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The Road to the Playoffs Goes Through the Pistons

Last season, the Bobcats' most memorable game was probably the Ray Allen Game. Second, though, was probably the Pistons game in Charlotte when both Jeff McMinus and Raymond Felton were out with injuries, leaving Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley to split the point guard duties. But instead of getting killed by the matchups and taking their whuppin', the Cats confounded all expectations, pushed the game to overtime, and lost when an extremely close offensive goaltending call went against them.

Tonight, the Pistons will be the Cats' second test against a title contender, after the Cavs. Where Cleveland slapped Charlotte around with healthy doses of Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams, Detroit's primary advantage is probably with Rasheed Wallace at center, since he can guard Emeka Okafor and, yet, Okafor will struggle if Wallace pulls him outside.

"A walk in the park" by Mexicanwave, cc-licensed

There is no satisfactory solution for Sheed. (Warning: Jared Dudley Mancrush Alert!) Perhaps it'd be best to sic Dudley on him for the whole game and hope for the best elsewhere. Richardson matches up with Hamilton. Gerald on Tayshaun. Felton can try his best against Billups (God help DJ Augustin if he has to guard either Billups or Stuckey). And Emeka should stick to Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell. Bulldog Max is certainly no ace outside shooter, and Johnson tries to score almost exclusively in the paint.

From's Hot Spots

Once the benches come into play, though, it's not good times, because the Pistons are way better with just about everyone, from Maxiell to Stuckey to Walter Hermann. Technically, I guess you could argue that Nazr Mohammed, himself a Pistons castoff, sent over in exchange for Primoz and Hermann, is better than Kwame Brown, but we can't expect Kwame to get much PT. It's best not to think about Morrison, Carroll, or Augustin manning up on any of the Pistons' guards.

Of course, the Bobcats have made a habit of unleashing the unexpected. So maybe Tayshaun won't be able to defend Gerald Wallace. And maybe Emeka will muscle away Sheed on the block. And maybe the Cats will simply outhustle and out-athlete the Pistons in a way they're uniquely suited to play.

That said, my rationale for pessimism is illustrated in a crude chart I made last season and have updated below:

Chauncey {WAY BETTER THAN} Felton (at PG)
Hamilton {BETTER THAN} Richardson (at SG)
Hamilton {WAAY BETTER THAN} Felton (at SG)
Tayshaun {WAY BETTER THAN} Dudley (at SF)
Tayshaun {BETTER THAN} Richardson (at SF)
Tayshaun {ABOUT THE SAME AS} Wallace (at SF)
A. Johnson {NOT NEARLY AS GOOD AS} Wallace (at PF)
A. Johnson {ABOUT THE SAME AS} Dudley (at PF)
Rasheed {WAAAY BETTER THAN} Wallace (at PF)
Rasheed {WAAAY BETTER THAN} Emeka (at PF/C)
Rasheed {UTTERLY DOMINATES} anyone else the Bobcats put at C



"Eggs" by galapogos, "Taking the piss out on Ireland" by MastaBaba, "Place 4" by Essem.W, cc-licensed


UPDATE!!!!!! Billups and McDyess traded for Allen Freaking Iverson, and AI's gonna play point for the Pistons. For the Bobcats' present situation, that means Rodney Stuckey's gonna play starter's minutes tonight. It might be fair to call Stuckey and Felton equivalent players, especially considering how similar their rookie seasons were on a per-minute basis. That said, Stuckey has a brighter future, and is much more of a physical presence on the court, as such a tall point guard, even bigger than Billups. Felton will have trouble defending him, let alone Augustin.