Man, it's been a while since the Bobcats have even had a moral victory. Sure, they still lost to Philly 98-89, but they were extremely competitive and showed the grit that you hope to see from them and they kept the deficit within single digits for much of the night.
The game started as Bobcats fans could fear. Jrue Holiday was taking advantage of his height against Kemba Walker, getting to wherever he wanted and scoring at will. He had 11 points on perfect 5-for-5 shooting in the first quarter. The Bobcats defense was being stretched to its limits and permitted the Sixers to make half of their attempts in the first quarter while the Bobcats offense struggled to hit 33 percent of their own shots. It seemed the game would head to a similar conclusion as the previous 14 games.
The deficit swelled despite the Bobcats' best efforts, peaking at a 15-point Philadelphia lead. But impressively, Kemba Walker limited his own shots and passed quite well, including one amazing laser dish to Bismack Biyombo on a fast break through traffic. He showed good awareness of where his teammates were and didn't force much himself, only taking five shots in the first half and dropping five dimes. Thaddeus Young whooped the Bobcats during this time, especially Tyrus Thomas. But the Bobcats cut the deficit to 10 by halftime on the strong play of Walker and Byron Mullens, who made some nice cuts to score in the paint.
The second half showed a complete departure from the methodology of the first half. The 76ers seemed to get complacent and eased their feet from the gas pedal while the Bobcats also turned up their play. Holiday no longer exploited his advantages over Walker and Kemba stayed in front of him much better. Corey Maggette came alive and reminded everyone what he can do when healthy, scoring efficiently in the midrange and finishing very well at the rim, even through contact. I can't remember anyone getting so many and-1 opportunities. The Bobcats forced their way back into the game, cutting what was once a 15-point deficit to two points.
But the Sixers would wake up and shut it down with Lou Williams and Young despite the Bobcats' best efforts. Whereas the first half was Kemba The Facilitator, the second half was clearly Kemba The Scorer's time. He got to the line well for much of the night, but really turned it on in the fourth quarter, in which he scored 14 points on seven shots. He singlehandedly kept the Bobcats with the 76ers late, hitting key three-pointers and some a couple amazing off-balance shots, that I can probably describe as 'lucky.' Meanwhile, Lou Williams closed out the game for Philly, creating off the dribble with his quickness and hitting from deep with his quick release. Young continued to bully the Bobcats in the post for looks deep in the paint or getting to the free throw line. The Bobcats offense and defense could no longer match the Sixers and they ultimately fell by nine, 98-89.
But at least it was encouraging. Kemba Walker displayed some great looks as a passer and as a scorer. Biyombo rebounded pretty well and scored off a couple offensive rebounds.
Frankly, the most encouraging part of this game was the energy and effort we saw. Maggette definitely adds a grit and toughness the team needs at the small forward, which we saw last night as he torched Philly at times in the paint.
Other odds and ends:
Byron Mullens took an efficient scoring performance in the first half and got a little too confident in his own shot in the second. After scoring 11 points on seven shots in the first, he turned in a zero-for-six shooting half with his only points in the second half coming on a pair of free throws.
Cory Higgins had a fun stint, coming in for a minute and a half in the first quarter, recording two fouls and sitting back down. Then he returned early in the second quarter, quickly notching another foul in his 2:41 on the court, exiting once more. Hooray!
This foul trouble forced the Bobcats to play a quirky lineup with no point guard as the half came to a close. The lineup was Reggie Williams - Corey Maggette - Derrick Brown - Boris Diaw - Bismack Biyombo. It had mixed results as Diaw scored a basket on an offensive rebound and Lou Williams and Reggie Williams exchanged fouls with each other.
Tyrus Thomas played just awful. Thaddeus Young pushed him around like a child in the paint, clearly the stronger man. Tyrus got faked out by Young's post moves into jumping early or fouling. Thomas finished with zero points (0-3 FG), zero rebounds, and three fouls.
Diaw's scoring certainly wasn't what you want from your veteran post presence, but he did pass pretty well, recording 10 assists. Yay Boris Diaw's one good game for two weeks!
Derrick Brown didn't score as well as he had been recently, but he didn't take many shots and he rebounded well.
Matt Carroll scored two three-pointers, raising his 3P% on the season by seven percentage points to 20.8 percent. LOL.