Archive for the ‘Charlotte Bobcats’ Category

Game No. 54: Raptors 92, Bobcats 87

While Raptors fans are preoccupied with an informal tank (and rightfully so, did you watch Monday night’s NCAA Final?), you would have to assume, or at least hope, that the Raptors themselves were preoccupied with finding a way to beat the pitiful Charlotte Bobcats.

The Bobcats came into this game at 7-43 and are honestly the worst NBA team I’ve seen in my lifetime, so as much as I’m fine with racking up losses right now, my pride as a Raptors fan needed this W. You don’t want to be the team that hands the Bobcats three of their eight wins.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- There have been close losses this season against championship caliber teams that make you think the Raptors aren’t that far away from starting their climb up the NBA pecking order. But then there are wins like this against the Bobcats, where I thought the Raptors played pretty well and seemed to control the flow of the game almost all night, and yet they still needed a big final two minutes to hold off one of the worst teams in NBA history. There was a portion of the game where the Raps were shooting over 50 per cent and the Bobcats were shooting under 40 per cent but were still within two possessions. Charlotte grabbing eight more rebounds and getting to the free throw line eight more times than Toronto helped them stay in it.

2- Andrea Bargnani only grabbed three rebounds and wasn’t noticeably good on defence (though his D was passable in this game against the lowly Bobcats, which isn’t saying much), but he was very good offensively again and finished with 30 points on 50 per cent shooting. Outside of an 0-for-5 stretch at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Bargs pretty much got what he wanted on the offensive end. If you accept the fact that you’re probably not going to get very good defence from Andrea on most nights, but still want a big offensive game from him, then just watch his first few offensive touches for an answer as to whether you’ll get one. Not neccessarily whether he’s scoring or not, but rather what he’s doing with the ball.

When Bargnani’s head is in the game offensively, he seems to know what he wants to do before the ball even gets to him. His first step is a tough to guard deceiving burst and his pump fake gets defenders every time. You can usually tell when Andrea’s going to struggle from the field if he stands in one spot holding the ball just looking around to make a pass or if his pump-fake is half-assed and only confuses himself.

3- Jose Calderon only scored one point and shot 0-for-2 from the field, but he was masterful running the offence, recording 11 assists in 33 minutes without committing a turnover. It was actually Calderon who I thought got Bargnani going in the first quarter, as after Andrea had missed his first few shots, Jose started looking for him and putting him in great position for easy buckets. In addition, outside of a few lapses, Calderon was better than usual on defence, and even came up with three steals.

4- DeMar DeRozan and Linas Kleiza completed the Raptors offence for the night, combining for 38 points on 15-of-30 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. Both players played big roles in the Raptors holding off the Bobcats, as Kleiza stretched the floor with four-of-eight three-point shooting and DeRozan helped the Raps maintain their second half lead with 16 of his 20 points coming in the final 24 minutes. Kleiza had a big stretch of threes in the second quarter, while DeRozan rode a red-hot jumper for 10 points in a quick third quarter stretch.

5- Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, but I’m pretty sure tonight was the first game where Raptors Season Seats were advertised. If you remember my post from a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that existing seat holders and those that bought at a lowered price for this season were guaranteed that same lowered price for next season as well. By the sounds of the promo Matt Devlin read tonight, outsiders/potential buyers can also purchase seats at this season’s lowered price for next season. I’ve said it before, but one of the things I’m really interested in this summer is seeing how casual fans and prospective ticket buyers react to the Raptors. Will season seat sales increase because of the Valanciunas hype, the draft hype and this season’s defensive improvement, or is it going to take a lot more and a lot longer than that?

6- With their first set of back-to-back wins in over two months, the Raptors have unfortunately climbed over the slumping Cavaliers, who have crashed back to earth with eight straight wins. A surprising Pistons win keeps Detroit 1.5 games ahead of the Raps, while the Kings and Nets are both playing as I write this. Depending on how those games finish, the Raptors could be anywhere from fifth from the bottom to tied for sixth/seventh from the bottom by the time you read this. I’ve said for the longest time that if you look at the standings, it’s pretty obvious that Toronto will likely finish somewhere between fourth-to-eighth from the bottom. Given the fact that teams can move down three spots on lottery night, the Raptors could realistically pick anywhere from first to 11th on draft night, which is actually kind of scary considering how much stock we’re all putting in this class. Basically, remaining games against the Cavs, Pistons, Bucks and Nets will be huge for tanking implications.

Bonus: How crazy is it that the Raptors are 16 games under .500, and yet they could lose all 12 of their remaining games and still finish with a higher winning percentage than they did last season?!

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 34 Min, 30 Pts, 11-22 FG, 2-6 3PT, 6-6 FT, 3 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO

Bobcats Player of the Game: Byron Mullens – 32 Min, 20 Pts, 9-21 FG, 1-2 3PT, 1-3 FT, 14 Reb, 2 Blk, 1 TO

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray
Charlotte: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Reggie Williams, Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo

Injury report

Toronto: Jerryd Bayless is out for the season.

Charlotte: Corey Maggette is day-to-day.

Here’s all you really need to know about this matchup: The Bobcats are 2-0 against the Raptors this season and 5-43 against the rest of the NBA. This is an aggressively awful NBA team, but they’ve inexplicably had the Raptors’ number. The Bobcats are dead last in the league in offensive efficiency, but they averaged 102.5 points in the two wins over the Raptors.

If Charlotte wins tonight, that will mean the Raptors will have been swept by the worst team in the league. I’m going to go out on a limb and state that Dwane Casey is not going to let that happen, even though the Raptors have actually lost six straight (!) to the Bobcats. That streak ends tonight.

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Any time you’re frustrated to be a Raptors fan, take pride in the fact that you’re not a Bobcats fan… or a Nets fan. Yikes.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
Charlotte: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Corey Maggette, Tyrus Thomas, Bismack Biyombo

Injury report

Toronto: Jose Calderon is questionable for tonight’s game.

Charlotte: No injuries reported.

Last night’s overtime win over the Grizzlies was arguably the Raptors’ most impressive victory of the season, in terms of difficulty. The night after, they play the Charlotte Bobcats, who beat the Raptors for one of their six wins exactly one month ago.

The fanbases of both teams need to look to young prospects as a reason to care about this game. For the Bobcats, it’s rookie center Bismack Biyombo, who is showing signs of being a more polished Ben Wallace — which is a frightening prospect for the rest of the league. For the Raptors, it’s Jerryd Bayless, who continues to have a bizarrely large number of doubters regardless of how many great performances he has as a starter. We can all agree that he’s not perfect, but if you still think Jose Calderon deserves to start over him, you’re either not watching the games or you’re lying to yourself.

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And now, one of the incredibly posh people who are still unaccountably waiters.

Game No. 32: Bobcats 98, Raptors 91

I wrote earlier on Friday about how even Tank Nation subscribers wouldn’t be able to take anything out of a loss to arguably the worst team in NBA history. Hours later, it’s officially a reality, as the Bobcats snapped a 16-game losing streak with a win in Toronto, “improving” to 4-26 after 30 games and 2-16 on the road.

This has to be rock bottom, right?

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- My first thought is this, that the Raptors, as poor a team as they are, even without Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza, are still a better team than the Bobcats. But they’re not better by enough of a margin to be able to coast by the Bobcats, or anyone else in the NBA for that matter. The incredibly frustrating thing about this loss is that the three or four times the Raptors decided to play hard in this game, they actually went on mini runs and started to build a lead. Then they would simply stop playing, almost as if they thought a six point lead against Charlotte would be enough. This team has to realize that as nice as solid efforts against teams like the Celtics, Lakers and Spurs are, those efforts will never excuse absolute duds like this. The Raptors we saw on this night deserved to be booed off of the floor.

2- One bit of good news for the Raptors is that they got one of their walking wounded back in the lineup in Jerryd Bayless. Bayless attacked the basket in his short stay on the floor and generally looked like his fearless self, but the bad news is that he played just five minutes in his return. I’m hoping this was just a precautionary decision by Dwane Casey, and not a sign that this injury is going to nag Bayless in one way or another all season. The guy was playing so well before he went down again, it would be a shame if he can’t get back to 100 per cent any time soon.

3- Another positive in this game for the Raptors was the crowd. Considering some of the larger crowds Toronto has had this season, 15,575 might not sound great, but if you ask me, getting over 15,000 people to spend their Friday night watching two teams with combined records of 12-48 is actually a minor accomplishment. Maybe “Naughty By Nature” or the “Fan Night” deals on merchandise brought the crowd in, but they actually sounded into the ball game, despite the “performance,” or lack there of, from the home team.

4- I’ve mentioned before that even when DeMar DeRozan has good games this season, there is always something that seems to hold him back from having a great game. Tonight was no different. DeRozan finished with a very efficient 24 points on just 15 field goal attempts and got to the line 12 times. Those are impressive numbers for the 22-year-old. But it leaves us with more to be desired when you consider that DeMar had 13 points after the first quarter on five-of-six shooting and 18 points at the half on six-of-seven shooting. Unfortunately, foul trouble slowed down DeRozan’s big night in the second half. He’s been pretty good over the last couple of weeks, and I suppose we can take solace in the fact that his January slump is officially over, but I can’t help thinking about the “what could have been” in a lot of these performances.

5- Yes, I realize that they just beat the team that I root for, but I remain confident in saying that the Bobcats have the worst NBA roster I’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s a joke to look at. I often find myself wondering how Bobcats fans, if they exist, make it through their days or make it through this season. As bad as things are here in Toronto, I still believe the Raptors have a couple of good pieces for the future already in place, a few additional assets that are at least somewhat attractive on the market and a solid coach in place. I look at the Bobcats, and I see a sad sack collection of “talent” with no hope in the near future. Drafting Anthony Davis would obviously change things, but right now, even exciting young players like Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo don’t do it for me.

6- You know what’s getting really frustrating? Watching Leandro Barbosa make really bad decisions with the ball in his hands. On the surface, you see a 16-point performance in 24 minutes off of the bench and think Barbosa performed well, but if you watched the ending of this game, I’m sure you share my frustration. The Raptors had cut the lead to two, got a stop and were running out on a fast break, with the ball in Leandro’s hands. Everyone in the building thought Barbosa should move the ball except Barbosa himself, and the play resulted in a turnover. Just minutes later, Barbosa committed another foolish turnover at a critical moment. I accepted that this season would be full of ups and downs (mostly downs) and full of frustrating moments a long time ago, but I assumed a lot of that frustration would come at the hands of our younger players, not the seasoned vets who were supposed to be supplying the leadership on this team.

Even a boost in the Tank Nation standings isn’t enough to satisfy me with a loss to the Bobcats, but if you can find comfort in it right now, a Pistons win on Friday leaves the Raptors with the fifth worst record in the NBA. Not to mention, a Hornets upset at MSG has Toronto just 1.5 games ahead of the second-worst record. Fun times, indeed.

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To finish, I’m going to suggest that you listen to the return of RaptorBlog Radio, which features an interview with fan-favourite and “Ultimate Raptor,” Alvin Williams. I promise you it will go down easier than anything related to this embarrassment of a game.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 42 Min, 14 Pts, 5-12 FG, 2-5 3PT, 2-2 FT, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO (Amir Johnson’s season-high 15 rebounds and another balanced game from James Johnson have them in the conversation too)

Bobcats Player of the Game: Kemba Walker – 30 Min, 14 Pts, 5-15 FG, 1-4 3PT, 3-3 FT, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO (You can take your pick between Walker and Biyombo, who came up with 13 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks)

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
Charlotte: Kemba Walker, Reggie Williams, Corey Maggette, Boris Diaw, Bismack Biyombo

Injury report

Toronto: Linas Kleiza, and Andrea Bargnani are out tonight, but Jerryd Bayless will play.

Charlotte: Gerald Henderson is out.

I’m not going to go into great detail about this game. I mean, it’s the freakin’ Charlotte Bobcats. Also, Joseph Casciaro already wrote a curiously long post about this game. The only thing I hope to get out of this is as much Bismack Biyombo as possible.

Hey, did you know we posted a podcast interview with Alvin Williams earlier today? Check it out.