This Bobcats team really reminds me a lot of those from the past. Not in roster or personnel, but just how they play different opponents. They're a mess of energy, often schizophrenically so with seemingly little idea of what they're going to do, flying by the seat of their pants. The Bobcats inexplicably play down to lesser opponents and up to most of the greater teams. But young upstart energy and enthusiasm only lasts so long before the opponents' experience and talent catch up to Charlotte and begin to tighten the screws.
So it happened again, this time against the reigning world champs, the Miami Heat.
And the first half certainly didn't seem encouraging, either. The defense was way lax early on, posing no threat to a fluid Miami offense thriving in transition off the Bobcats' foundering offense. Hakim Warrick was a major defensive liability, I must say. He switches a lot, even when unnecessary and loses focus easily, following the ball and not watching his man at times. This leads to being unaware of screens being set, allowing opponents to get open looks and not boxing out for rebounds. On one particular play early on, he didn't even bother to follow Udonis Haslem (his man) to play pick and roll defense. Instead, he stood still and just pointed at him, as if it were understood that MKG should leave LeBron to cover Haslem. In turn, Henderson had to cover on hedging the pick and roll. Mario Chalmers passed to Dwyane Wade, who split Henderson and a rotating Biyombo, leaving Chris Bosh wide open for a cutting dunk.
The offense didn't inspire any hope either. Miami outscored Charlotte 9-0 to begin the game before the Bobcats took a timeout. Then they came out of the timeout and Miami went up 13-2. Miami's defense was too quick, crashing passing lanes and forcing turnovers while also preventing penetration. Were it not for Ramon Sessions torching Mike Miller late in the first, the Bobcats might not have scored 12 points in the quarter.
The second quarter marked a bit of different play, with the Bobcats creating offense in transition off of some poor cross-court passes from Miami. The defense tightened up a bit and forced Miami into more contested jumpers and also defended the paint better. Walker helped stretch the defense with a couple threes. Charlotte was still down by nearly 20 points, but they played more cohesively on both sides of the court.
After the break, Charlotte turned it around, further forcing turnovers and getting their offense going in transition. Warrick also poured in some jumpers and even drew a charge. Walker helped implement dribble-drive offense and inside-out passing to decrease the deficit. Miami began to become too welcoming of shooting midrange jumpers in the face of trying to probe the Bobcats' interior defense. As the Bobcats cut the lead to 8, Miami once again found some offensive flow with Wade driving to the rim and passing the ball effusively to pick apart the Bobcats' defensive rotations, exposing open threes. With Miami threatening to renew a double-digit lead, Walker and Sessions kept the lead within reach with a couple treys. Their three shooting still wasn't much compared to Miami's but it helped stem the tide and paired with the reversal of the Bobcats' fortune in the pain contributed to a significant cut into the Heat's lead. It also didn't hurt that the Bobcats also got 13 attempts at the free throw line, to Miami's 2 in the third quarter.
It seemed to insane to be true - the Bobcats down to the champs by only 7 points heading into the final quarter without some of their best scorers. Yet there it was.
Alas, it was not to be. Dwyane Wade went full flambe, torching the Bobcats for 13 fourth quarter points on 5-for-6 shooting in the period. The Bobcats managed to weather the storm with LeBron on the bench on the shoulders of Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo, cutting the lead to only two points.
Then LeBron subbed into the game and decided to close the door starting with a three pointer. And later, another three. The Bobcats, try as they might, just couldn't keep up on offense, struggling mightily to get good looks in the paint. The lead went back up to double digits. It would not come within the Bobcats grasp again.
There's not much to say after this game, really. I can't say I expected the Bobcats to keep it as close as they did. Hakim Warrick played well on offense, even if his defense is pretty terrible. Kemba Walker had an all-around decent game, with 27 points. Ramon Sessions played his role almost to a tee, sparking the offense to remain in the game. I'm not sure if you could ask more of this understaffed, undertalented roster against perhaps the best team in the league.
Oh yeah, and Dwyane Wade kicked Ramon Sessions in the testicles.