CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 14: Kemba Walker #1 of the Charlotte Bobcats reacts to a shot during their game against the Golden State Warriors at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 14, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
What’s with all this negativity lately huh? The Bobcats looked incredible tonight and gave me a level of joy I only thought possible from hearing that "McDonald’s Girl" song. Seriously though, I’ve been watching along with you and know how brutal this past week has been. The Bobcats looked beaten, their coach looked absolutely defeated after the first two games of this back-to-back-to-back. After a dreadful loss to a dreadful Pistons team last night, the only thing to do was to drastically change things up and thankfully that’s what Paul Silas did. Silas sent out D.J. Augustin, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Tyrus Thomas, and Byron Mullens to start this game. Boris Diaw did not start for the first time in 235 straight games, a franchise record. Really, there was no other option but you never know if you’ll actually see a coaching staff make such a bold move. Just how bold is debatable but starting this young crew was a welcome sight. The result was a 112-100 win in front of a pretty decent crowd in Charlotte.
Welp, the Bobcats didn’t take a shot in the paint until Henderson drew contact and went to the line with 9:23 remaining in the first quarter. They didn’t do a very good job of protecting the lane on the other end either as the Warriors got just about anything they wanted to start the game. The optimism of the brand new starting lineup was quickly squelched so Paul Silas called his first timeout not even three minutes in, down seven. Whatever he said in that timeout kind of worked because Charlotte got two dunks on the next three possessions, but still allowed Golden State to get easy follow-ups for scores. Rebounding had to be a concession for this lineup though, and to be honest I’m fine with it to a certain extent because starting this crew was at least a sign that the staff would try something new. Mullens drilled just about every jump shot he saw early (finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds), and Kemba finally attacked the lane for three the hard way to tied the score at 15 with 6:36 to go. One thing is clear, Kemba can get where he wants to on the floor just about any time he wants, and when he’s knocking down his jumper he’s just that much more effective. With 4:08 to go, Warriors starting center Andris Biedrins picked up his third foul…he had been KILLING Charlotte inside. If you were watching this game with a notepad at the time you would have written "key moment?" in the margin. The last three minutes of the first quarter were unlike any three minutes for the Bobcats this season. Aggressive drives resulted in either close shots or great…not good…great ball movement for wide open jumpers. Consecutive three-pointers from Mullens and then Walker forced a Golden State timeout with the Bobcats up 34-25. The Cats ended up two shy of 40 in the first quarter (thanks a lot Cory Higgins for that missed half court shot) but 38 was still good enough to be the best scoring output of any quarter this season…obviously.
If I were to tell you the second quarter scoring kicked off with two made free throws from Bismack Biyombo would you a) think I was lying, b) be confused because Biyombo never plays that early, or c) nod your head knowingly because that’s the kind of night it was for the Bobcats? It certainly looked like it would be that kind of night. Biyombo played well into the second quarter finally exiting with around seven minutes to go. Biyombo, for all he has to work on, does a nice job of going straight up to contest shots. And when he does that it’s nearly impossible to get a quality look over him. The Bobcats were shooting a scorching 61% through most of the first half, and it’s going to be tough to combat anyone doing that. Without much bulk at all inside, the Bobcats give up a ton of leverage and really will have a tough time keeping anyone out of the lane, and that was the case a lot in the second quarter. But we’re talking about putting something on the court that won’t make your eyes bleed so if giving up some position in the paint and at times giving the opposing players an escort to the rim means this team is more entertaining this year, so be it. The Bobcats, as they have tended to do this season, completely regressed in the second quarter only scoring 28 points. Typical.
As the third quarter progressed, I found myself asking myself: where does Tyrus Thomas fit in this lineup and this team? He’s getting backed down so deep in the paint that by the time his man turns to score it’s a dunk. He’s not going to be a rugged power forward of the future, or the present…but his energy and athleticism are an asset. On this team though, a team where for the last week D.J. White (who was out this game due to personal reasons) has often times been the main offensive option, it’s tough to say what role Thomas fills. I think we all like Thomas and want him to play, and we like what he provides but it’s up to this staff to figure out how to harness that correctly. The Bobcats wrapped up the third quarter with a pure half court shot (that’s how you do it…Cory) from Walker but it was just a hair late, so Charlotte only led 93-75 at the end of three. Again, the Bobcats scored 93 points in three quarters.
Fourth quarter? You mean the Bobcats get to score more points? This game really is too easy. Walker does a lot of things very well on offense. It’s been well chronicled, nowhere better than right here by our own Ben Swanson, he’s struggled with the pick and roll this season. But in space and staring down his man there is no one else on this roster I’d rather see with the ball in his hands. Now this fourth quarter, as fourth quarters in the NBA tend to do, got a little interesting. The Warriors went on a run, couple that with a Bobcats drought that resulted in a 15-3 Golden State spurt, the Bobcats’ lead was chopped to eight when Henderson went to the line after being fouled on a drive. Incidentally, to see the Bobcats get a play going to the basket coming out of a timeout in that situation is extremely encouraging. That’s fairly elementary but after the week this team has had to see success at even that level is nice. Henderson only hit one of two, but after another Klay Thompson brick on the other end, the Bobcats came right back to get an easy look on a Thomas dunk attempt inside. After hitting the second of two, the Bobcats cracked the century mark, which apparently is NOT against league rules. Good to know. A team with Monte Ellis is dangerous no matter the score and Ellis (along with Nate Robinson) tried to get the Warriors back in this game. Golden State got the lead down to six but it was Walker again who drilled a 20-footer then sized up David Lee the next time down and got the hoop and harm to pretty much seal this one for the Bobcats.
This is what you want to see out of this team, and if you put any stock into what Paul Silas says after games you will see more of this. Playing Walker and Augustin together has obvious disadvantages, namely the starting backcourt can barely touch the rim on each other’s shoulders. But Augustin and Walker are two of the best, if not the best, players on this roster and they both need to play. The starting lineup tonight will get killed inside, as it did early on, but it plays at a better pace and at least so far, is more fun to watch. Walker finished with a new career-high 23 points to go along with five assists, four rebounds and zero turnovers in 39 minutes. Cory Higgins saw early action and was fairly effective. He scored only two points but did grab four rebounds and looked comfortable tonight. Boris Diaw came off the bench for 23 minutes and scored nine points. Gerald Henderson had a good Gerald Henderson game, hitting jumpers and driving to the basket scoring 26 points to lead the team. Augustin played well scoring 16 points in 44 minutes. It was the right move to shake things up tonight. It’s not something that is going to all of a sudden propel this team into playoff contention; the roster is still limited. But the fans of this team deserve to have options explored and it’s good to see this team willing to do that.