There are two ways to view this result, depending on your expectations for this team and your overall outlook as a person.
There will be a group who will see this close-run loss to what looks to be the best team in basketball as a moral victory. As a still-developing roster with some very pronounced talent gaps, this could be viewed as a marker of where the Bobcats can go with proper smart acquisitions and good coaching. Charlotte was never overpowered and responded in kind to every knockout blow attempted by Indiana. We stayed with them, we gave as good as we got. For the most part we executed well offensively and pretty much everyone had a good game. Nowhere to go but up.
On the other hand, there are those who see yet another Bobcats team that needs more time before trying to contend. Charlotte is a team who has a realistic shot at the playoffs. Summer pick ups point clearly to a "win as soon as possible" mentality. This isn't necessarily a full tanking effort. There should be expectations. This game was there for the taking and let go because of poor execution and immature play down the stretch. The more I think about this game, the more I vacillate between each option.
This was a pretty odd game, overall. The two leading defensive teams in the league looked largely disinterested in playing at all for large parts of the game. Good defensive execution was sporadic for each team. Both teams went back and forth for most of the first half, with Charlotte ending both the first and second quarters strong on offense. The Bobcats started with an excellent offensive run to start the third quarter. After that, things began to slow down and the game took a flow much more reminiscent of what you'd expect from this team. The Bobcats did some excellent work on the offensive glass and second chance opportunities were key to them staying with The Pacers so long.
As things got tighter down the stretch, so too did Charlotte's offense, veering away from ball movement and going almost exclusively with Al Jefferson isolations. While there was a good deal of success from this with Jefferson ending up with 21 points and nine rebounds, it arguably caused a stagnation in the offense. When the game was a on the line, there didn't seem to be a plan B. More than one opportunity to tie was wasted and that's disappointing. It's not clear what the answer here is. Kemba Walker had been very wild off the dribble in the fourth and maybe Clifford didn't want to rely too much on that? Obviously Jefferson is the right option down the stretch, more movement or misdirection is needed. At least something that looks a little more organized
The Bobcats were fortunate, also, in that Paul George played by far his worst offensive game of the season, going 2-for-12 and 1-for-6 from three. His characteristic slow first half begat a second where he couldn't find any kind of flow to his game. Some of his production was offset with eight points from the still-in-the-NBA Rasual Butler and a solid 11-point performance from Luis Scola. Lance Stephenson had a good Lance Stephenson game, unnecessarily behind-the-back-passing his way to 20 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Both Roy Hibbert and David West caused a lot of problems for the Bobcats' frontline, a frontline which is still easily bullied down low.
Overall, this was a very good showing from Charlotte. The wing play was solid; Gerald Henderson had a decent game with 10 points and Jeffrey Taylor had a better game than his boxscore would suggest. Both did a good job defensively. Wing play has been a real gap in terms of execution this season and it's very noticeable when it's going well. Pretty much all the inside players had a good showing in what was a very tough matchup for them. Most impressively, they didn't let being over-matched on defense affect them offensively, all combining to go 16-for-33 from the field. They fought hard for second chance points and impressively had more offensive rebounds than the Pacers. Cody Zeller had a solid game and provided some much needed energy. Same goes for Biyombo, who chipped in with seven boards off the bench (two offensive). The disappointing aspect for the Bobcats was the guard play. Charlotte was outperformed by George Hill and Lance Stephenson. Kemba Walker had a very quiet 13 points and struggled to gain much off the dribble against a very good defensive squad. Sessions had a little more success, going 5-for-9 and 2-for-2 from three. Ben Gordon was Ben Gordon.
Lots of positives to be taken from this game, but then again some familiar struggles.