Near the end of the 2007 season, the Bobcats had a March tilt with the New Jersey Nets featuring Vince Carter and Jason Kidd. It was a patchwork group of starters with Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace all out nursing injuries. The Nets ended up making the playoffs with a perfectly even record of 41-41, and took the Cavs to six games in the conference semifinals. So I'd have to agree with Marv Albert when he said during his game call it would be "unconscionable for the Nets to lose." But that's why they play the game, especially on Saturday nights in late March.
This was not the best game in a Bobcats uniform for rookie Adam Morrison. But he did show the shot and confidence that intrigued teams (some) when he came out of Gonzaga. He started off well in the first, but only finished with seven points.
Here was the Bobcats lineup to start the first: Brevin Knight, Matt Carroll, Adam Morrison, Walter "Call me Herman" Herrmann and Jake Voskul. Let that marinate. Vince Carter threw up a brick to start the game and didn't really look in rhythm until the next time he shot it and pretty much every time after that. When Vince had it going in his prime the nets barely moved, and on this night in downtown Charlotte he had it going, even if this might not be considered his prime. He fell in love with hoisting threes and I can't blame him in this game. The defense was barely an annoyance for Carter as the Bobcats wasted no time settling into a very comfortable zone. Not that they had much choice. With so many guys out, head coach Bernie Bickerstaff was almost forced into the zone D. And let's be honest, it might have been for the best as the starters weren't the most quick afoot. Even as Carter heated up though, the Bobcats kept coming. A trademark of those early years under Floor Stompin' Bernie, his teams rarely had as much talent but no team in the league played with as much consistent effort, even on a night when they were overmatched. As a result of that, and some hot shooting in the first quarter (10-16 from the field) the Bobcats had the lead 25-19 after the first.
The second quarter featured bench play from both teams which is never really great when your team is already depleted by injuries. Enter Jeff McInnis, Othella Harrington, and Alan Anderson, and much like the starters it took these subs a little time to find their groove. The Nets' bench duo of Josh Boone and Marcus Williams kick-started the effort in the second and helped push the Nets out to a 48-45 lead at the half. Boone was on his way to perfect night from the field (10-10) and a career high. Boone took advantage, and was inexplicably the only one to do it on a consistent basis all night, of the Bobcats' lack of interior size and overall foot speed. Williams assisted on four of Boone's conversions in the second quarter on his way to seven assists for the game. Had the Nets taken note of Boone's success, or heeded the pleas of head coach Lawrence Frank and attacked the painted area more consistently, they might have been able to dispatch the Bobcats a little earlier.
The Nets' refusal to take advantage of Charlotte's small lineup continued into the start of the third quarter. The Bobcats needed to shoot well from the outside and they needed the Nets to shoot often from the outside, both things happened. Matt Carroll got on a bit of a roll and took advantage of some lackadaisical defense to put up 11 third quarter points. Carroll used his quick release effectively and was able to get just enough space from his defender to launch. Carroll had a great night. He finished with 27 points and hit just about every big shot down the stretch in regulation. Knight dished out three of his eight assists in the third quarter even though much of the offense consisted of whipping the ball around the perimeter until a Charlotte shooter (mostly Carroll) gave a pump fake and got off a shot. Eventually, the Nets did attack some and shockingly...had success. The Bobcats were able to hit enough shots from the outside to keep the deficit at three.
The Nets suddenly committed to attacking the paint. Guess what happened? They got an easy layup/dunk, got fouled or kicked out to a wide open shooter. Amazing. The Bobcats, crazy as it sounds, did kind of the same thing...until it kind of stopped working. But they were able to keep the hot touch from the outside, led still by Carroll. And even though Carter was outstanding on offense, Boone was huge in this quarter. He had nine points as he continued to be the only person on the floor aware of the mismatch inside. With the game tied under a minute to play the Bobcats went to their bread a butter (on this night), the jump shot. Herrmann connected from just left of the top of the key after the Nets cut off Carroll's attempt to get open. Richard Jefferson hit two free throws the next time down after getting fouled on the drive, and then Knight hit a wide open jumper to give the Bobcats the lead again by two, with 8.3 seconds left. (And this next play tells you pretty much all you need to know about the game.) Kidd tosses up a prayer that had zero shot of hitting the rim. It turned out to be a good thing for New Jersey because Carter came out of nowhere (just kidding, he came from around an Anderson box out that never happened) to slam home a reverse game-tying dunk as time expired. Yeah. But...
FREE BASKETBALL!! It wasn't as great as it sounds. Carter started off the overtime period with two three-point plays, one old-fashioned and one new-fashioned. With Carter continuing his hot night, and the Bobcats finally wilting on the offensive end, unable to get a good look, by the time Bickerstaff called a timeout with 3:20 remaining the Nets were up six. Charlotte never gave up but the Bobcats really needed to win this one in regulation. During the extra period the Nets actually seemed interested on D, the Bobcats were worn down and couldn't get the separation they had earlier to shoot jumpers. It was a great effort by the Cats on this night but as is often the case, the first team to score in overtime won this one. Final: Nets 113, Bobcats 107.
The great thing about watching this game was actually watching NBA basketball again. This was a game against a team fighting for a playoff spot and a team just fighting. But it was a real live basketball game and Marv Albert was announcing. It was pretty cool...please come back, NBA.
This was close to the end of an area of sorts for the Bobcats. Michael Jordan was still not a majority owner (still not the GM either!) and Larry Brown was being talked about a lot as Bickerstaff's replacement (although Sam Vincent would bridge the gap for a year until Brown came in). It was really the end of the Bobcats in expansion mode. After this there would be a flurry of trades that changed the face of the franchise. An interesting time for sure and fun to look back on. Makes you appreciate what has transpired since.
During the Bobcats formative years, they didn't get a lot of calls. Calls usually come with a level of respect and respect takes time. Bickerstaff may not have been the best example for his players on this front, but this young team got jobbed a lot too. Still, both Brown and Paul Silas after him preached to let the calls go, and the Bobcats as a team gradually got better at doing that.
Whoa, I couldn't be more pleased the Bobcats have changed the look of their home court and their uniforms.