Going into this game, it was more or less a small puzzle.
But after tonight's one-point victory, some things became more clear about both teams.
Focusing on the opponents first, the Bucks rebounded very poorly. Outside of Andrew Bogut, their next best option is Ersan Ilyasova. What they end up with after initial substitutions is an overwhelmed team of poor rebounders and player who don't box out well. The Bobcats were able to more than take advantage even with Boris Diaw's size disadvantage. And when the Bobcats went big with Mullens and, yes, Diop, they took full advantage of their size and quick rebounding guards. Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker were especially impressive with their athleticism and timing to pull down the errant misses.
Brandon Jennings was Brandon Jennings-ing all over the place, taking care of the ball (zero turnovers) and shooting well from deep and getting inside, but was again an ineffective distributor. Andrew Bogut was off to a fast start with eight points in the first quarter with eight points and five rebounds. He was effortlessly getting entry passes over the smaller Diaw and using good footwork to maneuver inside for hook shots.
Stephen Jackson was absolutely awful tonight. He fouled out in 17 minutes and ended up with six points on five attempts. I'm going to guess that wasn't how he wanted to make his return to the team that traded him.
And yet the Bobcats were hanging tight as the first quarter came to a close, that is until the rookies came in. Do not read this as a condemnation. It's bound to happen, and will happen often. Walker and Biyombo will make errors in their play throughout the season. I thought Biyombo had great quickness on defense, but hedged on his pick and roll defense way too much, letting his man inside for easy penetration, which allowed the Bucks to kick out as the Bobcats compensated for the deep entry.
Kemba Walker had a rough game early, not drawing fouls, not making shots and not particularly finding his teammates well, though the lineup they had on the court was not one to expect smooth offensive stylings from. Biyombo's offense was nonexistent and the only time he got the ball in the post, he turned it over on a three-second violation.
Adding to that, Shaun Livingston was ruthless off the bench for Milwaukee. If you were wondering why the Bobcats wanted a taller third point guard, that's why. Kemba couldn't handle his height and length and skill on the block. Neither could Augustin. Neither could Carroll. Livingston was just too fluid, long and strong to stop with the two undersized points and Carroll's lack of defensive instincts.
Boris Diaw was efficient for Charlotte, hitting four of nine field goals, spreading the floor allowing for nice dishes to cuts, specifically D.J. White. And he had a beautiful denial of Brandon Jennings later on.
I don't know what changed during the break at halftime, but the Bobcats came out of the locker room a changed team. In the second half, Charlotte outrebounded Milwaukee 33 to 14. Gana Diop defended Bogut well in the post and outrebounded him four to zero during his stint in the third. Augustin found his three-ball, Diaw was facilitating well, and Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker were aggressively fighting for possessions and getting to the line. What was once a 12-point deficit flipped over to a five-point lead heading into the final period of regulation.
The Bucks rallied on a charge from Brandon Jennings and fostered by a collapsing Bobcats defense, which collapsed amid penetration, giving the Bucks' shooters space to launch the threes from Jennings (four of them!) and Dunleavy Jr. Then D.J. White forced Jackson into his sixth foul. And Augustin coupled with Walker to close out the game for the Bobcats on free throws.
- Byron Mullens has some very sweet touch on his jump shot. He's not strong enough to muscle for great rebounding position, but he's big and can stretch defenses with his shooting. A good game from him tonight.
- Carolina Panthers rookie phenom Cam Newton was in attendance, sitting courtside in a Charlotte Hornets hat. When he returned to his seat after halftime, the fans erupted in cheers, though he hadn't even been on the jumbotron yet. And then he was put on the big screen later on, revealing a new Bobcats cap to more raucous cheering. He also had a little meet-n-greet with Michael Jordan.
- I miss Shaun Livingston.
- Kemba's tenacity for rebounding is fantastic. Reminds me of a wee itty-bitty point guard version of Gerald Wallace.
- Derek Jeter was also in attendance. SO VERY LONELY HE LOOKED.
- This Kemba isolation stop and go move on Larry Sanders had to be the play of the game. The crowd absolutely exploded after it.