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Blogcat's Take, 3/19

(Note: Blogcat moved this weekend! And Blogcat himself is writing this, so he’s not sure why he’s going 3rd person; he’ll stop now. Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to submit this Saturday morning before the internet at my old crib was turned off. So A) sorry for the delay, and :cool: given that the Hornets would later crap the bed against Denver, sorry for the giddy mood that follows, because it is now totally outdated).

My reaction to Thursday’s win against the Heat was borderline erotic; a significant part of me just wants this post to be nothing but “We beat the Heat!” written 1,000 times, like Bart Simpson or Jack Torrance would. I won’t do that, but let me just write-slobber really quickly about how fiercely, penetratingly, epic this win was: it was against the Heat (mentioned earlier, but worth reemphasizing); it was on the road; it ended a streak of 12 straight losses at Miami; it was a close game, and the last time we were in a close game against the Heat, we stalled out like an airplane carrying Indiana Jones; we battled back from a 15-point deficit in the second quarter; the win got us into a virtual 3-way tie with Miami and Boston for the fourth seed; the win got us to 10 games over .500 for the first time since nineteen-never; we denied the Heat the head-to-head tiebreaker; finally, we spared poor Marvin Williams from the worst choking since Captain Needa.

It was also another win in which everyone chipped in, although that’s mostly code for “we didn’t need Kemba Walker to once again pull our morbidly obese flesh out of a 5-alarm blazing inferno,” because we still had a spectacular 4th-quarter performance from one guy; that guy just happened to be Nic Batum (and on second thought, Walker was still huge in the 4th quarter, AND he pulled us out of that 2nd quarter hole). Batum delivered the goods to his American friends like Gustave Eiffel by 1) hitting three brutally difficult jumpers from 17+ feet (one of them just a demoralizing 22-footer with the shot-clock winding down and Josh Richardson all over him), 2) duping the hapless Richardson into a 3-pt shooting foul (in which Nic-Ba hit all three—again late in the shot clock), and 3) capping off his night with an utterly balletic dish-off to Al Jefferson for a silky layup, thereby temporarily transforming Big Al into a 290-lb hippopotamus in a tutu; Batum était magnifique.

Yes, in just about every way, the win was huge with a capital “Y.” Rick Bonnell said the same thing in his write-up, calling it the “biggest victory since the NBA returned to Charlotte in 2004.” I agree with this theoretically, but I can’t not quibble with Rick, so let me just point out a couple of things. First of all, he goes on to say, “I’m not sure what other win since the Bobcats’ inception could compare to Thursday’s 109-106 road victory against the Miami Heat.” A) You can’t write the words “I’m not sure” in an article, unless it’s about something like trade agreements or the existence of God, or at least unless you’ve first explored some options. “I’m not sure” is something you say out loud when talking to buddies about whether or not you think Jessica Chastain is hot. If you’re writing in a newspaper, you have the resources to do some research—so do it! :cool: “Biggest victory” is a pretty vague term, therefore you should define it before trying to answer it, which Bonnell doesn’t really do. I feel as though victories could be “big” symbolically or “big” in terms of playoff ramifications, or both. I still think the victory earlier this year over the Cavaliers was at least one of the biggest victories ever for the franchise. (in fact, that was my article that week). But I do concede that it was big only in the symbolic sense. This game against Miami had both symbolic meaning (ending the 12-game at-Miami losing streak) and playoff ramifications, so it probably is the biggest. The caveats I would add, though, are that this win didn’t actually clinch anything; it brought us into a tie for fourth place, but we’re still just 3 games up on 7th place Pacers with 14 games to play, including 9 on the road. It didn’t even guarantee us a tiebreaker over the Heat; it just prevented them from having it over us. Also, because this playoff race is so close, there’s a really good chance that this game won’t remain the biggest win in Hornets history for very long—it’s the “Quarterback Signs Biggest Contract in NFL History” headline phenomenon. But whatever; I’m mostly just rambling here when all I really want to do is write “We beat the Heat” another hundred times.

Okay, besides that post-coital victory embellishment, the other thing I want to do today is a comparison between our guys’ performances over the first 20 games of the season and the most recent 20 games to see what’s changed, what’s stayed the same, and what’s—well, actually that’s it; it’s either one or the other. Anyway, here is how the first and last 20 games looked across a series of significant metrics:

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Okay, so first some quick notes: I limited this to the core group, and I removed Brian Roberts, Spencer Hawes, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from both lists, because they’re all depressing for different reasons, and I don’t want to spoil the mood (I did keep PJ Hairston, though, because Courtney Lee was more or less a 1-for-1 replacement). Second, the Net On / Net Off stats are on a per 100 possessions scale. Third, PIE is NBA.com’s answer to PER. How exactly is it measured? I don’t know. I don’t know if NBA.com knows. But it’s the only all-in-one, PER-like stat that you can cut up over arbitrary timelines like “first 20” and “last 20,” so I went with it.

The first thing that pops out at me is Kemba Walker’s turbo propulsion from one of several key contributors to clear-cut Team MVP. We’ve talked about his credentials as a Most Improved Player candidate, but as this table shows, he’s also shown humungous improvement just within this season. He has increased both the quantity and quality of his play, and those on-/off- differentials over the last 20 games are staggering. Next, as suspected, Marvin Williams has clearly shed his cloak of invisibility by stepping up his usage rate almost a full 6 percentage points, while no one else has fluctuated more than a couple points or so, AND his TS% has gone up. It makes me wonder how much more often he could pull the trigger without sacrificing efficiency—could he go from Invisible Marv to Gunner Marv? Third, as alluded to earlier, the replacement of Hairston with Lee—again, not a perfect swap—has been gigantic, even though Lee’s clearly the weak link among the starters. Fourth, that totally delightful off-the-bench Jeremy Lin/Lamb meldonium injection that dominated the first quarter of the season is long, long gone. Both of their TS% numbers and PIE contributions proved to be unsustainable—Lamb’s in particular. Finally, it’s not just me: Cody Zeller has morphed into the most frustrating player to watch, as judged by his team-worst turnover ratio over the past 20 games. On the other hand, he’s the only one to go from bench player to starter on these two lists, and yet he’s still making a positive impact in just about every way besides turnovers, so I can only be so mad at the boy.

I can only be so mad at anything, to be honest, because we beat the m-f’in’ HEAT, baby! Whoo!

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    Cavs game, Heat game, Spurs game.  Hard to say which is bigger.


    It's really been a rollercoaster if we add the DJ Denver, Augustus game. 

    Between this team and the Panthers, I'm full of funnel cake and completely nauseous. Also, I'm continuously amazed by peoples' short memories.


    Case in point:



    Fixed that link for you.  Plopping in the link to the tweet like the example below auto-magically dsplays it i the right format