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Cats Run Out of Gas, Nets Prevail

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Facial Hair

Yes, it was as bad as it looks, but it was fun.

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In losing to the Nets at home, 114-103 in overtime, one night after beating them in Jersey, the Bobcats finally fell back to earth. Vince Carter was unstoppable until Lawrence Frank gave up on all his small forwards and played Keyon Dooling, Devin Harris, and Carter together, allowing Gerald Wallace to guard VC. Harris also had a big night, scoring 26, including several easy baskets over DJ Augustin. Shockingly, Harris was thrown off his game in the fourth quarter when Sean Singletary played significant minutes and harassed him into giving up the ball just about every possession.

Ultimately, though, I'm happy. At 11-20, the Cats are still on pace to win only 29 games, and that's with a recent winning streak in which they beat the dregs of the league. For what it's worth, it's finally fair to say they're not the dregs of the league, and they deserve a level of respect expressed in relative fear. The worst teams inspire only the fear that losing to them is an ugly joke. The Bobcats are in the next tier up. They inspire fear that a loss to them means you didn't play your best that night and give full effort.

A word about Singletary before we get to the meat of the game. He's the anti-Augustin in a smaller body. (They're listed at the same height, 6-0, and Singletary is listed five pounds heavier, 185-180. Uh-huh.) From what I've seen--and I readily admit I don't know if this has always been his personality--he's energetic, enthusiastic, and tough on defense, yet awkward on offense. The problem, as with Augustin, is that the dude's under six feet tall. I'm all about those guys who produce even though they don't fit the conventional mold (SIGN RICHARD HENDRIX!), but this is the type of "mold issue" that directly affects performance. They can be successful point guards in the league, but their defense has an absolute ceiling at Chris Paul level, where they're getting steals galore, and they'll still have to make up defensive deficiencies with superb offense.

Regarding said meat of the game, Boris Diaw had his worst game since coming over to the Bobcats, and it was still halfway decent, with 9 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 turnovers on 3-10 shooting from the field. And, of course, a +/- of -19, for good measure. Raymond Felton's -21 comes almost entirely from 4 turnovers and 5-17 shooting. Raja Bell left after 28 minutes with a groin strain, which was a shame because he was 7-10 from the field and had scored 18 points, pretty much making up for his inability to guard Carter. Carroll, Mohammed, and the aforementioned Singletary did not suck during their stints on the floor.

That leaves Emeka and Gerald, who carried the team when it counted. Okafor again had a great game, despite his +/- of -10. With 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks, Emeka nearly matched Brook Lopez's line combined with Josh Boone's. Amazingly, Boone had 12 points to Lopez's 6. It bears repeating: Since Chris Bosh is now a forward, Emeka is arguably the second best center in the East, along with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and he's on the path to the best season of his career. Make him an All Star, coaches. He may not be a perennial All Star, but he's worthy this year.

Gerald exploded with 32 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, including a bunch of scores down the stretch that forced overtime. It was one of those games that I think most people will reflexively downplay as a bit fluky, and it is, in the context that Gerald's also thrown up the odd 8-5-2 game this year. However, looking at process, the Bobcats put Wallace in a position to succeed. First, the Nets played a lot of zone, daring the Cats to beat them with jump shots. Every team should look to make the Bobcats beat them this way. Collapse the key and make them win from 20 feet out and beyond. Lopez and Yi's length helped make the zone effective, but it also masked some of VC's issues keeping up with quicker players. When the Bobcats could isolate Wallace on anyone, be it Carter or Yi or Bobby Simmons, or anyone, none of the Nets could keep up with him. The Bobcats had their most success on offense with a drive and kick motion against both man and zone D that kept putting guys into the lane. Gerald is fantastic at finishing those drives, and that's how he kept putting the ball in the hoop.

The Bobcats played a good game, but they just didn't have that extra something to hang in overtime. That something may have been left in Jersey the previous night. I noted yesterday that the Cats played their starters a lot more minutes than the Nets had, and, yet, Larry Brown went out and did it again tonight. The Nets' top four in floor time were Harris at 47 minutes, Carter with 42, Hayes with 37, and Lopez with 31. The Bobcats, one night after playing all five starters more than 35 minutes each, went out and played four of them 43 minutes or more, with one guy going down to injury and Augustin picking up where he left off.

At this point, what the hell is Alexis Ajinca still doing gathering DNP-CDs? Why isn't he playing 30 minutes per game in the D-League? What does Ryan Hollins have to do to get 6-7 minutes per night? How badly does Matt Carroll have to suck so that Adam Morrison or, more appropriately, Shannon Brown can take his minutes?