Charlotte, 3/31/10 â€“ Theyâ€™re playing Coach Larry Brownâ€™s â€œright wayâ€. Theyâ€™re in possession of a high-scoring dynamo (Gerald Wallace) whose slashing style seems inspired by this guy. Theyâ€™re amply supplied with seasoned vets (Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, & Theo Ratliff) whoâ€™ll steel their spine in the trying times ahead.
Theyâ€™re the Charlotte Bobcats, and theyâ€™re hurtling towards the first playoffs in (an albeit short) franchise history. Charlotteâ€™s chances became ever stronger Wednesday night after a 103-84 win against Philadelphiaâ€™s hapless â€˜76ers. The â€˜Cats lead over ninth place Chicago is now a formidable four games, & only eight remain in the â€™09-â€™10 regular season.
NBA coaching-types openly salivate for guys like Charlotteâ€™s Gerald Wallace. Nicknamed â€œCrashâ€ by his teammates, Wallace goes hard to the hoop consistently & thoroughly. Averaging 49% shooting, his 18.6 points per game are testament to a high number of easy baskets. Wallace also averages 10.6 boards, finding eight or more on the defensive end a night. Throw in about two steals and blocks to boot & itâ€™s hard to believe he is only 6â€™7â€, nearly undersized for the small forward position.
Facing Philly, he did not disappoint, putting in 24 points & pulling down 12 rebounds. Further vexing the Sixers were his three steals, the most of any Bobcats player. Wallace received able assistance from Charlotte center Tyson Chandler, with 15 points, (on 7-8 shooting) six rebounds, & a pair of blocks. Charlotte hopes that the 7â€™1â€ Chandler, acquired from New Orleans in a swap for Emeka Okafor, will provide a defensive force in the paint for the â€˜Cats, though his efficacy has been hampered by a slower than expected recovery from off-season ankle & toe surgeries.
In a night where a sore hamstring sullied his aim â€“ 7-19 shooting for only 16 points, Stephen Jackson talked about a squad that is humble & focused in their playoff pursuit.
”We’re still not playing perfect, as coach would want us to, but we found a way to win. We’ve still got some work to do.”
Brought to Charlotte early in the season for scoring help, Captain Jackâ€™s also brings extensive experience on playoff teams. Going deep into the year with San Antonio (where he won a championship) and Golden State (where he led the Warriors to a historic upset of the high-flying Mavericks) he can educate the younger â€˜Cats on the pressures & demands of postseason basketball.
For Philly, this loss was only the latest in a year they hope to forget. Sixers coach Eddie Jordan is staring at certain unemployment come seasonâ€™s end, but Phillyâ€™s failures are hardly his alone. Against Charlotte, no Sixer player managed better than the 14 points scored by Andre Iguodala. Phillyâ€™s power forward Elton Brand, whoâ€™s estimated $82 million/five year deal is in itâ€™s second year, posted a miserable eight points & five rebounds. Thatâ€™s even lower than his 13.5 ppg season average, itself the lowest of his career.
The Sixerâ€™s only consolation is the top-ten draft pick a 26-49 record should earn them, though City of Brotherly Love denizens may be hard-pressed to see the silver lining in yet another year of rebuilding. While the â€˜League leading Cavaliers are their probable playoff match-up, the â€˜Cats â€“ having made it this far & with nothing to lose â€“ will push it until the Cavs have to bury them swinging.