That's more like it. The Bobcats thoroughly dominated the Toronto Raptors, cruising to a 112-86 win.
Among other teams in the running for the Eastern Conference's eighth seed, New Jersey immediately felt the loss of Devin Harris, as they couldn't keep up with Denver, losing 121-96. Without one of their two best players, the Nets appear likely to fade down the stretch. Just as important, that now means the Bobcats' game in New Jersey later this year, the second to last game of the season, is probably no longer a loseable game, but a tossup.
The most maddening part of this game for Raptors fans must have been that Anthony Parker got so many minutes (37) despite stinking so badly following a mediocre night at Indiana. Dude's got a good plus-minus, but when Joey Graham, Roko Ukic, Willie Solomon, and Jason Kapono are your backups, it'd be pretty tough not to have a greater impact than they do.
The second most maddening part must have been watching Chris Bosh and realizing that despite the appearance of a physical advantage over Emeka Okafor, he still had a tough time beating him. The only time Bosh faced up his man in isolation, put the ball on the floor, and dared the other man to keep up was immediately after Nazr Mohammed scored on him in a mildly embarrassing manner, and Bosh clearly took it as a personal insult. From the left wing, he got the ball, stared down Nazr for a moment, feinted right, then took one powerful dribble before flying through a futile bump to jam the ball, and one. That was the Bosh everyone fears, the one that resembles LeBron* in his ferocity and awesomeness. (*Yes, I went there.)
Of course, Mohammed was out there because after Emeka's second foul of the first quarter, with 2:46 remaining in said quarter, Larry Brown refused to bring Okafor back in the game until the second half. Can someone please explain to Larry that it's better strategy to bring the player back into the game for the second quarter, and that if he gets his third foul, then he should sit until the second half? That he'll get more minutes out of his better players by doing it that way?
As for what our guys did particularly well: With Emeka held out for a long stretch, VladRad surprised with his 9 rebounds. Cartier Martin clocked in with a solid 15 minutes. And then there were the free throws. Sean May missed one free throw in garbage time, and other than that the Cats were perfect from the charity stripe, going 18-19 for the game. While Toronto went to the line for many more attempts, they "only" shot 29-36.
In the Houston game, and then the Minnesota game, it looked like Gerald was trying to take over the game at times, and in this instance he did it without breaking the Bobcats' general agenda. 25 points, 9 boards, 5 assists, and 8-8 from the line is the kind of game played by a man possessed. While Gerald's always intense, that intensity hasn't translated into dominating play this year. It's good to see that Gerald showing up this late in the season.
Most important, though, Toronto just couldn't get any kind of offense going, except for the aforementioned one-play Boshplosion. They ended up shooting an abysmal 38% from the field and 19%, 3-16, from three.
In the sense of What Does It All Mean, we probably didn't learn anything new. The game simply reinforced notions I've held for a while. That Mohammed shouldn't be on the floor in any important situations anymore. That Cartier Martin is just simpler to live with as a role player than AmMo or Carroll were. That Roko B. Ware Ukic panics every time he brings the ball up the floor and ends up looking like a headless chicken. And that if Andrea Bargnani would rebound like a big man, he'd be an All Star and would have a positive cascade effect on the Raptors. Barring that development, they'll need a very good rebounding small forward to complement him. Shawn Marion fits the bill, in theory, except that he was playing a lot of nominal power forward before coming to Toronto. No, they could use someone young who will be cheap for a few years, who rebounds a lot from the three, and they can give up some offensive production there because Bargnani and Bosh are both such good scorers from all over the court. Someone like Jamario Moon.
In the sense of What Does It All Mean, we'll need a few more games to get clarity. The next four games, vs. Sacramento, at Toronto, vs. Indiana, and at Washington, are all winnable. The Bobcats can take control of their playoff fate with a five game winning streak here. After this stretch, it gets real hard real quick with games at Philly and at Boston mixed in with home dates against the LA Lakers and Miami.