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Open Thread: Charlotte Bobcats vs. Washington Wizards, Regular Season Game 15

The Essentials:

Bobcats (6-9) vs. Wizards (5-9)
7 p.m.
Verizon Center
Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Notable very early Bobcats numbers this season

17th in expected winning percentage (.469)
28th in pace (89.1 possessions per game)
28th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (97.3)
1st in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (98.2)

Notable Bobcats numbers last season

20th in expected winning percentage (.453)
27th in pace (88.3 possessions per game)
27th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (104.7)
7th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (106.1)

Pre-game links

Rufus on Fire, SB Nation's Bobcats Blog
Queen City Hoops, a Bobcats blog
Rufus on Fire's game preview
Bobcats Baseline
Michael Lee: The Other Side: Bobcats
GameDay Bobcats

Tonight's Projected Starters
Bobcats vs. Wizards
Raymond Felton
PG Gilbert Arenas
Stephen Jackson
SG Nick Young
Gerald Wallace
SF Caron Butler
Boris Diaw
PF Antawn Jamison
Tyson Chandler
C Brendan Haywood

Surprised to see that "1st" ranking next to "defensive rating" for the Bobcats? You shouldn't be. Take a look at that team, and you tell me how you score consistently on them. When Tyson Chandler's healthy, he's an elite defensive center, on par with the best in the game. Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, when motivated, form an outstanding defensive wing combo, and Boris Diaw can guard threes, fours and fives effectively.

Of course, that same combo is pretty offensively-challenged, so the 28th offensive ranking shouldn't be surprising either. This is kind of what we expected from Charlotte coming into the season. The only difference is the presence of Stephen Jackson, but even that hasn't changed much, since Jackson is up to his usual shoot-a-lot-but-miss-a-lot routine. Charlotte's best player this season, in fact, has been Nazr Mohammed, who is posting a 22.5 PER while hauling in 18.5% of available rebounds this season. That's, in a word, surprising.

Charlotte fans seem to be confident that they can win tonight. They're riding the whole "dysfunctional Wizards who have no defenders and all hate each other" wave, which was so last week (if it was anything at all). Curiously, the argument is that Mike Miller's absence is a good thing because he needs the ball too much. Hey, Arnott, check Mike's usage rate. Thanks. It's pretty much proven that the road back-to-back is harder to manage than the home back-to-back, so I give the edge there to the Wizards, even though Charlotte looked really good in dismantiling Cleveland last night.

Tonight's keys? Caron Butler has to do a much better job on Gerald Wallace than he's done in the past. Check out Wallace's career splits vs. the Wizards. They include his time barely playing for the Kings ... and they're still very impressive. That matchup is huge, because I think the Wizards have the edge in most other places. Stephen Jackson on paper should hurt Nick Young, but I imagine Young's new pesky defense will bug Jackson and make him force some bad shots. Diaw and Jamison are pretty even, but Antawn's playing too well right now to lose most matchups.

I hate looking ahead, but a win here and we're back to 6-9, with a home date against the struggling Bucks coming up. We have to get this one, though.

I'm definitely not going to be able to watch this one, since we don't get NBATV out here and I can't rewatch it on League Pass, so feel free to fill me in tomorrow on what you saw.