There are two things I've learned about Gary Neal this season. The first thing is that his greenlight is the greenest of all the greenlights. It's so green that the NRDC was on hand today to sign Neal to a lucrative endorsement deal, my sources tell me.
The other thing I've learned about Neal is that he is quite dedicated to making sure that the Milwaukee Bucks lose basketball games. He can even manage to pull this off when his allegiances are tied to a different franchise in a different city. Today, Neal had 18 points and the dagger three near the end of the game that helped his Charlotte Bobcats seal off a 101-92 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Though the game was numerically competitive through the full 48 minutes, both teams came out and played mostly sluggish basketball, as if this sport wasn't meant to be played before lunch time or something. For a game that came down to its final minutes, there wasn't a feeling of "wow, look at these two teams going at it." It was more like "okay just someone please take control of this so I can get home and get in some sweatpants before Selection Sunday gets underway."
Along with Neal, Charlotte was led by another solid performance throughout from Al Jefferson (20p/7r), as well as a very impressive closing effort from Kemba Walker, who finished with 21 points and eight assists. Charlotte took only 68 shots, a pace that helped keep Milwaukee close enough, but connected on 39 of them (57.4 percent). Charlotte doesn't have much offensive firepower, but pretty much any team can get by with a win when they are allowed to shoot at that clip.
- In a pretty unremarkable game, Jeff Adrien managed to be one of the few players to actually leave an impression. His 12p/4r won't jump out at you when you check the box score, but in the second half, Adrien was getting a little beasty down low. Even if he couldn't directly contribute to the play, he would be down under the basket muscling Josh McRoberts out of the way or scrapping for any chance he had to affect the game. This shouldn't come as a surprise given his track record, but it was just refreshing to see a guy playing like it wasn't just a lazy Sunday afternoon.
- Brandon Knight (21p/8r/7a) and Ramon Sessions (18p/6a) had pretty solid games, but struggled to make plays in the paint. Their assists numbers are fine, but Charlotte's defense does a pretty good job of packing the paint, so the dump-off plays that get interior guys like John Henson going or cuts that Giannis is used to receiving weren't as available as they usually might be. Packing the paint also made life a little more difficult for Knight, who gets most of his baskets on drives to the rim. With those attempts not going down as frequently, Knight was forced to shoot a little bit more, hence the 21 points on 9-21 shooting.
- With Ersan Ilyasova out of the lineup, John Henson got the starting nod, and put up an okay 12p7r/3a line in over 35 minutes of action. There wasn't much of a reaction either way towards Henson's performance tonight, but our guy Dan made a good point when he said he'd like to see Henson play pissed off for a quarter or two, just to see if a difference in performance is there. It's probably not fair for us to sit here and assume that Henson isn't properly motivated, but at least with guys like Adrien or Zaza or even Larry Sanders, you have something tangible in front of you that signals a different level of intensity has been arrived at. I don't know if that is there with Henson.
- Just don't look at Khris Middleton's stats for today. Please? Just promise me you won't do it, okay?
- Ditto for Giannis, who started the game by drawing a foul on spin move out of the post (more of those looks, please) but subsequently missed all four of his field goal attempts. He did make a few plays defensively (two blocks and a steal), but generally continues to look all out of sorts offensively. When he does happen to get the ball, he simply doesn't seem capable of getting his body squared going toward to hoop; everything seems to end up going sideways or backwards.
- In knocking down his only three attempt today, Nate Wolters improved his three-point percentage to 46.9 (15-32) since February 1st. It's not terribly important that Nate Wolters be jacking up threes whenever he feels like it, but it is nice to know that if he needs to shoot it, the results won't be as ugly as they were earlier in the year.