Apparently a fire alarm went off and Time Warner Cable Arena was cleared right before tip off but didn't affect the start of the game. Whew. Just so you know, the Bobcats own the Raptors...as much as the Bobcats can own anyone. Entering tonight's game the Cats were 5-0 against the Canadian cagers in the last five games between the two.
The Bobcats spent the early part of the first quarter trying to force the ball into the paint and what seemed to be a wide open Bismack Biyombo. But turning the ball over on three of four possessions didn't prove to be an effective way to dictate the game. It's not like these passes were bad, they were more like really good passes directly into the hands and arms of Toronto players...no ball fake in an attempt to shift the defense, just firing the ball into the paint. Thankfully, sanity prevailed and D.J. Augustin drove, drew the defender and dished to a waiting Biyombo for an easy dunk plus one. As we know, this is typically the best plan of attack for Charlotte...and really most teams playing basketball. But it is easier said than done I suppose, although not really against the Raptors. It kept the Bobcats in the game early as the Raptors were heating up in the first behind outside shots from Jerryd Bayless (29 points in the game) and some nifty work inside by Aaron Gray and Andrea Bargnani. Biyombo still needs constant reminders to keep his feet on the ground and not go for shot fakes. He got away with one early on Bargnani but was caught later on another fake by Amir Johnson. He's still got along way to go and you can see it when he completely turns his back to his man to attempt a blind side block from across the lane (bad) but then quickly remembers to find his man and does (good), playing part in a turnover. The Bobcats trailed by nine after one.
The second quarter was more of the same as the Bobcats struggled to get into their offense and had trouble stopping Toronto on the other end. The offense with the starters out was abysmal. Two near (but basically) shot clock violations lowlighted the first few possessions for the crew off the bench and the Bobcats were down 15 before D.J. White dunked on two Raptors with a vicious two-handed jam. A quick turnover and nice Gerald Henderson jumper from the corner cut the lead to 11...buuuuuuuut a deep Linas Kleiza three-pointer stopped the short-lived Charlotte run. When the Bobcats were scoring they were doing it the right way with 12 assists on 15 made baskets in the second quarter hitting 11 of their last 17 shots. But Toronto shot a scorching 58% in the first half and went into the locker room up ten, 53-43.
Charlotte just had too many stretches where the offense was slow to develop forcing tough (terrible) shots, or desperation passes that were picked off. The offense did improve and it helped the outside shots started to fall. But Toronto just kept coming and Charlotte didn't make enough stops. Every time you see the drop off for this team when that second unit comes in it's painfully obvious why the Bobcats had that infamous losing streak earlier this season, these are the guys that were playing.
The third quarter scoring kicked off with a rare successful pick-and-roll between Biyombo and Henderson off a quick pass from Augustin. Gray was caught off guard by the quick one-timer from Henderson. Sometimes it looks like Raptors head coach Dwane Casey went to the Paul Silas school of staring out onto the court with no expression, and passed with flying colors. The Raptors are interesting because it looks like they have a potentially talented core, and pretty decent guys to fill in the rotation but they're not a very good basketball team. (It's almost like every guy on this roster is that guy that you could talk yourself into thinking is a good trade pickup if your team got him as the second guy in a deal. You know, you've seen these guys play, not on purpose, but when you do they look like they could help your team.)
Charlotte got back into this game in the third and finally took its first lead of the game on an Augustin three-point jumper that snapped Casey out of his trance and forced him to call a timeout. The Bobcats started hitting shots and the Raptors starting missing. Sometimes it is as simple as that and I think tonight was a case. But hitting shots can give you confidence and the Bobcats did start playing with more energy through the third.
Perhaps at times a little too much as Augustin attempted and pulled off perhaps the worst pass of the game, and perahaps in the history of this franchise. It was a hilarious one-handed half hook shot half shot put from the free throw line that was easily intercepted by Bargnani. Oh D.J., I can appreciate humor. He did make up for it by hitting another three. Tyrus Thomas continues to play much better as of late and was high energy, and at times visibly angry but as effective as he's been all year on both ends. Playing well and with confidence on offense and with the energy of the playoff run a few years ago on defense. The jump shots continued to fall, mostly from Gerald Henderson who went at DeMar DeRozan all night and ended 11-14 from the field on the night. Corey Maggette got to the line and did not miss (14-14) and the Bobcats scored 81 points (or 19 points away from a moral victory) in three quarters to lead by 14 going into the fourth.
Head coach Paul Silas named his son Stephen Silas acting head coach for the night. A coach with the last name Silas stuck with the second unit until 7:36 remained in the game and the lead shrunk to seven. The starters quickly got that lead back to double digits as the action in the fourth quarter got a little bogged down. Toronto played last night and had a weird trip into Charlotte that surely messed up its game day schedule, and that might have started to wear on the Raptors. But they kept coming even as Charlotte continued to find ways (making jumpers) to make mediocre offensive possessions look good, but sometimes that's what it takes. The Bobcats broke the century mark with more than three minutes remaining extending the lead to 15. The Bobcats really threw some awful...just awful...passes tonight. Some were lob passes the top of the backboard thankfully stopped and others were slow, cross-court passes just begging to be plucked out of the air by a defender. But, Toronto had 24 turnovers that Charlotte turned into 26 points and that was a big key in the game.
Toronto was gassed towards the end, but the Bobcats were the aggressors...until about the last minute and change of this game. The Raptors cut the lead to six with 51.2 second remaining and sent Maggette to the line. Hitting two, as he did all night, he gave Charlotte little more cushion, but you could almost see it coming. Struggles getting the ball in bounds and repeated horrible passes let Toronto corral a few loose balls, get some shots up and hit a few throws. The Raptors got more quality shots than should have been available as the game wound down, cutting the lead to just two with just more than 11 seconds remaining. Charlotte was able to push the lead back to four on two Augustin free throws and that's how the game ended. The Bobcats beat the Raptors for the sixth time in a row, 107-103. The Raptors are the only team to lose to the Bobcats twice this year.
Bayless and DeRozan (20 points) led the way for Toronto while Charlotte was paced by Henderson (24 points), Augustin (23 points) and Maggette (21 points) with Thomas adding 11 points and Biyombo one point and one rebound shy of a double-double finishing with nine and nine. The Bobcats are now only three games "ahead" of the Washington Wizards for last place, so even though we all know nothing is guaranteed with these Ping-Pong balls, let's not go crazy here. Still, winning is good and almost necessary for the psyche of a team and it's players. And this was a win.