Walker's Big Night Not Enough, Bobcats Lose to Wizards 102-99

Some of us are leaving, and that is sad, but this isn't the end. No way. We're gonna show this world a thing or two. We're going to show...

The Charlotte Bobcats lost to the Washington Wizard tonight by three points. The Bobcats had a chance to tie the game on the last possession but Matt Carroll's three-pointer fell short, as too many of his have this year. Coming into tonight's game Carroll had made two three-pointers. Three-pointers are, in general, Carroll's strong suit making 38% for his career. He's struggled to find the mark so far this season hitting just 11%.

Carroll did hit a huge three tonight in the fourth quarter. Not only did it draw the Bobcats to within one but it also guaranteed everyone in attendance a free ticket to the Bobcats game against the Sixers on February 13. Now, if you watched the Bobcats last game against the Sixers you might have an argument as to whether that was truly a prize or not, but regardless it fired up the home crowd and seemed to give the entire building a little life.

For all the Bobcats need to do this year, the main thing as I see it is give the fans an entertaining product and they did that tonight. It was a Saturday night, against a bad and beatable opponent and Time Warner Cable arena had a solid crowd of 17,761. Does that help the fact that the Bobcats lost this game? No, of course not. But this team has had a very, very tough week.

As difficult as it has been for us to watch these games, and make no mistake it's been difficult, playing in these games must have been just as frustratingly difficult.

I'm not saying the Bobcats wouldn't have been beaten, and beaten badly, if D.J. Augustin, D.J. White, Corey Maggette, Reggie Williams, and Gerald Henderson had been able to play during this stretch but I absolutely think this team would have been exponentially more competitive. What's being asked of the players that have played is to play much more than they are used to, do things that they are not used to, and fill roles that they have no business filling.

No one is going to feel sorry for them and I'm not here to plead for their forgiveness but losing quality, experienced NBA players makes a difference. It just does. And I believe at full strength the Bobcats might be a better team than the Wizards.

But full strength or not, the Bobcats have dropped two games out of the last three to the Wiz. The Bobcats have three wins and the Wizards have four. They're both not very good professional basketball teams, but they played an entertaining game tonight.

So, take these game observations with a block of salt.

The Bobcats shot much better tonight connecting on 47% of their shots from the field. The offense, without starting point guard Augustin, is still suffocatingly stagnant at times. Kemba Walker has been forced into being a starting point guard and that's not easy even for the most talented rookies. Walker is very talented and somehow it's taken this long to mention that he got his first career triple-double tonight (and the first from this year's rookie class) notching 20 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Maybe this give Kemba's rookie campaign a shot in the arm. Perhaps it gives him a little buzz in the race for Rookie of the Year. More importantly for Bobcats' fans maybe this is truly his breakout game and there is more of this to come.

The most exciting stat for any fan should be those 11 assists. Of course, the points are great, we know Kemba has a knack for scoring even if his shot (connecting only 37% of the time) has been more miss than hit to start his rookie season. But his ability to direct on offense has all of a sudden been thrust to center stage. He's struggled and as a result the Bobcats have seen quarters where they struggle to score 10 points.

Not all of this is on Walker of course. He's playing with guys who aren't used to being in the position they are, and again...he's a rookie. But tonight was a high point for him. Facing off against John Wall (13 points, 10 assists), picked by many as one of those players to make the leap this year into the upper echelon of NBA point guards, Walker faired pretty well. He made his fair share of mistakes but played 43 minutes tonight, the most of anyone on the floor.

Still, at times the Bobcats looked completely lost on offense, struggling to find any rhythm much less a good shot against a defense that comes in at 25th in the league in defensive efficiency according to HoopsData.com.

But offense was the good news in this game. The defense is simply deplorable. Nick Young abused the entire building tonight scoring 21 on 9-15 shooting from the field. It would have really been nice to see Gerald Henderson on the floor making it a little more difficult for Young, but regardless of what you think of Young's overall game (he plays no D) one thing he can do is finger roll...no, sorry...I mean shoot. He can shoot and tonight he got way too many open looks, as did most of the Wiz.

But even when Young wasn't wide open, he drove and hit contested difficult shots. He deserves some credit tonight for answering the Cats just about every time they made a push, especially in the fourth, making shots twice down the stretch when the separation was just two points.

And it wasn't just Young, Washington shot 52.6% from the field and even better from three hitting 6-11 for almost 55%. A lot of those threes (and all the rest of the shots) were a result of late or non-existent rotations by the Bobcats' defense. Had the Wiz just been a little off on a possession here or there, the result of this game might have been different. But they weren't and Washington was able to pull out a three-point win, 102-99.

But, the aforementioned Carroll three-point miss could have sent the game into overtime. At the end of the day, is it better that it didn't? Perhaps. These two teams are going to battling for the cellar all year and owning the reverse tiebreaker could help the Bobcats in the long run. Sure, a lot is going to happen between now and then but the more Ping-Pong balls the better.

Should Carroll have gotten that shot? No, not really. It was Kemba's night and I would have liked to have ultimately seen him take the shot to tie the game at the buzzer. This is nitpicking just to nitpick of course, but it was Walker's breakout game, it would have been nice to give him the ball...and you know he wanted it.

Maybe that was an option, and it looks like it might have been. Walker appears to curl around a Boris Diaw screen to the corner but was covered. Carroll then rolls out up top of the same pick and is open. Regardless, the Bobcats came up short. But they made the game entertaining. Byron Mullens led Charlotte in scoring and finished the first half with 17 points in just 13 minutes.

Mullens hit a huge shot down the stretch to tie the game with just over four minutes and then got the Bobcats within two under two minutes to go. Mullens was also called for goaltending a late Javelle McGee layup with under a minute to go..and I'm ok with that. At least he was trying to block it; he was just a hair to late.

McGee was a problem tonight for the Bobcats, and that should come as no surprise. The Cats' defense is inappropriately inviting at times and a big man with the athletic ability of McGee should feast on that. And feast he did to the tune of 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Let's just talk about it because I know we want to, Bismack Biyombo played less than two minutes in the second half and not even seven minutes for the entire game. It's honestly tough to say that he should have played more tonight, even with the utter inability by the Bobcats to stop anything. Charlotte needed everything it got from Diaw, Mullens, and Tyrus Thomas (6-12 from the floor for 13 points and 10 rebounds) who seems to be working his way back into game form.

This isn't a good defensive team. And when it's not scoring it's painful to watch. So as much as I would like to see Biyombo get minutes and experience, tonight wasn't his night to do that.

Five Bobcat players were in double figures tonight and Desagna Diop made one free throw. Mullens ended up playing starter's minutes off the bench and we saw a lot of good Boris tonight (7-11 for 21 points and 10 assists). I'm more and more convinced that as Diaw goes, so goes this team. After the week of games this team has played it's tough to get too upset by an entertaining, competitive contest from this crew.

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