Pump Up Music: Better Than Ezra -- "Good"
The Big Picture: The Bobcats are at 35-34, 2.5 games up on the Chicago Bulls, who face New Jersey, Detroit, and Washington once each the rest of the way, and every other team they'll play is a playoff contender. Compare to Charlotte's schedule down the stretch. Our team faces Washington twice, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Detroit, and New Jersey. Tonight is the first of those games against the Washington Wizards.
With all of that in mind, it's tempting to look ahead, past this game. That would be a mistake. If we've learned anything about the Bobcats this year -- with the caveat that this might simply be me justifying my previous observations -- it's that when everyone's firing on all cylinders, they're a remarkably difficult matchup for any team, because they've got length, they've got ball hawks, they've got shot blockers, and they're relentless. That said, we've also learned that their margin for error is a lot lower than other playoff teams' that ride a superstar or two. We have one semi-superstar in Gerald Wallace, and no one who should be expected to take over a game on our behalf and refuse to let the team lose, though Stephen Jackson appears to have taken up that mantle.
The Wiz played the Blazers tough on Friday, losing by only two. Andray Blatche has emerged in a big way this season. Shaun Livingston is carving out a niche as the point guard with the greatest as-yet-unfulfilled potential this side of Derrick Rose. Mike Miller buzzed off his crazy hair and looks even weirder than Adam Morrison does with a buzz cut. There's not much, but there's something there. I think.
Key to Victory: Recently, Blatche has made the Wizards' season bearable. However, in what's turning into a recurring theme, the Bobcats have a center platoon that should neutralize just about any single center in the league, with Theo Ratliff and Tyson Chandler sharing time. Right now, I like Chandler more, simply because he's not taking a crazy number of shots like Ratliff has, but Theo does appear to be more effective on defense.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: I used to poke fun at Blatche because he was, for me, a specific type of untalented, yet extremely athletic, big man who would wash out of the NBA soon enough. (JaVale McGee?) I used to ask why this guy wasn't being brought in to NFL training camps to be a goal-line receiver specialist and field goal special teams guy.