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Charlotte Bobcats vs. New Jersey Nets preview -- Game 19

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The Big Picture: There was a moment shortly after the buzzer sounded on the 3-OT game the New Jersey Nets recently lost to a Kevin Durant-less Thunder that jumped out at me. Brook Lopez was on the floor, not ready to leave, unwilling to believe they'd lost. And the look on his face was a mix of disgust, horror, and frustration, not unlike the look on my face after a computer-controlled offensive tackle in Madden inexplicably blows his block, allowing Dwight Freeney to dislocate my quarterback's waist.

That's what we want to avoid with the Bobcats. We've been there, and I have zero desire to go back.

In the Nets' current situation, the hope that Lopez becomes the type of superstar who can lead them to the Finals is slowly draining away. And though they're moving to Brooklyn and will take on a certain cachet that will make them more attractive to free agents, they run a very real risk of ending up in NBA lottery purgatory, where picks aren't even close to sure things, and yet at the same time, improvement is limited by the presence of good-not-great players on the squad who are "too good" to give away for nothing, but not good enough to get over the hump. Lopez is a great piece to have: young, cheap, and excellent. But he won't be cheap for much longer, and his excellence knows some bounds.

In the Bobcats' situation, I think we knew that about Gerald Wallace from the start, so it's not quite as disappointing. We know we're looking for something better to come along, and we're not still hoping that the players on hand will develop into the unstoppable machine we dream about.

In all the major sports, anyone with some cash and a modicum of sense can build a league average team, but it takes special skills and/or special luck to build a contender, and we've yet to find out if either the Nets or the Bobcats have those at the moment.

Musical Interlude: American Aquarium -- "Savior"


Key to Victory: Inside, outside, the Nets are capable of nailing three after three by Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw while pounding their opponents helpless on the inside with Lopez, rookie rebound fiend Derrick Favors, and veteran rebound fiend Kris Humphries. They also play the slowest pace in the league, and are probably going to miss Devin Harris, so it behooves them to take more threes than they did on opening night, when they only attempted 17 and made 5.

Wallace and Stephen Jackson should get right up in the shooters' shirts and force them to put the ball on the floor. Normally, it's a perfectly fine strategy to play half and half, defending both the long shot and the dribble drive, but against this team it may be useful to employ the rarely seen "go ahead and try to drive past me" defense.

Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Small sample size caveats apply, but Stephen Graham has played 99 minutes so far this season and is shooting 32% from the field.