A 40-29 rebounding advantage. 50-36 on points in the paint. And the Bobcats got doubled up on free throws. The Miami Heat only made 15-24 from the stripe, but the Cats could only manage 8-12 themselves, and that was the big difference in a hard fought battle between equally fierce opponents, with Miami coming out on top, 97-92.
It was infuriating to feel so helpless as Daequan Cook and Michael Beasley did as they pleased. I was lucky enough to get downstairs seats for this one, behind one of the baskets, and from that vantage point, it was all I could do to keep from running to the bench and screaming at the guys to stop sagging off Cook. Dude won the three point contest this year, and here we are, letting him rest comfortably on the three point line. The result was 4-5 from beyond the arc to go with his 7 boards.
For his part, Beasley went 7-9 from the field for 14 points in only 27 minutes. He also snatched 2 steals, blocked a shot, and didn't turn the ball over once. He was every bit the quality baller you want surrounding Dwyane Wade: able to hit the jumper out to twenty feet and playing pit bull defense. At a certain point, they've got to acknowledge that Beasley is good enough to give real starter's minutes, even if they don't want to actually start him for ego reasons, or whatever. Jamario Moon got the start and, without any apparent injury, was benched after only 7 minutes for plainly abysmal play (-16 in 7 minutes, and letting Gerald Wallace destroy him). I realize it puts an almost unreasonable onus on Wade and Chalmers to drive the lane if Beasley starts alongside Haslem and O'Neal, so as much as I like what Haslem brings to the table, I'd give him sixth man minutes with Beasley getting starter minutes instead.
Wade was only 10-21 from the field, with no threes, but he got to the line for nearly as many free throws as the Cats had as a team, and he supplemented that by running point a good deal of the time, garnering 10 assists. We'll see the game flow eventually, but it felt like Raymond did a reasonable job on him, Cartier Martin did okay, considering they attacked him relentlessly, and Raja did a fine job until he had to leave the game with a strained calf.
For the Bobcats, Gerald continued his torrid spring by putting up 21 points on 8-12 shooting, pulling down 8 rebounds, and getting a stunning block on Wade as Flash attempted a dunk. It's at the 0:44 remaining mark of the NBA's recap video.
Of course, that video will also show that Raymond Felton took the potential game winning shot. Raymond's got a lot of good in his game, but every team needs a scapegoat. You might slag on Emeka for getting paid big bucks and not scoring like a superstar, but dude is a superstar defender and does so many other good things, including scoring at a reasonable rate.
Felton... is just kind of there. He doesn't do anything particularly well, and yet the team lets him get away with taking the final shot in games, even though Diaw, Augustin, Bell, VladRad, and Wallace in that order, are probably the best options to take a final jump shot, while Wallace is clearly the better option to drive the lane. Emeka's a better scoring option in the heart of the game, but free throw issues push him below Raymond in crunch time.
In fact, Raymond's effective shooting percentage, which takes into account that a three is worth more than a two, is horrendous. It's bad enough to be 13th on the Bobcats this year among guys who've played at least 400 minutes. That's behind Diop, but more importantly, behind Adam Morrison and Matt Carroll, who were both shipped out for being totally useless, and Jared Dudley, who was never under consideration to be a scorer. Yet, this idea that Felton can be trusted with pressure possessions persists.
Not only did Raymond take the final shot--admittedly, I'm being unfair about that and simply venting; it was an open look--but he also led the team in field goal attempts. This is two big games in a row in which our supposed point guard leads the team in shot attempts. The guy whose shooting is more in line with Sean May's than Sean Singletary's. The guy whose effective shooting percentage matches Mario Chalmers's raw shooting percentage. The wrong guy to think he's the hero.
Charlotte is 2 games behind Chicago, now, with 8 to play, including one against the Bulls.
From before the game. Camera work courtesy of the Official Girlfriend of Rufus on Fire. I've been to every single home game (and three road games), so I know the Lady Cats' pregame dance routine. Observe.
A final, off topic, self-promotional, note: If you play salary cap fantasy games, especially on SportingNews.com, check out my new project, Money Train. I'm editing the blog and even doing the podcast.