The difference between the playoffs and the lottery for the Charlotte Bobcats might come down to how many small improvements they can make up and down their roster. In beating the San Antonio Spurs 92-76, a clear Western Conference playoff team, the Cats got a huge contribution from Boris Diaw.
Early on, Spurs rookie DeJuan Blair looked like he was on his way to another 20-20 night, but Diaw gets lots of credit for battling with him and the other San Antonio big men. Where Boris had trouble earlier in the year rebounding and fighting in the paint, now he's playing like it's 2006 all over again, combining his point guard-ish inclinations with more traditional big man attributes like rebounds and blocked shots. Just as the Cats can sink if any of the starters falter, they can look like an unstoppable force when everyone's doing his thing and one or two guys has a hot night, and Boris was definitely on fire.
Highlights and lowlights after the jump.BAD
-- This is probably the 32nd or 33rd time I've put this sentiment into a recap, but... Stephen Graham went into this game with a 9.9 PER. For reference, 15.0 PER is league average, and a 9.9 PER belongs to someone whose offense is pretty putrid. In order to remain in the league, based on his PER and other general efficiency numbers, Graham would have to be an above average defensive player. But he's not. It's hard to believe we wouldn't be able to get better production out of that rotation spot from one of the better D-League swingmen -- or a rookie with crazy hops who was drafted partly because everyone expected him to be a defensive contributor right away. Maybe I've been going about this all wrong and shouldn't be emphasizing Gerald Henderson's development, and the fact that he's being branded with an effective scarlet letter game by game. Instead, maybe I should be emphasizing the high probability that playing Henderson and Derrick Brown instead of Graham would give the Cats a better shot at the playoffs this year.
-- At many points throughout the game, Boris Diaw made himself the most important player on the floor. He was perfect from three. He blocked 2 shots. He turned it over only once. He grabbed 11 rebounds! And on defense, Boris was emblematic of the adjustments the entire team made after the first quarter. In that first frame, the Spurs scored 24 points. After that? San Antonio scored 18 in the second, 15 in the third, and 19 in the fourth. DeJuan Blair had about 79 rebounds in the first quarter, but only finished with 83 in the game.
-- The Gerald Wallace All Star push is in full effect. Throughout the TV broadcast, our announcers were arguing the case. Of course, I think it's more effective to mention that, "Gerald Wallace’s jersey is the most durable in the NBA. It's stretch-proof, rip-proof, fire-proof, and, most importantly, Gerald Wallace-proof." Either way, 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and 5 blocks was reminiscent of -- wait, I think I've heard this before -- 2006 Crash. On top of that, he threw down an absolutely thunderous dunk in the fourth quarter that signaled the end of the game before garbage time had even commenced.