However, the major story of this game was Gerald Wallace's absence due to headaches, and Stephen Jackson leaving during the third quarter due to back spasms. Those two are the Bobcats' best defenders, along with Raymond Felton, and just like that, our wing situation is in flux.
If either of those players are out for an extended period of time, we're looking at big minutes for Ronald Murray and (gulp) Stephen Graham, because Larry Brown can't see past his preconceived notions of rookies' talent levels and can't be expected to play Gerald Henderson or Derrick Brown in the starters' places, as any other rational coach would do. Here's hoping Crash 'n Jax come back, healthy, quickly.
Highlights and lowlights after the jump.BAD
-- Any time you can play Graham 17 minutes, you do it. I mean, I'm a stats guy, so I can point to every bit of recorded evidence showing that Graham is useless to the Cats, but even if you're not a stats-oriented person, and the only evidence you trust is subjective judgment of observed performance, I still don't see how it can be concluded that he deserves that many minutes. There are guys who are hustle All Stars and guys who supposedly bring intangibles (I love that "intangible" means you can't perceive it, but people still insist they perceive them), but Graham is neither of those things. What does Larry Brown see in him?
-- Boris Diaw continues to erode what goodwill he built up last season. If this is who he is, we can't keep giving him starter's minutes and expect to be a playoff-caliber club. In 24 minutes, he scored 4 points, got 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Oh, and he fouled out.
-- Zone defense continues to give the Cats fits. The Knicks deployed a matchup zone for big chunks of the game, baiting Charlotte into perimeter jumpers, which simply doesn't work for them. They were 5-18 from three, for 28%.
-- I understand wanting to get shooters in the game for the final possession, but only if we're down by 3. Why, down by 2, with about 9 seconds to go, was Acie Law in a game
for the first time as a Bobcat for the first time in forever? Sure, get Flip in the game instead of Tyson Chandler, but removing Henderson for Law became crazy the moment the Knicks missed their first free throw. It doesn't help matters that Law -- ACIE LAW THE FOURTH! -- took the inbound, dribbled headlong the length of the floor, and then got swatted at the rim by Danilo Gallinari, with nary a pass in the possession.
-- Derrick Brown and Gerald Henderson played extended minutes in Wallace and Jackson's absence. They should have played more, but, as noted above, Graham had to play. Amazingly, Henderson played in crunch time ahead of Flip, until the final possession. Whatever the reasoning, I applaud it. Henderson didn't shoot well, 0-3 in his 15 minutes, but he did run the floor and play good defense. Multiple times, he showed off his elite leaping ability when closing out on a shooter, jumping high with arm extended to try to redirect shots. It was legitimately startling to see his elevation.
-- In the 24 minutes Brown received, he beasted. 10 points on 5-6 shooting, 6 rebounds, 1 block, and another block that probably should have been allowed to stand but was ruled a foul instead. The guy has first round talent and a pretty good mind for the game. At worst, he seems like a more athletic Jared Dudley, which would make him a second round steal.
-- Felton did about as well as could be expected, given the circumstances, scoring 27 points on 22 attempts, grabbing 9 boards, and dishing 7 assists. Even without Wallace and Jackson, he's got to understand the odds are not with him when he tries to score instead of setting up others to score. It worked out this time, and the better shot selection he's displayed this season was in evidence. But if we're without Crash 'n Jax for any more time, I still want to see him facilitating instead of taking it upon himself to finish.