"This is the best I've ever seen Nazr Mohamed play." - Slick Leonard
So I turned on the car radio outside the Fishers Fieldhouse (yes, my 2nd grade team won, thanks for asking) just as Mark Boyle was wrapping up a play call late in the third quarter when Slick Leonard chimed in with the above quote. My first thought was, "Uh, oh. I hope the Pacers are within ten."
The Bobcats have been struggling mightily and dealing with injuries of their own to start the season along with a recent trade which added Stephen Jackon to the mix. Despite a string of losses, the Bobcats had been trending toward a win and figured to cause the Pacers matchup problems with their athletic wing players. Tyson Chandler wasn't able to return as planned, but they did welcome back Boris Diaw who played a significant role in helping Charlotte snap their 7-game losing streak.
The Pacers are now streaking in the wrong direction themselves with their third straight notch in the L column. Against, my better judgment I watched the NBA League Pass broadband archive of the game (sweet option by the way). Just had to see how this game ran so easily in Charlotte's favor.
There wasn't any one thing that did the Pacers in, though. No foul fest or shooting dry spell or turnover frenzy that put the Pacers in a hole they couldn't dig out of. Instead, there were little bursts of all of those problems and they gradually mounted into in insurmountable lead. The Pacers just the energy or game to put together a run and apply any pressure on their hosts.
In short, it was the kind of game where rookie Derrick Brown would pick Danny Granger's pocket and finish at the other end with a flush. And that was just the beginning of the struggles for Granger and the Pacers.
A few more thoughts on the loss:
- If you want to pinpoint the key point in the game, then Charlotte's 22-5 run in the first half would probably qualify. But that only put the Pacers down 15 midway through the second quarter. Still, the Pacers never recovered and only briefly cut the lead down to nine, otherwise the deficit remained in double-digits the rest of the way.
- The game started out so promising, too. T.J. Ford and Roy Hibbert both scored within a minute and then Brandon Rush hit his first two perimeter jumpers. All three players appeared engaged and ready to do their part for a win. Unfortunately, the effort didn't hold up and all three offered little else the rest of the game. Ford had one whole assist, while Rush was sporadic to say the least, doing some good things but other things that made me wonder if I was back watching the 2nd grade league. Simple example: Rush has the ball after a steal going the other way and as if it were a hot potato he jumps to throw it to...Roy Hibbert who, fortunately, wasn't expecting it nor paid the pass any mind. It did land safely in Dahntay's hands eventually, but that wasn't the play of someone with an aggressive mindset.
- Aside from the 22-5 run in the wrong way, the Pacers simply didn't shoot it real well all night, and once they fell behind tried to make up the deficit with threes which just exasperated the problem. The Pacers missed their first eight 3-ball attempts before Granger and Brandon Rush hit a couple of late in the second quarter. On the night, the Pacers were 5-22 (ooo, 22-5 run, 5-22 3PTs, numerologists go crazy) from 3-land. Meanwhile the Bobcats mixed it up all night with plenty of layups to go along with their perimeter shots. Made it look easy.
- While Nazr Mohammed did have a huge game (for Nazr Mohammed at this point of his career), he wasn't the key difference-maker for Charlotte considering he only played a little over 17 minutes. He did have a key stretch to begin the game where he pumped in eight straight points and also denied a pair of shots including one of Roy Hibbert's dunk attempts, which moved Slick to drop his praise in the quote at the top of this post.
- Danny Granger continued his inconsistent play. This time foul trouble disrupted his game but he played 34 minutes and never found the flow in his offensive game. In fact, his ball handling appears to have regressed and he seemed to fumble the ball every time he didn't settle for a perimeter jumper.
- Hibbert struggled for the second-straight game but this one had nothing to do with foul trouble. He just struggled in general, missing six of his nine shots and only tracking down four rebounds. The Charlotte announcers were showing big Roy no respect early in the game, mentioning that the Bobcats should leave Hibbert alone and encourage him to shoot. Unfortunately, there was no joy for Roy and he couldn't make them eat their words.
- Tyler Hansbrough received a lot of cheers from the UNC faithful when he entered the game and did about anything. Hansbrough struggled offensively with his old coach, Roy Williams sitting courtside. But he did make his presence known with six rebounds and by bull-rushing his way to the line (and making all four of his free throws.
- Jeff Foster returned to action after resting his back for a couple of weeks, but joined his teammates by not making much of an impact. He finished with one rebound and three fouls in a little over eight minutes of play. His return left Solo Jones out of the rotation.
- Former Pacer and all-around great guy, Stephen Graham earned a little burn tonight for the Bobcats and showed up well making every shot he took to finish with eight poinst.
- In addition to ripping Danny Granger for a dunk in the first half, rookie Derrick Brown made a nice contribution for Charlotte. The Bobcats had help from several players on the roster, but Brown is quick with nice bounce for a front court player. He finished with 13 points on seven shots and four rebounds.
- As my negative tone in the game thread revealed, I felt this type of outcome was entirely possible tonight. Circumstances sometimes conspire together to make it a tough night in the NBA. Happens. It's also when you think back to a loss like the one to the Knicks and kick yourself again.
- Speaking of kicking myself again, Jim O'Brien seemed to back off the plan to have Mike Dunleavy return to action on Wednesday against the L.A. Clippers. No the story is they want to make sure he's in good enough shape and until he is Dunleavy probably won't play. Of course, it's entirely possible, Duns will suit up and not play or play sparingly. Since his status is day-to-day we'll check on it again tomorrow.