordon + the 1st round pick the Pistons owe Charlotte were acquired from Detroit in June of 2012 for the expiring contract of Corey Maggette. Charlotte essentially paid $13.2 million for the Pistons 1st round pick, whenever they receive it.

Here are some reactions from the Twitterverse on the move:

 

 

Game #59: Bobcats @ Thunder Preview

Who: Oklahoma City Thunder vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Thunder Home Game

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Efficiency
Defensive
Efficiency
Pace
Oklahoma City 44-15 107.5 (6) 100.3 (4) 97.6 (11)
Charlotte 27-31 99.0 (26) 100.7 (6) 95.3 (21)

Previous Meetings:
12/27/14 – 89-85 Thunder

Injuries:
Oklahoma City: Thabo Sefolosha (OUT), Kendrick Perkins (OUT)
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Thunder Bobcats
PG Russell Westbrook Kemba Walker
SG Jeremy Lamb Gerald Henderson
SF Kevin Durant Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Serge Ibaka Josh McRoberts
C Steven Adams Al Jefferson
6th Man Reggie Jackson Gary Neal
  • Game #2 of this grinding stretch of games for the Bobcats. With a day of rest after the loss in San Antonio on Friday night, Charlotte should have to legs to get up-and-down the floor with OKC tonight – that being said, going up against a title contender is always a headache and the Bobcats will probably need a near perfect effort in order to win tonight
  • The Thunder have begun to trend in a slightly different direction as of late – partly thanks to the return of Russell Westbrook and part due to the injury to Kendrick Perkins. OKC is taking 26 3FGA/game in their past 5 (+5.1 on season avg.) and playing a lot faster since Westbrook was re-inserted into the lineup – 99.7 PACE in their past 5 (+2.1 on season avg.). So, not only does Westbrook obviously look to push the tempo, but the Thunder have been forced to play smaller with the injury to Perkins – result: quicker tempo.
  • It’s stating the obviously that Charlotte will want to slow this game down as much as possible, avoid turnovers and make the Thunder execute in the half-court on both ends. The Bobcats lead the league in turnover ratio at 11.9 and have been even better than that in their past 10 games – averaging just 11 TO/game.
  • Charlotte will have to be much better on the offensive end tonight than they were in San Antonio on Friday – the Bobcats shot just 36.7% (33-90) from the floor + 17.6% (3-17) from behind-the-arc on Friday.
  • OKC rookie center Steven Adams will have his hands full with Al Jefferson tonight. Adams is a big + physical anchor who moves well, but the old-school approach of Jefferson’s offensive arsenal tends to get the better of younger players in this league. Pop and the Spurs blitzed Jefferson with double-teams on essentially every post-entry on Friday, so it will be interesting to see what Scott Brooks and OKC elect to do.
  • If this game is tight going into the 4th, you obviously go for the win. If it’s a blowout then Clifford needs to sit his starters – the team will have to travel to Miami after this game to matchup with the Heat tomorrow night.

Spurs outlast Bobcats out west

Charlotte Bobcats 82 Final
Recap | Box Score
92 San Antonio Spurs
Josh McRoberts, PF Shot Chart 30 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 10 AST | 3 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -6

Once McRoberts realized that he wasn’t shooting the ball well he was constantly looking for his teammates (which he usually does) and moving the ball with efficiency.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Shot Chart 22 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -8

Sigh. Ugh. Again, love how hard he plays and you need a wing defender like this, but this is a polar driven prospect. Is there time for improvement offensively? Yes. Is there any kind of measurement that projects this improvement? No.

Al Jefferson, C Shot Chart 35 MIN | 10-21 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 20 PTS | -10

San Antonio doubled Jefferson immediately on the catch for most of the second half and all of the 4th quarter. Charlotte did well cutting off and around him + moving the ball crisply off of the double teams, but the other offensive weapons weren’t there tonight.

Kemba Walker, PG Shot Chart 35 MIN | 3-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -12

He has to be better than this for the Bobcats to defeat a superior opponent. When the Spurs began doubling the post on every entry in the second half is when Kemba must force the issue and produce offensively – did not happen tonight.

Gerald Henderson, SG Shot Chart 31 MIN | 6-15 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | -14

Was consistent throughout most of the game and hit some big midrange shots in the first half to keep Charlotte afloat. Three fouls + two points in the 4th quarter is not what Clifford hoped for from Hendo as San Antonio took away Jefferson completely.

Anthony Tolliver, PF Shot Chart 19 MIN | 2-5 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +4

A ho-hum performance from Tolliver. In essence, he did his job without having a lights out night shooting the ball. I’ve mentioned this many times before, but his defense is very underrated – more athletic + moves much better than most think.

Cody Zeller, C Shot Chart 18 MIN | 3-8 FG | 4-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -4

Zeller has become much more comfortable on the offensive end. When he catches the ball, the triple-threat position looks much more balanced and under control. This is a sign that the game is slowing down for Cody some, and in result, he’s not getting ahead of himself.

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

Welcome to Charlotte, Luke.

Gary Neal, SG Shot Chart 23 MIN | 6-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | -2

For those of you who only thought Neal could shoot three’s, did this change the way you look at him as a player? He gives Clifford a lot of flexibility with his guard rotation and I would only expect to see more-and-more of Neal + Kemba on the floor at the same time late in games.

Steve Clifford

Had the correct lineup in the 4th quarter, but the combo of Kemba, Neal, Hendo, Tolliver and Jefferson just couldn’t hit shots when they needed to.

Three Things We Saw

  1. The Bobcats had a very underwhelming game offensively – shot 36.7% from the floor and only 17.5% from distance.
  2. Really, there were two reasons that Charlotte stayed in this game: 1) Flipped 14 second chance opportunities into 24 points, and 2) caused 19 Spurs turnovers that resulted in 17 points for the Bobcats.
  3. Well boys, tough loss. Good fight. Wipe the dirt off and move on – you got OKC Sunday night on their floor.

Game #58: Bobcats @ Spurs — Convo w/ 48 MOH + 1-on-3

Who: San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Spurs Home Game

When: 8:30 PM ET

Where: Live at AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Efficiency
Defensive
Efficiency
Pace
San Antonio 41-16 107.3 (6) 100.7 (5) 96.7 (14)
Charlotte 27-30 99.3 (25) 100.8 (6) 95.3 (21)

Injuries:

San Antonio: Tony Parker (OUT)
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Spurs Bobcats
PG Cory Joshep Kemba Walker
SG Danny Green Gerald Henderson
SF Kawhi Leonard Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Tiago Splitter Josh McRoberts
C Tim Duncan Al Jefferson
6th Man Manu Ginobili Gary Neal

3-on-3 TrueHoop NetworkToday’s preview is going to be a treat for everyone. Andrew McNeill, from 48MinutesOfHell.com and myself had an awesome conversation earlier on about tonight’s matchup and everything that’s been going on with the Bobcats and Spurs. This is some good stuff and I hope everyone enjoys it.

Our trusty QCH expert Greg Pietras also answers three vital questions leading into tonight’s tough road test in San Antonio.

Andrew:  So first and foremost for Spurs fans, how’s Gary Neal doing? Seems like he’s, at the very least, in a better situation than he was in Milwaukee.

me (Spencer):  There’s no question that he’s in a better place. He wasn’t happy in Milwaukee – not only did he make that known within the locker room there, but his play on the court made it loud-and-clear as well. Bobcats fans are very hopeful that he’ll bring an offensive boost to this roster and assist in the playoff push. Tonight will be his debut wearing a Charlotte uniform.

Andrew:  That’s good for Gary. Even though he could be considered slightly moody during his time in San Antonio, he was a well-liked person within the community. I never saw him re-signing with the team, and that’s worked out even better than I expected, but I think everyone wanted the best for him.

Now last time the Spurs and Bobcats played, Charlotte got out to a good start, forced a lot of Spurs turnovers, and San Antonio slowly chipped away and won the game. What went wrong?

 me:  Patty Mills happened. And you just don’t go over that scenario in the scouting report. I don’t anticipate that being a repeat occurrence tonight in San Antonio, but now the Spurs are on their home floor, and that obviously makes a huge difference.

Andrew:  Never underestimate Patty Mills.When I write the retrospective of this season “Patty Mills Happened” might be the subtitle.The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs.

me:  That being said, Charlotte is on a  six-day break, so it’ll be interesting to see how that affects the team tonight. Could be a positive, could be a negative.

me: Hahaha. The guy can fill it up- there’s no question about that. There’s also that other guy named Gary Neal – he couldn’t ask for a better debut for his new team than against his former team of three years.

Andrew:  Oh, absolutely. Neal’s departure from San Antonio is one of the major reasons Mills is having the season he is. I don’t want to downplay the work Patty did in the offseason, including shedding a lot of excess weight, but the Spurs’ second unit needs a guy who can get off a shot, no questions asked. For a few years that was Gary, now that he’s gone Patrick Thrills has filled that void.

Let’s talk Kemba Walker. He’s on my fantasy team, but admittedly that means I probably still don’t keep up with him. How is his season going? How close is he to making “the leap,” and is that even possible?

me:  Look, Australia’s finest. Period. I’m admittedly a closet Patty Mills fan.

me:  Kemba has been fantastic this season. Having Al Jefferson around has really helped, taken scoring pressure off of him and significantly opened up the floor. On post-entries, the two have become very fun to watch with the combo of Kemba’s speed on cuts and Jefferson’s overall basketball IQ. Overall, Kemba has begun to come into his own for the past two seasons, but he’s proved this season just how efficient he can be with another big time piece next to him — he’s sporting a 17.50 PER this season.

me:  Andrew, have the Spurs been able to stay healthy this season? Update Charlotte on what the team looks like from an injury standpoint currently?

Andrew:  HAHAHAHA. Although, this is about the healthiest the Spurs have been in 2014.

Kawhi Leonard returned on Wednesday against the Pistons and looked good. Manu Ginobili hasn’t re-injured himself in anyway, although he did put a spectacular hurting on his shoe against Detroit.

me:  What’s the story with Tony Parker?

Andrew:  Tony Parker is close to returning to the lineup, but I doubt he’ll be available against the Bobcats. Basically, Parker hasn’t stopped playing basketball since the summer of 2012. He played all last season as the Spurs made a Finals run into late June. Then he went and led France to the Eurobasket title, got a couple of weeks off and then training camp started for this season’s Spurs.

He’s now squarely on the wrong side of 30, which is now making me fear my mortality, and injuries are going to happen for him. He needed a few days/weeks to get some rest, heal some bumps and bruises and refresh mentally.

Otherwise, it’s as healthy as San Antonio has been since New Year’s.

me:  Good stuff. I’d argue with anyone that Tony Parker is the smartest basketball player that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching at the age of 26.

me:  Andrew, do you think that the Spurs have the best depth of any roster in the NBA? It’s so tough to play against a team that has 4-5 guys that can all come off the bench and get 15+ points on any given night – you guys have that.

Andrew:  I think it’s reasonable to say that the Spurs are the deepest team in the league. Although, sometimes I wonder whether San Antonio is really that deep of a team, or if the system is so strong and dialed in that Gregg Popovich can throw in anybody for a night and still be competitive. It’s a chicken or the egg thing. But, that being said, it’s hard to question the results. The Spurs win a lot of games that they shouldn’t because they can play anybody 1-15 for solid minutes at any given moment.

Here’s something I’ve been wondering. The Bobcats have Al Jefferson, right? He plays 34 minutes a night, correct? How in the hell is Charlotte the sixth best defense in the league?

me:  I could not agree more about the system and what Coach Pop breeds with any given body in San Antonio. He’s got the formula – there’s no negating that.

Yes and yes Andrew. Two words – Steve Clifford.

me:  He’s a Thibs disciple and has had the Bobcats playing as connected as any team in the NBA, defensively, all season long. Charlotte plays defense in a stance, on their toes and are always in the perfect athletic position to close out on shooters. I coach basketball, so that’s my coaching way to tell you that this is a team of mediocre defenders who have bought into a system – see, defense is an effort thing, for the most part.

It doesn’t hurt when you add a lockdown wing defender like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the mix.

Andrew:  Right. And it’s the same personnel, for the most part, as it’s been in the last couple of years, right?

me:  And to really answer your question, Clifford hides Jefferson on pick-and-roll situations mainly – he sags low on most of PnR’s and Charlotte will help from the wings by being extra wary of gap defense.

Yes, that’s correct. Goes to show you how much coaching philosophy really matters.

Andrew: I need one random prediction from you for tonight’s game. Something that has nothing to do with the final score.

me:  Kemba goes for 30+. Typically, he’s good on extra rest and this is a statement game for a Charlotte team that’s currently on a four-game winning streak + grinding through a tough stretch of the schedule.
And yourself, Andrew?

Andrew:  Ah, the tables have turned.

Andrew:  My random prediction is that Tim Duncan and Al Jefferson will combine for at least 25 rebounds, but the cumulative height that they jump during the game is less than five feet.

1- Three weeks ago the Patty Mills show eventually put away the Bobcats in Charlotte, but it’s safe to say that San Antonio won’t have that to lean on again tonight. Charlotte’s 6th ranked defense will need a stingy performance tonight against the Spurs 6th ranked offense. How can the Bobcats limit San Antonio offensively tonight?

Greg: The Spurs thrive close to the basket, shooting 64.3 percent within five feet, good for third in the NBA. They still lean on the corner three as well, though the league has mostly caught up to them on that one. That mostly plays to the Bobcats’ strengths, as they’ve been good in both areas. While opponents hit a healthy 39.9 percent from the corners against Charlotte, they’ve done well at limiting those attempts. If they can lock down one area and force more mid-range jumpers and low-efficiency shots, they’ll be competitive in this one.

2- Gary Neal will make his Bobcats debut tonight against his former team that he played three seasons + in an NBA Finals with. I’d say you can’t ask for much better of a debut than that. Being said, what can we expect from Neal tonight?

Greg: I’m not expecting a ton right off the bat — maybe 15-20 minutes and 10 or so points. The starters have been the real strength of the team, and Clifford could use them a little more heavily tonight to get this road trip started off well. As this brutal stretch four-game stretch goes on, though, I’d expect Neal to earn solid minutes both as bench relief and as one more shooting option next to the starters. While I don’t think Neal himself is going to have a huge individual impact, the lineup flexibility he’ll bring could improve the team as a whole. Just having a reliable bench scorer and spacer would help, too.

3- PICK IT. Charlotte begins a brutal four-game stretch tonight. Do they get off on the right foot?

Greg: I think they have a better shot of winning tonight than they do against OKC, Miami or Indiana. Their extended rest should have given them time to incorporate the new pieces into the offense, and prep a few new wrinkles for San Antonio to worry about. I still think the Spurs win, but I think it’ll be another competitive game.

There’s a half-empty/half-full way to look at the upcoming stretch: On the one hand, they’re 0-7 against those four teams this year. But aside from two ugly, early-season losses to Miami and Indiana, they’ve been very competitive. Since Dec. 1, they have a four-point loss to the Spurs, a four-point loss against the Thunder, a five-point defeat from Indiana, and dropped a one-point squeaker and an overtime game to the Heat. That’s an average margin of defeat of 4.4 points, which is relatively encouraging considering those are the league’s top teams.

Maybe it’s setting the bar low, but even competing against the NBA’s cream is a big step up for this team. If they can go 1-3 over the next few games, it’ll be a big victory.

Game #57: Bobcats vs. Grizzlies Preview

Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs. Memphis Grizzlies

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 25-30 99.4 (25) 101.1 (7) 95.3 (21)
Memphis 30-23 105.1 (18) 104.7 (10) 89.5 (30)

Previous Meetings:

None

Injuries:
Charlotte: Brendan Haywood (OUT), Jeffery Taylor (OUT)
Memphis: Quincy Pondexter (OUT)

 

Bobcats Grizzlies
PG Kemba Walker Mike Conley
SG Gerald Henderson Courtney Lee
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Tayshaun Prince
PF Josh McRoberts Zach Randolph
C Al Jefferson Marc Gasol
6th Man Luke Ridnour? James Johnson
  • While Ridnour and Neal were in Charlotte during last night’s game against New Orleans, they were unable to play due to Sessions and Adrien not taking their physicals for Milwaukee. During his post-game press conference, Clifford denied Ridnour and Neal’s involvement in the game against Memphis. Even though Clifford might be hesitant against using the new duo, it might be necessary if they want an opportunity to go into their tough road stretch with a victory.
  • Entering the game against Memphis, Jefferson has been on one of his best stretches in his NBA career. Since the start of the month, Jefferson has averaged 24 points and 9 boards on 52% shooting. However, his skills will be put to the test as he faces one of the best defensive bigs in the NBA,  Marc Gasol, in Saturday’s matchup.
  • It should be interesting to see how Charlotte tries to contain Zach Randolph. While McRoberts is an above-average defender, he’s never really faced an opponent with the brute strength of Randolph.  With that said, McRoberts’ perimeter skills may be the mismatch that could turn this game into Charlotte’s favor.
  • While Memphis is one of the better teams in the Western Conference, Charlotte almost needs this victory to secure their 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. With an upcoming road-trip against a trifecta of championship contenders (Indiana, San Antonio and Miami), the Bobcats may need to find some magic to avoid a potential slide down the Eastern Conference playoff hierarchy.

 

Depleted Bobcats Defeat the Pelicans Behind Huge Performance From Big Al

New Orleans Pelicans 87 Final

Recap | Box Score

90 Charlotte Bobcats
Josh McRoberts, PF Shot Chart 32 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -7In a game that was completely dominated by his frontcourt partner, Al Jefferson, Josh McRoberts definitely slide under the radar. With his perimeter jumper out-of-order, McRoberts remained ineffective on offense. On the other end, McRoberts was pretty solid as he stayed close and was an overall nuisance on Anthony Davis.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Shot Chart 31 MIN | 1-3 FG | 5-8 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -9While MKG remained an aggressive offensive option, his current lack of a mid-range or perimeter jumper is preventing him from being a completely effective player. Despite the team’s victory, the defensive stopper wasn’t the top-notch defender that many of us have gotten used to.

Al Jefferson, C Shot Chart 34 MIN | 14-30 FG | 5-6 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 33 PTS | -5While it may be cliche to say that a certain player controlled a team’s fate, the Bobcats wouldn’t have been able to take this victory if it wasn’t for Al Jefferson. Working against former Bobcats great, Alexis Ajinca, Jefferson was an unstoppable offensive force throughout the opening quarter of the game. While Anthony Davis was able to make him a little less effective, Jefferson was still able to control the offensive glass and put in some key shots that lead Charlotte to victory.

Kemba Walker, PG Shot Chart 36 MIN | 3-11 FG | 7-10 FT | 5 REB | 8 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | +10A large part of Jefferson’s offensive dominance can pointed to Kemba Walker’s solid playmaking abilities. While Walker wasn’t an effective scorer, he was able to control the pace of tonight’s game and lead the Bobcats offense. With that in mind, journeyman PG Brian Roberts was able to move past Walker multiple times in pick and rolls which lead to a solid 20 point outing.

Gerald Henderson, SG Shot Chart 30 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-4 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -6As Charlotte continues their ride to a hopeful playoff berth, they’re going to need a solid third scoring option behind Walker and Jefferson. Henderson probably won’t be that option by the way he’s playing.

Anthony Tolliver, PF Shot Chart 17 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | +12Whenever Tolliver and Jefferson are on the court together, perimeter magic usually happens. While Jefferson didn’t directly contribute to his perimeter excellence, Tolliver is probably thanking Big Al for giving him open jumpers

Cody Zeller, C Shot Chart 16 MIN | 3-7 FG | 7-8 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +10My main criticism for Zeller during his rookie season has been his apparent timidness. During tonight’s game against New Orleans, that criticism quickly died off as Zeller was extremely aggressive in pursuit of the rim and getting to the free throw line.

Bismack Biyombo, C Shot Chart 14 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | +8Biyombo was a force on the offensive glass and on defense. Is that really different than any other game? Nah.

Jannero Pargo, PG Shot Chart 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -7With Luke Ridnour on the verge of making his debut with the Bobcats, Jannero Pargo will more than likely be pushed to the side.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG Shot Chart 18 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +9Similar to Pargo and Ridnour, CDR will probably be kicked to the curb with the impeding Bobcats debut of Gary Neal.

Two Things We Saw

  1. With Ridnour and Neal sidelined as they wait for the deal to be officially finalized and Ben Gordon apparently on his way out, Charlotte’s backcourt was pretty depleted. While there wasn’t a reserve Pelican that completely dominated, they were still able to get an advantage on the Bobcats because of their limited depth.
  2. After their victory over New Orleans, Charlotte moves up to the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. While they’re within breathing room of the 5th seed, Charlotte is about to start their toughest stretch of the season. After their Saturday matchup against Memphis, Charlotte will hit the road to face San Antonio, Miami and OKC before coming back home to face Indiana and the surging Cleveland Cavaliers. Yep. We might be screwed.

QCH Bucks/Cats Trade Roundtable

After weeks of anticipation, the 2014 NBA Trade Deadline deadline went out in a small wimper for one of the teams who were expected to make a big bang. After being linked to the likes of Evan Turner, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Arron Afflalo, the Bobcats left Thursday by making a small move with an Eastern Conference cellar dweller. In a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bobcats received veteran backcourt players Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal in exchange for Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien. While Adrien has been one of the golden boys of QCH, this deal is basically centered around Ridnour, Neal and Sessions.

As we’re now removed from Thursday’s deadline; Greg Pietras, Dakota Schmidt and Michael Kaskay-Blomain give their take on the four player deal with Milwaukee.

1. On a scale of 1-10, how do you see this deal in terms of helping Charlotte out for the rest of the season and/or for the future 
Dakota: 5. Similar to the majority of Thursday’s deadline, this deal with Milwaukee is just another average, boring deal. With that said, this deal could help out Charlotte for the remaining two months of the regular season because of the duos ability to score from the perimeter. For his entire career, Neal has been a solid three-point marksman (40% from beyond the arc) while Ridnour is one of the best mid-range shooters in the league.
Michael: 4.  I don’t see the deal with Milwaukee moving the needle much long-term for the Bobcats, but it could help them in their playoff push this season. Neal is a solid outside shooter, which Charlotte needed to add, and will help to balance out the offense. Luke Ridnour is a solid shooter as well, as he will serve as a solid back-up point for the time being, but I don’t view either as long-term solutions for Charlotte.
Gregory: 4-ish? The Bobcats will miss Sessions, particularly on the second unit, but the trade gives them more depth in the right places and some versatility. Charlotte was frequently forced to play Sessions next to Kemba, and now they have to personnel to play more traditional lineups. That may not be a good thing: Kemba and Sessions actually formed the team’s best two-man combination that played at least 150 minutes together, going by +/- per game. In general, Sessions was effective, but the bench was still incredibly creaky before the trade. This gives them playable options in two positions rather than one.
2. How much of an upgrade or downgrade is Ridnour as a backup PG over Sessions? 

Dakota:  Considering the fact that the two teams basically swapped expiring backup point guards, I really like Ridnour in terms of his possible fit for Charlotte. While he’s had a below-average season with Milwaukee, I still think that he could be a solid 10-15 minute backup PG behind Kemba Walker.

Michael: You lose a little speed and slashing ability with Ridnour compared to Sessions, but in reality, it shouldn’t matter much. Ridnour is a solid shooter who can run an offense and hold down the point guard position for periods of time. It may be a slight upgrade, if anything, but again, no real long-term value.

Gregory: I think it’s a downgrade, but giving Henderson and Kemba a slight bump in minutes could help cover for that. Ridnour’s been pretty poor this year, and the combination of injuries, inconsistent minutes and a barren roster in Milwaukee didn’t help. He won’t need to be as dynamic at Sessions was, just steady enough to soak up some minutes. In any case, I don’t think it’s a significant enough drop to derail the team. And if he bounces back to his career stats, he’ll be an asset.

3. Was it really necessary for the team to pursue Neal when they have a similar player in Ben  Gordon?
Dakota: As an adamant Gary Neal basher, I never really saw Charlotte’s desire to pursue him when there were other less selfish perimeter options on the market (Troy Daniels)? While I’ve talked about his solid ability from beyond the arc, Neal is just a mediocre/below-average overall player who’s prone to take a lot of awful shots. With Ben Gordon rotting away on the Bobcats bench, I really didn’t see the need for Charlotte to get Gary Neal.

 

Michael: Pursuing Neal wasn’t necessary, but it does add to their offensive attack, and could help them with the upcoming playoff push. Neal will help to space the floor and open up the rest of the offense for Charlotte. Ben Gordon has not been able to contribute consistently, which they’re hoping Neal will be able to.

 

Gregory: Gordon and Neal have similarities, but I assume the situation with Ben is toxic enough that they’ve distanced him from the team. Charlotte now has a competent shooter at every position except center, which opens up a number of lineup possibilites. Most interesting (to me, at least), they can play Michael Kidd-Gilchrist additional minutes without sacrificing floor spacing, which should help the team’s defense on the whole.

Neal himself isn’t anything special, but this is a team that serves three-point shooters well. The combination of Al Jefferson drawing double-teams and a group of willing passers has Anthony Tolliver making a career-best 42 percent from three, and even Josh McRoberts is hitting 39.5 percent of his attempts. Neal’s a career 39 percent shooter from long range, and that threat should open up the paint for others. If they can improve the offense, even just a bit, while maintaining the defense, they should hold on to that playoff spot.