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Blogcat's Take, 12/10


It’s been 7 hours and 15 days…since you took your buzzer-beater, Ray Allen—nothing compares 2 U.  Ever since Walter Ray ripped our collective heart out and showed it to us before we died, we’ve been performing worse than a mortgage-backed security; we ought to change our names to the "Charlotte Structured Investment Vehicles."  Thus I was as excited about Saturday’s game with Cleveland as I normally am about cleaning my cat’s litter box.  There just wasn’t anything to look forward to in this one, not even watching LeBron plow through us, because he wasn’t suiting up.  The other thing about LeBron is he offers a built-in excuse for losing—without him in there, it’d be a modified version of the Toronto game, and the only thing to do would be to just accept that we really, really suck. 
 
For a while, it looked like Larry Hughes would be more than happy to remove that embarrassment, as he returned to the lineup, looked buffer than Brad Pitt in Troy, and played like a dynamo.  Hughes had been out for so long that no one even remembers what it was that he injured in the first place, including Hughes.  Yet Larry Hughes ran through us like Larry Davis, getting 22 points in 26 minutes.  The Cavs also proved that they do have a couple other guys who can play, including guards Daniel Gibson (15 points), who made a name for himself against Detroit in last year’s playoffs (unfortunately, that name ended up being “Boobie”), and Shannon Brown (15 points).  LeBron was there in spirit as well, although—sadly—not in turtleneck.  Fortunately, he did rock a fabulous, multicolored vest straight off the 1990 In Living Color set as he cheered his teammates from the sidelines.           
 
Still, this was yet another terrible game between two bad teams.  There were 47 turnovers, 79 free throws, and a horrifying finish that nearly defies description.  The good news is that Raymond Felton scored 8 points in the final 16 seconds to break our 7-game losing streak.  The bad news is that the 8 points were all foul shots, meaning those 16 seconds of game time took approximately 2-and-a-half hours of REAL time to elapse and caused anyone who actually sat through it all to contemplate grabbing a knife and stabbing themselves repeatedly, Exorcist-style.  Raymond showed some true grit for this performance, but he would never have had to do it if not for two monumentally, fantastically, spectacularly stupid fouls by Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace, both of which stopped the clock and allowed the Cavs to get close enough to continue fouling.  A sort of combination miniature golf/free-throw game ensued, in which both teams walked back and forth across the court, took foul shots, and called lots of timeouts.  I’m still floored by the sheer atrociousness of the experience.  It was like watching a fight to the death between Sasha Vuyacic and Dan Dickau, with the winner advancing to face Luke Ridnour.  
Besides Felton’s clutch play, Gerald Wallace had a brilliant night—other than that foul on Gibson…on a 3-pointer…(stab-stab-stab).  Crash notched 22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 blocks (including a game-saver on a wide-open, waltzing-in-for-an-easy-layup Zydrunas Ilgauskus), and 4 steals.  Wallace was so good, at times he seemed like the only one moving out there, like he was Hiro Nakamura and he had frozen time and space to swipe passes.    
 
The thing that confused me was Coach Mike Brown’s decision to limit Drew Gooden to just 22 minutes.  He does know how weak we are in the front court, right?  Why not beef up with his two big power forwards?  Especially since at this point, our options down low are pretty much limited to a) Emeka Okafor, and :cool: trying to angle passes off Primoz Brezec’s hands in such a way that after he inevitably drops them, they either ricochet to a teammate and/or into the basket—it’s become like a carnival game. 
 
Anyway, I think the time we had to savor the victory was less than those last 16 seconds, because it was immediately onto Detroit for a Sunday mid-afternoon showdown with the Pistons.  This one had nothing unexpected about it, as Detroit jumped out to a 22-10 lead, repeatedly doubled us up in scoring, and pounded us against the wall like Sunny Corleone on a bridesmaid—no alarms and no surprises…    
 
As expected, the Back-to-Back Games Excuse Meter was cranked up to 10 for this 104-85 beatdown, although once again I’d point out that we’ve only played 5 games in 9 days.  There’s also the fact that the vast majority of the previous night was spent standing around and watching Raymond Felton win a glorified game of HORSE.  Nonetheless, Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince and the rest of the Bad Boys dribbled circles around us, frequently spinning Jeff McInnis around like a dredlocked sprinkler.
 
Despite the success we had with feeding Okafor down low the night before, that new approach apparently went out the window last night, as Mek had fewer field goal attempts (11) than Derek Anderson.  Meanwhile, Jared Dudley’s almost completely vanished: he went from double-double to not scoring at all to not playing at all, although he did get 11 minutes last night.  Baffling as that one was, the other no-show was even more mysterious: just 3 points for Wallace!?  As a whole, we kept the turnovers down (12), but that’s mostly because we barely had the ball in the first place. 
 
I must confess that with about 6 minutes to go and the deficit in the 20’s, I flipped over to the Colts-Ravens game.  Watching a garbage-time squad of Jeff McInnis, Othella Harrington, and Derek Anderson on the court wouldn’t have been all that enticing in '98, let alone '08.         





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