CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 06: Kemba Walker #1 of the Charlotte Bobcats reacts after a play during their game against the Atlanta Hawks at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 6, 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 a game. What a darn game.
I'm not going to lie, watching the first half, I was beyond disappointed. The Bobcats' defense was abysmal. Kemba Walker, D.J. Augustin and D.J. White were lost, never rotating when they needed to and being beaten off of the dribble by everyone. Jeff Teague was carving up the defense, consistently penetrating (if you can call casually dribbling into the paint penetrating) and either going to the hoop or kicking the ball out to wide open team mates. He even got an impromptu "transition" dunk while a clueless Augustin was apparently more interested in something in the crowd.
Luckily, the Hawks were exhausted from last night's triple overtime game against the Miami Heat and missed countless open jumpers and layups that they'd normally make. Joe Johnson was a miserable 6 of 17 from the field. Attribute that to defense if you'd like. But he had some very easy looks.
On offense, the Bobcats were average. They moved the ball well, but poor spacing often led to close-outs and turnovers. The boxscore is misleading. Yes, a number of players scored fairly efficiently, but the majority of made buckets were isolations and quick pick and rolls/pops. Not real offense.
I still can't believe this game went to overtime.
Thankfully, things got interesting in the fourth quarter. Kemba Walker, DJ Augustin and Byron Mullens hit a variety of tough, much needed shots that allowed the Bobcats to stay in the game. A near miscall by the referees afforded the Bobcats the final possession in the fourth, which ended up being a highly contested fadeaway from Boris Diaw that seemed to unintentionally hit glass. Not your ideal final shot. Not when Josh Smith is guarding you and Diaw is having a poor shooting night.
Overtime was all Hawks. They dominated every aspect of the game. The Bobcats were overwhelmed as Joe Johnson made a couple of huge baskets to really put the game out of reach.
All in all, this game was a step forward for the Bobcats, a game in which both Kemba Walker and Byron Mullens scored career highs of 19 and 17, respectively. They tightened their defense to slow Atlanta down, and their heart and perseverance allowed them to get back in it late. It just wasn't enough.
D.J. Augustin: Augustin looked phenomenal, which was a nice change of pace for him. Dished out the ball well, and hit some HUGE shots for the Bobcats down the stretch, including an incredible and-1 in the 4th. Defensively, he looked as terrible as ever, which really shouldn't be a surprise anymore.
Kemba Walker: Kemba had his official coming out game, scoring 19 points in a plethora of ways. Amazing drives into the lane, turnaround jumpers, three balls...everything. He, like Augustin, looked pretty bad of defense. Both tend to get caught on screens far too easily. Kemba however has the lateral quickness and defensive fundamentals that Augustin does not and should be a pretty good defensive player one day.
Gerald Henderson: A fruitless night on offense. He forced long jumpers all night to no avail. He looked fantastic on defense, and surprised me with a key stop against Marvin Williams in the post. He held his ground, stayed straight and held his hands high. Impressive.
Boris Diaw: A bit of a mixed bag for Boris. He had some greats plays on both ends of the floor, but was expected to do a little more than he's capable of. He can carry a team from time to time, but you won't get that consistently. He did his usual: assists, rebounds, and some points.
D.J. White: A decent night overall. Scored some points, got some rebounds. The usual. A bit of a curtain on defense, but I didn't expect him to hold Josh Smith down.
Tyrus Thomas: I was so glad to see Tyrus get back, and for good reason. He's the Bobcats' best help defender, and has a versatile offensive game built on athleticism and jumpers. Tyrus was pretty rusty, but that's to be expected. Also looked a heck of a lot skinnier than I remember.
Byron Mullens: On paper, a great night. In the game? Not so much. He's a very poor rebounder and defender at his position and size. It hurts to watch him do anything but score. But scoring is something he does well, and score he did. Congratulations on a career high in points, but let's get a career high in rebounds and blocks next time, eh?
Bismack Biyombo: Ah yes, Biz. Biz looked like his usual raw self, exemplifying raw athleticism and natural defensive talent. He looked lost on both offense and defense...until someone took a shot. He'd then rush over and try to block it and grab a rebound. You know, the usual. I look forward to the day that his team mates don't yell at him every possession, pointing to where he should be. That day is coming. Be patient.
I didn't expect the Bobcats to win this game, and I'm glad that they didn't. It certainly would have been quite a morale boost, but in the grand scheme of things this was the most favorable outcome. Let the tank roll, folks.