Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw went insane, and a solid game from Shaquille O'Neal wasn't enough to stop the bleeding, as the Bobcats destroyed the Suns, 98-76.
Virtually everything was good news. Crash ended up with 28 points and 8 rebounds on 11-13 shooting, while Boris went for 26 points and 11 boards. Steve Nash may have had his worst game in years. In 21 minutes, he scored 4 points, got 5 assists, committed 6 turnovers, and missed his only free throw attempt, a technical foul shot.
That makes 5 wins in the past 6 games, and if the Bobcats are peaking, now is the perfect time to do it, because they have one of their two most difficult stretches coming up. Over the next ten days, they play at Indiana, at the Lakers then Portland back to back, at Denver, and at Utah. Only the Pacers game is eminently winnable, though it wouldn't be a total shock to see them win two of the five. If they win three or more on this road trip, it should be considered a rousing success.
Back to the Suns game... I never got the feeling the Bobcats were playing exceptionally well on defense. They were actually outrebounded on the game and gave up nearly twice as many offensive boards as they grabbed, but while they shot 51% from the field, Phoenix shot a dismal 36%, and that includes Shaq's 6-10 from close range. We beat a team that, based on name value, should have topped us, but once the game got started it was clear that Nash wasn't himself and the shots simply weren't falling for the Suns.
Phoenix only put up 13 points in the first quarter, a bad omen. In the second quarter, Charlotte went off for 38, and the game was never in doubt after that. No Suns starter saw action in the fourth quarter; their two most impressive players during those final minutes were actually Jared Dudley, who was his usual scrappy self, and Robin Lopez, who merely did nothing to embarrass himself.
Now that there's been a decisive head to head matchup, you might see talk about how the Bobcats "won" the trade that brought Diaw and Bell. If you consider getting better for this year and making the playoffs a win, then go ahead and take that point of view. Unfortunately, Larry Brown, MJ, et al, have built a roster capable of making the playoffs for a few years, but never as a true contender, a la Denver from 2003-04 until this season.
The reason they won't advance past "occasional playoff participant" with the current core is because teams simply don't make the playoffs unless they have an All Star caliber player, and we won't get that player unless we draft him because our cap situation is screwed. The track record for teams that are supposed to be better than the sum of their parts is decidedly poor. In the modern NBA, the Pistons are the only team to win a title by that roster blueprint, and all of those guys were better than or close to as good as everyone on the Bobcats now.
-- It was NASCAR Night, but Jimmie Johnson failed to come and address the crowd.
-- Jeff Gordon sat courtside and was booed heartily. For all you non-NASCAR fans, he was booed for three main reasons: because he's a foreigner... foreign to the South, he's prettier than anyone else in NASCAR, and because he betrayed his first carmaker in order to switch to Chevrolet, and people down here don't take kindly to switching carmakers just like that.
-- Shaq still gets all the calls.