The Charlotte Bobcats have lost three in a row, two to clearly superior Western Conference playoff teams that we had little hope of defeating going into this stretch (San Antonio and Houston), and the third game I should have, in retrospect, recognized would be an especially difficult battle (Minnesota, the night after Houston).
Tonight, the Bobcats take on the Toronto Raptors, who are well out of the playoff chase and are on the second half of a back to back, coming down to North Carolina from Indiana. They beat the Pacers last night, helping our playoff run, but that was their first win in eight games.
As always, Chris Bosh will be the guy Charlotte has to worry about most. Ideally, we'd put Boris on him and hope for the best, but Andrea Bargnani has settled into the other big man role since the Jermaine O'Neal trade, and his three point range puts a damper on the notion of putting Emeka on him. Better to put Emeka on Bosh, who still has a solid jumper out to twenty feet, but not the kind of range Bargnani does. Furthermore, though Bargnani is significantly bigger than Bosh, he doesn't play on the block as much.
The other matchups fall into line easily enough. Gerald is a similar player to Shawn Marion, a three/four who defies three/four labeling and shouldn't really shoot threes except to remind you that he'll occasionally shoot from out there.
If Felton's fully recovered from his back spasm issue, he'll start and guard Jose Calderon, but the Spaniard's not the kind of guy who can back down smaller men, so DJ should be just fine against him if need be, too.
And finally, Anthony Parker (aka Shelden Williams's brother-in-law) will probably start at off guard, but with the back to back games, D-League callup Pops Mensah-Bonsu might get a good deal of burn. In fact, dude put up 21 points in 22 minutes last night for Toronto after a reasonably impressive turn with the Spurs earlier in the year. I expect Raja's still recovering somewhat from his shoulder injury, but Parker might not be a rotation player on the better teams in the league, and Mensah-Bonsu wasn't even in the league for most of the year, so if he brings his C+ defensive game, we should be good.
The last time Toronto came to Charlotte, the Bobcats only scored 12 in the fourth quarter, with a 7 minute scoreless stretch, and Bargnani killed us off the bench. Of course, JRich and Jared Dudley started that game, Andre Brown got 7 minutes, Carroll and Morrison took a combined 13 shots, and Ryan Hollins and Linton Johnson watched from behind the bench in NBA-approved attire. All those guys are gone. Those Bobcats are dead. Long live the Bobcats.