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Charlotte Bobcats vs. Toronto Raptors preview -- Game 24

The Big Picture: It's difficult to be optimistic about the Bobcats right now. The weather outside is frightful. Their play has been so not delightful. And the general sports mood in Charlotte (i.e., Panthers, Tar Heels) doesn't help matters; the Cats aren't about to ride a wave of regional sports optimism.

My tribe of fan tries not to be so bipolar about our relationships with our teams, and calibrates optimism and pessimism based on (what we think is) rational assessment. That's not to say violent emotional swings aren't a part of the package, but that we'd rather pin our hopes upon something concrete rather than something nebulous. Sometimes, that'll seem unduly optimistic in the face of a harrowing losing streak, but what other tribes tend to remember is the seeming pessimissm during periods of good fortune. Right now, everyone agrees. Philosophies align in their conclusions. Whatever your style of observation, you've probably determined the Cats are in trouble, facing down the lottery and freezing.

When the Cats play the Toronto Raptors tonight, they'll be looking at a team with a similar present-day ceiling, and at one of their potential futures. The Raps have a full complement of solid starters and role players, but lack All Star pillars. It wouldn't be difficult for the Cats to get to that point, too, and maintain that level for a while, considering they're there, for the most part, already. Really, the Cats have an edge over the Raps in top-end talent, but have a severe disadvantage in low-end talent. I'd be ecstatic to start Tyrus Thomas, and then trade our bench straight up for Linas Kleiza, Leandro Barbosa, Jerryd Bayless, Ed Davis, and Amir Johnson. However, I'd rather have the Cats' starting lineup, and Nazr Mohammed vs. Andrea Bargnani is the one big advantage they have that makes me think about that for a moment.

And guess what? The Cats' record is 8-15, and the Raps' is 9-15.

Musical Interlude: Brad Paisley -- "American Saturday Night"

Key to Victory: Toronto's reputation is that they're a Euro-styled drive-and-kick three-point-shooting squad, but that's not what's happened thus far this season. They take the fourth-fewest threes in the league -- fewer than the Bobcats. While one might think that implies a concerted effort to get to the rim, the Raptors don't do that, either, as they're bottom half in the league in attempts at the rim.

It appears their shots are coming mainly from mid-range and what HoopData classifies as "<10 feet", which, I guess, makes sense for their personnel, but isn't exactly maximizing the return on their efforts. It also means they're not likely to challenge the Cats in the paint, where Charlotte doesn't have a particularly good defensive presence. And with Jose Calderon out, they're also missing one of their few effective distance shooters. So, if they think they're going to shoot over our array of 6-7 defenders from 15 feet, I'll gladly take that and wish them good luck.

Detail That May Interest .08% of You: One of the Raptors' ten finalists for the franchise name was "Bobcats".