What started as a promising game for the Bobcats in what was probably their most important game on the season, quickly disintegrated in the third quarter.
What resulted was a 23-point loss to Indiana, who gains another game on the Bobcats. And because the Bobcats can't tie the Pacers and get the 8 seed, the Bobcats are down four games. In effect, Charlotte's playoff chances are dead. Statistically they're not, but let's not be foolish - that's a wrap for the Bobcats and the playoffs.
1st quarter: Despite being reported as 'doubtful' before the game, Stephen Jackson made the start and was red-hot in the first period, with 9 points on 4-5 shooting. Obviously playing through pain, it was both tough and good to see him try to grit it out and play well. The effort was strong and the Bobcats defended well against the Pacers outside shooters. However, Indiana's big men were getting going despite a five-point deficit at the close of the quarter.
2nd quarter: But then the Bobcats began to show cracks. Stephen Jackson was subbed out and Charlotte's offense stalled. Outside of Shaun Livingston, the bench wasn't getting much offensive production at all. After the Bobcats built up a 12-point lead, Indiana began to creep back into game as Charlotte abandoned all offense in the paint for midrange jump shot after midrange jump shot. The shot-selection was disappointing, to say the least. And with a couple minutes left in the first half, the Pacers took the lead and didn't look back. Danny Granger began to exploit Stephen Jackson's lack of mobility and scored in bunches. Thanks to some strong post offense by Kwame Brown (weird, I know), the Bobcats were able to keep close and ended the half down by one.
3rd and 4th quarter: I'm going to bunch these two together as they were nearly inseparable to my eyes. The Pacers outscored the Bobcats 54-35 in the second half. The Pacers frontcourt that I warned about was a force in the paint that the Bobcats simply couldn't defend. Tyler Hansbrough ended the night with 24 points on 10 FGA and Roy Hibbert had 13 points (5-7 FG), 14 rebounds and 2 blocks. Charlotte had no answer. Stephen Jackson left the game and didn't return and Tyrus Thomas bruised his ribs after a collision and hard fall onto the hardwood. And only Kwame showed much heart, diving for every loose ball. Henderson found a couple shots here and there but was ultimately not very effective on offense, struggling to drive into the lane. Ditto for Augustin who shot better. And Diaw? How do you start in the NBA and not take a single shot all game? I'm pleased that he got 7 assists. That's terrific. But we needed him to score as well. Hansbrough is no defensive stalwart. Diaw should have attacked him in the post or at least tried to stretch the defense with his range. And the defense wasn't any better with Granger continuing to score. The Cats were slow on rotation and Indiana capitalized with 6-14 shooting from behind the arc.
I would like to single out Shaun Livingston and give some props to him. He was one of the few Bobcats who was effective against the Pacers, with 6-9 shooting from the field and 4 assists, including a neat spinning dish to a cutting Dante Cunningham.