I've never given much thought to why the Charlotte Bobcats tend to perform well against the Toronto Raptors until tonight, but I figured it out. The Bobcats' roster negates the Raptors' and vice versa.
Gerald Henderson and DeMar DeRozan? A wash. The Bobcats' front line can score at will on Bargnani, just as Bargnani can against the Bobcats' front line. Same for D.J. Augustin and Kemba Walker versus Jose Calderon.
These two teams are unable to guard each other. That said, the Bobcats have gotten the upper hand against the Raptors in recent years despite a worse roster overall. Just as the Los Angeles Lakers simply showed up to games against the Bobcats in the past, the Raptors have historically done the same. The Bobcats usually fight and execute when playing this team. Tonight was an exception.
Tonight's game felt like an all-star game with one exception: there we no all-stars present. Defense was played sparingly, with bad, rushed shots being commonplace. That all changed, however, late in the fourth quarter. You know, all-star game style.
Before the game, I visited my great aunt, who is returning to the Netherlands tonight. She's quirky; one of those old women that is convinced they're in their early twenties. However, we discussed a multitude of topics, and her age would become apparent when she would offer advice and insight. When I asked her about school, her usually giddy tone became serious. "Even if you are not good at something, you must try so that you know what you are capable of doing."
That applies to the Bobcats this season. Infamous for their lackadaisical attitude (at least to us fans), the Bobcats did themselves no favors by putting forth a mediocre performance, even by their standards. Don't be misled. The Bobcats weren't in this until the end because they're as good as the Raptors. No. God, no. They were in this game because the Raptors also had no interest in trying to win. The Bobcats were bailed out on numerous plays because the Raptors decided to foul instead of expend energy on defense.
Charlotte went to the line 30 times, converting 22 of those opportunities.
Oh, you don't believe me? The Bobcats shot 40.3% from the field. Average for them, but still. The majority of the offense (again) came from midrange jumpers that players had no business taking. This is as much the players' fault as it is Silas'. The UCLA system works best with pure shooters and/or players with very high ball IQ, something the Bobcats...well, to put it lightly, don't have. At all. The Boston Celtics could run the UCLA offense well. Charlotte can't.
Byron Mullens should never take 21 shots. Even if he's left open 21 times. Especially from 18-23 feet.
But hey, let's not forget the defense! I'll give credit where credit is due. Andrea Bargnani is a very tough cover for any player. That said, letting him shoot 50% from the field will not cut it. For whatever reason, Bismack Biyombo's minutes were fairly limited, which is unfortunate because he held his own against Bargnani early in the game. Mullens was eaten. Tyrus made to look like a fool. Simply unacceptable.
Henderson and Reggie Williams did a decent job on DeRozan. I watch pretty much every Raptors game, and I'll let you know that DeRozan is not nearly as good as he looked tonight. He got angry in the third. He plays well when he's angry. He also got hot in the third. Unlucky set of circumstances for Charlotte. I was very impressed with their effort following him through screens. A bit of an anomaly, that performance.
But wait! For some fun, can we pretend that the Bobcats tried for the entire game and not just in the fourth!?
Sure, why not.
What a lack of execution. Ugh. I love Toronto's color commentary crew (that's whom I was listening to tonight), but hearing them troll the crap out of Charlotte's decisions late in the game was something I was not prepared for, nor happy about.
It was justified, though. Did Silas really think that allowing Mullens to defend Bargnani one-on-one in the post, down by one, with 40 seconds left was a good idea? Mullens. Against Bargnani. Yeah. If you didn't watch the game, it went just as you'd expect.
But we like Mullens a lot, so we're going to make him our primary option on the next play. He's going to take a three! Air ball.
I'm usually pretty good at finding positives in dark times, but I was not impressed with Charlotte's effort tonight. This was certainly a winnable game. And, without much fighting, they were within striking distance down the stretch. But nope! We are ledumb.
Note: I was happy with D.J. Augustin tonight. Clearly took his bench role to heart. Injured? You didn't believe that, did you? Gonna miss you, D.J.