The ‘Cats, last season’s joke team, have a new Coach in Mike Dunlap, but aren’t faring a whole lot better. They surprised everyone early in the season by jumping out to a respectable 7-5 record.
One of those victories was against the Raps, the infamous 98-97 game in which Bargnani was fouled while shooting at the buzzer but didn’t get the call. The NBA acknowledged the refs’ mistake the following day, but the loss was in the books.
The karmic wheel turns quickly – a few days later Charlotte was destroyed by 45 points in OKC, which kicked off an unimaginable 18-game losing streak. They have managed 2 wins in their last 4, to their immense relief.
The ‘Cats are an extremely young team; their starting lineup features 2 rookies & 2 with 1 season under their belts. The ping pong balls did not bounce in their favour at the draft, so the undeserving New Orleans Hornets snagged the big prize in Anthony Davis, but the Cats consolation pick of swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is working out well. MKG is averaging 10+ PPG & 6+ RPG, while logging 27 minutes.
Bismack Biyombo, the pride of the Congo, might have been the rawest NBAer I’d ever seen when he hit the court last season. His prodigious athletic gifts got him drafted as a “project” player, & so far the results are mixed. The man can block shots, but still needs much work on the offensive side. He’s all of 20 years young, & I think he’ll be a solid player in a few seasons.
Kemba Walker, their starting point guard, is an All-Star in waiting. I suspect we’ll see a lot of Kyle Lowry; Jose won’t be able to match Walker’s speed.
In Charlotte’s upside-down roster, the veterans come off the bench. Thus Ben Gordon, who started for years elsewhere, has yet to do so as a ‘Cat, but is still averaging double-digit scoring. Seven-footer Byron Mullens, who has impressed me as a stretch-4, is injured & won’t play. Ramon Sessions is a useful combo guard who’s been scoring well lately. Charlotte’s front court replacements are weak, & should be attacked.
The Raps will start the same 5 who led the defeat of Philly. Watch for more big to big passing between Amir Johnson & Ed Davis. Terrence Ross’ ankle injury is still hobbling him; let’s hope he can go. He could do some damage against a team with the most porous defense in the league.
This could be a trap game, but I’m confident the Raps will suffocate the ‘Cats modest offense on the way to a 98-85 victory.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.