Though the Charlotte Bobcats were able to grind out an 85-83 victory in New Jersey against the Nets, it’s difficult for a talent-thirsting team to reach the postseason simply on the basis of hard work.
The only pseudo-easy points the Bobcats can generate is on post ups for Stephen Jackson. This is why after the Bobcats primarily ran a flex base in the first quarter leading to numerous open mid-range jump shots for Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw, their main staple going forward, and primarily in the fourth, was Stephen Jackson posting on the left box.
However, because the Bobcats lack three-point shooters, Jackson was frequently doubled with New Jersey daring Charlotte’s supporting cast to beat them from the outside.
In the seven times Jackson posted up in the fourth quarter:
- A pass out of a double team led to Boris Diaw making a bad pass to a cutting Gerald Wallace.
- Another pass out of a double gave the Bobcats no advantage.
- A pass to a cutting Tyrus Thomas led to a layup.
- Another double and kick out saw Boris Diaw connecting on a triple.
- A post up against Anthony Morrow did not draw a double. Jackson missed the layup.
- Another post up saw Jackson lurching into a double team, where he was bailed out by a foul. He hit two free throws.
- A final post up saw Devin Harris strip the ball out of bounds. Charlotte retained possession.
While the ‘Cats sometimes regained possession meaning the plays don’t quite count as possessions, Charlotte scored one point per possession in seven post opportunities as the Bobcats’ staple play. That’s not particularly efficient.
Jackson, while not particularly selfish on Larry Brown’s squad, is also a player who tends to massage the ball, quelling offensive movement. While he has a reputation as a defensive stopper, he’s also quite lazy on that end, sticking to screens, not moving his feet, and making sloppy closeouts. A poor closeout on Travis Outlaw to end the game was survived when Outlaw missed a baseline pull-up.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, there are few better offensive options.
Boris Diaw was useful—10-18 FG, 2-6 3FG, 2-4 FT, 3 AST, 2 TO, 24 PTS—hitting the majority of his wide open jump shots, venturing in the post for the occasional hook, and being active when garbage opportunities presented themselves. However, he’s not a player who creates offense on his own, as evidenced by an airballed pull-up 18 footer.
Diaw’s a better team defender than he is an individual defender, and he’s not much of a rebounder.
On another team, Gerald Wallace’s habit of playing an entire game with his head down would relegate him to a sixth man role. On the Bobcats, though, he’s valuable as one of the few players who can create offense out of nothing, simply by turning himself into a missile seeking the basket.
Wallace rebounds simply by jumping higher in a crowd than all comers, and he missed several perimeter rotations against the Nets.
Nazr Mohammed—6-8 FG, 12 PTS—can’t defend, and was tortured by Brook Lopez, but he’s a solid short-range jump shooter. His backup DeSagana Diop plays excellent post defense, struggles to defend screens, and can’t find the basket with a GPS. Flawed as they are, Charlotte’s centers complement each other better than Tyson Chandler would.
Tyrus Thomas, as usual, plays out of control and makes numerous mistakes, but a made open jump shot and a few well-timed cuts earned the Bobcats four critical fourth-quarter points.
Shaun Livingston’s size allowed him to make several good passes out of the post, and his long arms disrupted New Jersey’s passing. He plays defense way too upright though. If he can fashion his stance lower, he can become an impact defender.
At second glance, Gerald Henderson lacks the size and explosion to be a difference maker as a wing.
Charlotte’s biggest problem was the point guard play of D.J. Augustin—1-7 FG, 1-5 3FG, 2-2 FT, 7 AST, 0 TO. Don’t be fooled by the high assist total, four of them came from hitting the correct target in the flex, as Wallace and Diaw popped open for mid-range jumpers unimpeded.
Over the course of the game, Augustin had extreme problems getting into the lane, couldn’t create space for his jumper, only knocked down one of five attempts from downtown (including one that was blocked by Devin Harris), was timid firing his jump shots unless they were wide open, and was too small to have any defensive success. Even Anthony Morrow posted him for points.
Without a point guard (or anybody besides Jackson and the reckless Wallace) who can break down defenses, the Bobcats will be forced to rely on extreme offensive execution to manufacture points, which will be hard to do against the better defenses in the league. Doubly so because Wallace, Diaw, and Jackson are such unreliable shooters.
The Bobcats make up for it with solid defensive principles, discipline, and hard work, but each is fallible against talented, or like-minded opponents. Still, Charlotte’s best cause for optimism is that they at least have that going for them—what exactly do the Nets, Raptors, Cavs, Sixers, Pacers, Pistons, Wizards and Knicks have?