Originally written on Trade Street Post  |  Last updated 11/8/14

Either my eyes are playing tricks on me, or there is a Cardboard Marion under Haywood's elbow...

Well, the trade deadline passed today and DJ Augustin, despite rampant rumors, did not get traded. For many (like myself) this was good news. For a lot of others, it was the first of two bummers expected today. The second? Well, the Bobcats had to take the court in their “Death Valley” against the Dallas Mavericks. The Cats have never beaten the Mavs, but Dallas is just a season or two away from being forced to begin the same rebuilding process now well underway on Trade Street, USA. The Mavericks are aging to the point that some one could sing, “The Old Grey Mavs, they ain’t what they used to be.” The game promised to be a matchup of the future versus the past. Just how much more of the Bobcats’ “future” must be in place to steal a win from the elder statesmen of the NBA?

The first quarter began the way many Cats games have begun this season, with Charlotte displaying great energy. They quickly sped out to a 5-0 lead before the Mavericks found their groove and began to fight back. Despite DJ Augustin’s ability to penetrate at will against the aging Jason Kidd, the complete lack of a true inside game remained the Achilles Heel for the Cats and as things wound down to the final minute, the teams were trading baskets and the lead with almost every possession. Deej missed a trey and allowed the Mavs to jump out to a 3-point lead in the closing seconds, but atoned for his miss by racing up the court and dropping in a desperation bank shot trey at the buzzer and the quarter concluded in a 23-23 tie. 

The benches took over in the second, which only increased the need for the Bobcats to rely on outside shooting for most of their offense. Luckily, the bombs were finding their mark with Reggie Williams, and Kemba Walker hitting from long range seemingly at will. Just after the midpoint of the quarter, Derrick Brown slammed home a gorgeous alley-oop pass from Kemba and the Cats opened up a rare double-digit lead 44-32. Most teams rely on their bench squads to maintain the score long enough to give the starters enough time to rest, but Charlotte’s second squad has shown a tendency to actually turn up the pressure and handily outscored the Mavs bench 25-18 before the starters began drifting back on to the court. With Bismack Biyombo picking up some quick fouls, Byron Mullen remained on the court and committed a painful foul on a Dirk Nowitzki trey that allowed Dallas to fight back into a single-digit deficit and the Cats went into the half holding on to a 54-48 edge. 

It can be argued that watching a Bobcats third quarter performance this season is one of the most painful experiences in professional sports. The first minutes in Dallas were no exception. Foul trouble moved from being a minor problem to being a major threat for the Cats’ rebounders and Dallas came out looking to take over. By mid-quarter, the Mavs had regained the lead and empty possessions began piling up on the Charlotte side of the ledger. Y’all know the story by now. As the quarter wore on, frost settled on the iron and the Cats suddenly couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean from a boat. Luckily, Dallas is not the deadly team they once were and after three the Cats trailed by a still-manageable 6 points, 68-74. 

The shooting woes continued for Charlotte as the fourth began and the Mavs opened up an 11-point lead of their own before the Cats began to find ways to score again. Coach Silas shuffled his lineup like a casino dealer having a seizure, but couldn’t seem to hit on the right combination. Charlotte’s long range shooters kept heaving up 3-point air balls at the same time the Dallas long range shooters caught fire and began making the shots they missed so often in the first half. Again, the complete absence of an inside post presence allowed the Maverick defenders to patrol the perimeter and leave only a token presence in the passing lanes into the paint. In the rare instances where Deej or Henderson attempted to penetrate, Dirk Nowitzki was there waiting to alter the shot or fill up the paint like a Mack Truck on a one lane bridge. The Bobcats did make a strong run toward the end of the game, but by then the Mavs had stretched the lead to 17 and it was just too late. The final score; 96-101.


The Ugly Truth

Although the Cats put up one heck of a successful batch of first half statistics, it all went to pot in a hurry. After shooting over .55%, the Frosted Felines couldn’t even come close to .30% in the second half. The third remained a nightmare for the Cats where they managed to muster up only 14 points. As previously stated, with no inside game to speak of, all opposing defenses need to do is focus on defending jump shots. It doesn’t matter how effectively an offense executes a screen play if the defense knows it’s coming; scoring becomes all but impossible. Bismack is a proven factor on the Bobcats defensive end, but the Cats need to get their hands on as many bigs as possible in the off-season or the team will remain woefully unable to compete next season as well.


The Spin

Tyrus Thomas showed signs of life for the first time in recent memory. He was active away from the ball, and provided some much needed production to the starting lineup with 14 points and 8 rebounds while playing just over 28 solid minutes. Hopefully this will become the norm and isn’t a mere Diawesque flash in the pan performance. Time will tell, but his efforts against the Mavs earn him a well-deserved Trade Street Gamebreaker Award. Also, the bench was a pleasant surprise, especially in the first half. Watching this team it is easy to see what just a couple of strategically sound draft picks or free agents can do to make the difference between league doormats and serious contenders. We all knew this season would be a wash, but this rebuild may be completed quicker than many of us could have anticipated. We may be one off-season away from having a whole lot more to cheer about down on Trade Street.


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