The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Charlotte Bobcats, 112-68, at the Rose Garden on Wednesday night, improving the team's record to 13-9.
You have got to hand it to Bobcats GM Rich Cho. That was the single worst professional basketball team I've ever seen in person, worse even than the awful recent versions of the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers that I have thoroughly enjoyed disparaging. Cho, the mastermind, has assembled the dream team of Anthony Davis All-Stars that will suck if you want to suck, tank if you want to tank. If this was a limbo competition and you placed your limbo pole on the ground, thinking you could not be beaten, Cho would already be donning a hard hat and working the joystick controls of a dump truck, unearthing 20 feet of dirt so that he could bury his limbo pole below Jimmy Hoffa. In the race to the bottom, the Bobcats will surely be on top.
The defining characteristic of a great team is that it embodies that Tupac Shakur classic: "How Do U Want It?"
Really: How do you want to get beaten? A great team can beat you in every way possible. The 1990s Chicago Bulls are the go-to semi-modern example. They could out-execute you with ball movement, they could isolate you to death, they could press the life out of your point guard, they did what they wanted no matter who you were or what style you preferred or where you held match-up advantages.
The Bobcats are sort of like that if you flip the idea in reverse and germinate it on Newt Gingrich's Moon Base. Every time this group takes the court they are essentially asking coach Paul Silas: How do you want to lose? How would you like us to make your life miserable?
The Bobcats are the most depressing "choose your own adventure" book ever. Page one reads: "You're dead. Turn to page two." Page two reads: "Do you care how or why? If yes, turn to page 26 where we will begin to tell you in excruciating detail how and why you are dead. If no, skip to page 83 where we explain that this book is now holding you hostage and you no longer have the free will to decide whether you care. Turn to page 26."
This Bobcats group can commit turnovers, it can play bad defense, it can play lazy defense, it can forget scouting reports, it can play too much one-on-one offense, it can settle over and over for low-percentage shots, it can miss three-pointers, it can be outworked, it can be outplayed, it can be out-executed, it can be outshot, it can be outrebounded, it can give up points in the paint, it can forget to bother with transition defense, it can be overwhelmed, it can fold and it can be destroyed.
On Wednesday, Charlotte proved that it can do all of those things and be all of those things in the same, historic game. Portland's 44-point margin of victory was the largest in Bobcats team history. That's great and all, but it's a record that is just begging to be broken.
"It gets to a point where it's just embarrassing, and you don't want it to continue," Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson said. He was talking about his NBA team's performance in a basketball game, not watching tape of himself failing to unhook a bra in high school.
"We love to play this game, and it's more of a pride thing than anything," Henderson continued, and you imagined he exited the locker room and told Cho to start working harder on the time machine he's been promising.
Poor Silas was sullen, slumped on a chair looking like a man who knew he was about to be convicted for a crime he did not commit.
"I would say this," Silas began, slowly embarking on the type of mental game that coaches of basement-dwelling teams must play in order to grind through the motions. "You take three top players off of anyone's team, and they're not going to do well. And that's the only way I look at it. I don't have a full squad. If I had a full squad and we were losing this way, it would be awful."
It's a crisis when you're on your knees begging for D.J. Augustin and Corey Maggette.
One man's pain is another man's pleasure.
For Blazers forward Gerald Wallace, dealt by the Bobcats at last year's trade deadline to Portland, there was no mercy, no compassion.
"I wanted to keep going," Wallace said, when asked if he felt bad for Charlotte, who fell behind by as many as 48 points. "I didn't even want to come out of the game."
Wallace finished with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, three steals and one block, by far his best game against his former team. The Blazers split the two revenge match-ups with the Bobcats last season, and Wallace shot just 1-for-7 in Portland's March 3 win. Wallace came off the bench in both games.
Wednesday's thumping, he said, provided satisfaction that those games did not.
"Like I said last year, I felt like I was betrayed, I felt like I was stabbed in the back. It was my first opportunity to really play against them. You get that out of the way and you move forward... You put your past away and move forward... I'm over it now... Closure. Done. Over."
It was done and over very, very early. Portland had its best first quarter of the season, jumping out on Charlotte 35-18 and scoring at will while they watched the Bobcats shoot contested jumpers. This was a joke. Through three quarters, all eight Blazers that took at least one shot attempt were shooting 50 percent or better. That is so difficult to do!
Raymond Felton, another former Bobcat, was freaking +41 for the game in 31 minutes. The same Felton who has done little right in a month just managed the equivalent of solidly winning his position four times in a single game. Given his recent play and the fact that his season shooting percentages are buried down there with Cho's limbo pole and Hoffa, Felton deserves some kudos for his 11 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals, even against the lowly competition. Aside from generating open court play early, Felton made a number of simple, smart dump off passes, at least two to LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 22 points, and another to Craig Smith. Those are the type of plays he needs to make on a regular basis to maintain a spot in the late-game rotation. A high-percentage paint look for a big is 100 times better than a wide open three look from him.
"He kept the pressure on their defense and was able to get to the basket," McMillan said. "I thought he did a nice job tonight."
McMillan sounded a bit like a father whose 16-year-old son just recited the entire alphabet without making a mistake. The NBA is graded on a curve, and reputations and real compliments aren't doled out for the remedial stuff. In other words, let's not dislocated our elbows patting ourselves on the back. But, still, all 26 letters in a row. Nice job.
Random Game Notes
- Let's take a moment to single out Nate McMillan for one of his finest coaching moves during his Portland tenure. With the Blazers up 98-50 -- also known as The Chalupa Possession -- McMillan just happened to substitute forward Luke Babbitt into the game. Babbitt, of course, earned instant worldwide acclaim by delivering the Chalupa 3 against the Sacramento Kings last week. This was McMillan's most fan-friendly substitution ever. He might as well have been drawing up fourth quarter plays on a $5 dollar box, which rocks, which rocks.
- Unfortunately Babbitt was clearly pressing in an attempt to repeat his legendary greatness. He definitely had a defensive rebounding rate of 4,329 percent as Portland went cold on offense and he scrambled to get the ball in hopes of delivering the money shot. Sadly, he missed both of his attempts and zipped a pass into the end zone seats before Jamal Crawford delivered the bucket. After the game, Babbitt seemed uncomfortable and perhaps a touch peeved when asked if McMillan had purposefully put him in for the heroics. "You would have to ask coach," Babbitt said. "I don't decide when I go in."
- Blazers guard Wesley Matthews, standing next to Babbitt, was happy to tell a different story. "Luke is our go-to Chalupa man," Matthews said. "Designated."
- Designated, indeed.
- During the lockout I referred to Crawford as an excellent charity game player and he's pretty special in blowouts too. The unnecessary dribbling, the reverse lay-up, the stress-free chucking. It's all fun. 24 points on 14 shots and one assist.
- Elliot Williams got some first half run and played a bit unevenly, although he's a blooming Rose Garden favorite. Even his simple dunks are jaw-dropping because of his explosive launches.
- Reserve guard Armon Johnson got his first minutes of the season and played off the ball. McMillan has pointed out a few times already this season that he sees Johnson as a score-first, two-guard type player.
- Some of the sort-of celebrities that witnessed this atrocity: Nascar driver Denny Hamlin, Portland Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury and NFL quarterback Derek Anderson.
- Former Blazers GM Rich Cho was in the building, no commenting about everything and giggling at my dumb questions just like old times.
- Everything that I wrote about how Cleveland should just play Tristan Thompson instead of Antawn Jamison because what's the point goes 100 times for Bismack Biyombo and the Bobcats. With that roster, Silas' No. 1 goal should be to make sure Biyombo plays enough minutes so that he fouls out of every single game the rest of the season. Don't waste his year any more than it is already being wasted. Biyombo posterized a ball boy during pre-game warm-ups but also provided a reminder of why he should never shoot the ball outside 10 feet. Develop him.
- If No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving was the most impressive rookie guard in years to come through the Rose Garden then No. 9 pick Kemba Walker (1-for 11 shooting, 4 points, 0 defense) was... not.
- When Felton threw that completely unnecessary between-his-own-legs pass in transition that wound up as a turnover that keyed the crazy sequence that ended with Marcus Camby blocking a shot out of bounds (deep breath), you could see McMillan's arteries enlarge from 1,000 yards. Comcast SportsNet Northwest needs to find a way to mic up his interior monologue for plays like that. Rage, rage against the dying of the possession.
- Speaking of Felton turnovers, before the game the Stunt Team was doing its ceremonial pass the ball down through the crowd routine and totally botched the 300 level to 200 level exchange. I joked that they Felton'd the delivery and put three fans' lives in danger. Minutes later, the reply came: "thanks - from the stunt team." Now we get to argue whether they were upset at being called out, upset at being compared to Felton, or whether they were just inspired to respond by Amber's family.
- The problem with potentially insulting the Stunt Team is that they have access to high-powered T-Shirt weaponry and also 85-pound females who are seemingly willing to be launched at targets like Angry Birds. After reviewing this mental game tape and considering the consequences, I take it all back, Stunt Team. I take it all back.
- Alexis Harper covered her first Blazers game tonight for Portland Roundball Society. I only met her briefly but she was pretty awesome. Check out her recap.
Nate McMillan's Post-Game Comments
The pace you were looking for?
Yeah it was the pace that I was looking for. I thought we did a good job establishing ourselves early. The defense was really good all game long. The first half, though, we took them out of what they wanted to run. The transition, I thought Raymond did a nice job tonight of pushing the ball and getting to our tempo. Charlotte does a good job of controlling the tempo and slowing the game down and we wanted to try to speed that up with our offense tonight. I thought we did that.
Best Raymond Felton in awhile?
That's what we know he's capable of doing. I thought tonight he set the tempo by pushing the ball. Defensively we got stops but he kept the pressure on their defense and was able to get to the basket. I thought he did a nice job tonight.
Crazy play were ball was bouncing around, Camby blocked the shot
Those are things we need to do. We need everybody playing well. Camby has been good really all season long, defending the basket and rebounding the ball, blocking shots. I think he had 2 or 3 block shots in a row there. When we're connected like that, our weakside is coming over and helping to stop the ball, we're pretty good.
I wanted to get him some minutes. He's been working hard. Defensively I wanted to get him on the ball and pressure. Play alongside Crawford. I didn't think he was bad.
Wallace and Felton
We talked about it before the game, coach Bernie mentioned that he hoped that Gerald wouldn't be too hyped up. And Gerald was hyped up but I thought he played solid. He was aggressive on both ends of the floor, making solid plays. Raymond was good. We talk about point guards setting the tempo. We can run off of makes. I felt like the last few games we've been walking the ball down the floor. Even on makes we can get the ball down the floor and get into our offense a little early. Tonight we forced misses which led to some transition. That's the tempo we want to play.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter