This is the most ill-advised 'stache I've ever attempted. The Official GF of Rufus on Fire disapproved so much, I hesitate to post it. Oh, well. That game sucked, too.
Even without Chauncey Billups, and before Allen Iverson arrived, the Pistons clearly outmatched the Bobcats. I was wrong about Rasheed being the primary issue, though. As it turned out, the Pistons' guards put the Cats on their heels and utterly shut them down, to the tune of 101-83.
Jason Richardson couldn't do anything on offense--is it because Rip Hamilton is so tough to guard? Raymond Felton's assists were down, but he's still scoring like he normally does, only in fewer minutes. Those minutes went to DJ Augustin, who was also completely mediocre.
The best point guard Charlotte put out there tonight, on both offense and defense, was Shannon Brown. Yes, Shannon Brown. Who actually managed to put up 16 points, 3 assists, get 4 steals, and 1 block. Not ideal, but he showed the elite athleticism that intrigues Larry Brown, with impressive acceleration and bounce in his leaps.
Gerald Wallace had an Emeka Okafor game, putting up 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Of course, for the same reasons Wallace ended up with that line, Emeka Okafor had a Nazr Mohammed game, putting up 11 and 5. All hail Amir Johnson. Dude looked like what Hakim Warrick wishes he was. Skinny, but strong on the glass, with the ability to run the floor and follow up slam with authority.
The brightest spots were, again, relative. Jared Dudley's minutes were limited, but he had the classic Jared Dudley game: In 21 minutes, he had 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 0 turnovers, and got to the line twice. As summed up by my buddy Eric, Dudley is the kind of player other guys love to have on the team. His basketball IQ is high. He works hard on every possession, both offense and defense. He rebounds. He doesn't turn the ball over. He hits open shots. The second nugget of wisdom from Eric, dating back to last year: "There is no I in Jared Dudley."
The other bright spot was Adam Morrison. He played solid defense on Walter Herrmann and Tayshaun Prince, and was equally impressive on offense, shooting 4-6 from the field, including 2-2 from beyond the arc. While he turned it over twice in his 24 minutes, he also pushed the ball up the floor and proved enough of a threat that the Pistons moved Tayshaun over to cover him.
Finally, after seeing just a few more minutes from Alexis Ajinca, I'm willing to concede that Freedom Fries ($1, Bobcats Baseline) is better than Mouhamed Sene ever was or will be.
There is hope. The Pistons are one of the eight teams that can win the title this year*, and the Bobcats are barely in the playoff conversation, so keeping it competitive into the third quarter was a worthy accomplishment, given the established talent levels. However, it's already time to start thinking about which players will be around when the Cats really are playoff contenders.
* Those teams, in no particular order, are the Pistons, Lakers, Celtics, Rockets, Hornets, Spurs, Cavs, and Jazz.
I voted last week. If you haven't voted yet, go today. Don't worry about the lines. Bring a sandwich. Bring a book. Shake hands with the people next to you in line. Be a part of the process.