“We gotta play like we’re playing for something,” the coach said at the morning shootaround, repeating the message he delivered to his players a little earlier. For about the first five minutes of the first quarter Wednesday night it appeared those words had the desired effect. But for the next 43, or at least most of them anyway, it was like they had never been spoken as the Bobcats overcame the early deficit and then held on down the final few minutes for a 107-101 win.
Futility is realizing that we cheer for a team that can get lit up by chumps like Byron Mullens. It’s accepting that Josh McRoberts smoked a dozen blunts before the game and still came away with a double-double. It’s coming to terms with facing a Charlotte roster that was assembled from the Island of Misfit Toys, and still playing lackluster enough basketball to be walked over for 48 minutes. Oh sure, they were high points. Jonas was great, DeMar and Rudy didn’t suck, and Sebastian Telfair was limited to 5 minutes. The team as a whole went a flawless 26-for-26 from the line, which didn’t matter because they gave the Cats 40 attempts but is still sort of neat. Kyle Lowry had 5 assists to go with his 5 turnovers. Best of all, it turned out Mickael Pietrus is still alive, though you’d never know it from watching him play.
Charlotte outscored Toronto in the paint 46-42 — you definitely don’t see this team score more points around the rim than their opponent often.
On the other hand, the Raptors played pretty poorly for most of the game. While the margin was less than six more often than not, it never really felt like the Raptors could win. Their offense was bad, and the majority of their made baskets were flukey. The Raptors jacked 22 3-pointers, the most of them heavily contested or off-balance, and made only five. This is in stark contrast to the Bobcats’ 16 attempts and eight makes. I told you, this is a different team.
Three months, 58 games and four starting power forwards later, the Charlotte Bobcats have a winning streak again. It had been that long since the Bobcats were 6-4 in November and beat the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors in back-to-back games. Maybe the trick is scheduling the Raptors in Charlotte, because the Bobcats beat Toronto 107-101 Wednesday. That, combined with Monday’s 119-114 win over the Washington Wizards, became the first time in forever that the word “streak’’ wasn’t the source of embarrassment for the 16-52 Bobcats.
The Bobcats defended well, holding the Raptors to 42.2 percent from the field. Toronto also couldn’t find its touch behind the arc (22.7 percent), while Charlotte finished with an impressive 46.7 percent (35-for-75) from the floor and 50.0 percent (8-for-16) from long range… The Cats took advantage of their up-tempo style of play and outscored the Raptors 16-9 in fast break points…Charlotte outscored Toronto in points in the paint, 46-42…The Raptors won the battle on the boards, 45-42, and outscored the Blazers in second-chance points (18-14)…The biggest difference in the game was bench production. Charlotte’s reserves outscored the Raptors’ reserves, 54-13.
The Raptors got away with an incomplete effort, stealing the victory when these teams met in Toronto five days earlier. Charlotte was held to just one field goal in the fourth quarter of that game and the Raptors were hoping to carry that success into Wednesday’s tilt in the Bobcats’ gym. It certainly looked like that would be the case early on but the jump shot-happy Raps lost momentum late in the first quarter and could never quite steal it back. That early turning point occurred when both clubs went to their respective second units. Led by Mullens, who finished with 25 points, Charlotte’s reserves came out firing and took advantage of the easy looks they created with pristine ball movement.
Were you only watching events from SportsVU’s vantage, it appears the Raptors play basketball wrong. That appears to be the view of the backroom boys interviewed by Lowe. “A lot of coaches will say how great it is that analytics confirm what they already see,” Keith Boyarsky, an analytics consultant with the team, tells Lowe. “The fact of the matter is, that’s not really true.”
Of course this idea is preposterous. What else would you do with a bunch of coordinate data, write a song? What the Raptors stats guys did with the coordinate data — as awesome as it is — is blatantly obvious and the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when they hear about SportVU. The trick is to actually build a program that will turn the data into something usable. Likewise, demonstrating that they’ve created an algorithm to determine ideal defensive position is not going to give very much away, as they have not revealed how the algorithm actually works.