That was fun, wasn't it? The Bobcats ultimately came up short Wednesday night, losing a nail-biter 96-95 to the reigning Eastern Conference Champions, the Miami Heat, but displayed a clear quantity of talent, effort, and potential along the way. After the break, let's talk more about one of the most exciting Bobcats' games I've ever seen.
A Quick Summary and General Thoughts
The Bobcats started this game as well as one could imagine. The offense was in rhythm, the defensive movement was great, and the Bobcats jumped out to a quick lead against a somewhat tired Miami Heat. The Bobcats' lead stalled late in the first half, but they closed fairly well and impressed throughout.
The Heat inevitably closed the gap as the game continued and brought it to a near close and eventual small lead through the third and fourth quarters, but the Bobcats did an admirable job of maintaining composure and effort while facing the adversity of a much better team. After a bizarre play in which LeBron dunked the ball over a chasing Gerald Henderson, only to lose the basket due to the ball bouncing off of Henderson's head (at the time, it looked like he had simply missed the dunk off the back of the rim), the Heat held a four-point lead for the majority of the last few minutes.
The Bobcats were not easily discouraged, however, and they closed the gap to within two points on a Henderson layup with more than 30 seconds remaining. The Bobcats rose to the occasion on help defense during the following possession, and Dwyane Wade passed the ball out of bounds. With less than 20 seconds remaining, the Bobcats had a chance to tie or win the game. Paul Silas drew up a great play, though a quick one, and Boris Diaw found a wide open Gerald Henderson for the go-ahead three. Unfortunately, the Heat remain a nearly unstoppable team, and Dwyane Wade made a game-winning bank shot with less than four seconds left, despite strong defense from the Bobcats and Henderson. The Bobcats final possession fell just short, as D.J. Augustin pulled up for a difficult three and D.J. White barely missed a long tip-in as time expired.
Despite the loss, I liked what the Bobcats did on the final defensive possession. Henderson is a terrific defender, and he bothered Wade all game (Wade finished 5-13 for only 10 points in 32 minutes). Wade made the shot, but it was a look and matchup the Bobcats can live with. Beyond that, I was encouraged by the Bobcats' performance as a whole. The team played with energy all night, and the crowd, reportedly the largest in Bobcats' history, matched the team's energy. Most of all, I was enthused by how well the Bobcats complemented each other, despite the slew of inevitable turnovers as the game continued against a great defense. An encouraging game from a young team, I'd say.
Corey Maggette: The majority of Bobcats' players played well Wednesday night, but Maggette certainly wasn't included in that group. 1-10 FG and six points in 30 minutes, along with poor defense on LeBron James, isn't what the Bobcats needed from Maggette. Grade: D
D.J. Augustin: Augustin had another good game, scoring 20 (including a surprising 3-6 3PT line) and adding six assists. The normally turnover-conscious Augustin had five turnovers, detracting from an otherwise stellar offensive performance. In any case, performances like this indicate Augustin's continued improvement. Grade: B+
Boris Diaw: When did Boris Diaw become an everyday triple-double threat? Diaw provided 16 points and 16 rebounds (!!!) to go along with eight assists. Like several of the Bobcats, Diaw was bit by the turnover bug tonight, but was otherwise fantastic. This is a contract year for Diaw, in case you were wondering. Grade: A-
Gerald Henderson: Of all the strong Bobcats' performances tonight, none were better than that of Gerald Henderson. His shot looked terrific (21 points on 10-19 FG), his defense was smothering, and he made two critical shots in the final minute. The only blemish on his game, as was the case with many other Bobcats, could be found in his four turnovers (though he also had four assists). As RoF's own Ben Swanson noted on Twitter, Henderson has made two threes this season after making seven all of last season. The future looks bright for Henderson, and by association, the Bobcats, if he keeps improving and playing like he has early on in the season. Grade: A
D.J. White: D.J. White isn't a particularly skilled player, but he provides consistent effort and rebounding. That's the player he was for the Bobcats tonight, and that's the player I expect he'll continue to be. Eight points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks (along with competent defense) in 35 minutes? Well done, D.J. White. Well done. Grade: B+
Kemba Walker: There were a few times Wednesday night where I felt like Walker could pull up for any shot and swish it effortlessly. We've heard all the stories about his scoring potential, and I'm pretty convinced they're true. 14 points on 6-9 shooting in only 20 minutes is a rookie performance to get excited about. Kemba isn't a perfect distributor yet (three assists to three turnovers), but the ability is clearly there. Grade: A-
Bismack Biyombo: Biyombo played well tonight, especially in comparison to his relatively unimpressive debut. I don't know about you, but both of his two-handed blocks tonight sent me jumping into the air. His rebounding was also impressive (four rebounds in only 13 minutes), and he even made his sole field goal attempt with a nice move. Additionally, he avoided fouling at a ridiculous rate. Let's not rush to judgment with Biyombo, negative or positive, any time soon. He's still learning. It'll be fun to watch him grow as a player. Grade: B+
Byron Mullens: Mullens continued to impress and show his shooting ability, providing six points and two rebounds in only nine minutes. Mullens is proving himself to be a strong rotational player. Grade: B+
Derrick Brown: There isn't much to say, other than to mention he missed all four of his shots. Grade: C
Matt Carroll: Carroll didn't play much, but he did acceptably in eight minutes. Grade: B-
As is readily apparent, I was impressed with the Bobcats' effort tonight. It was a loss, but an incredibly fun loss. When you're rebuilding like the Bobcats are, the primary goal is to be entertaining and entice fans with young, growing, and impressive talent. The Bobcats did that much, at least for one night, against one of the league's best teams.