Bobcats fans had a feeling that their team could be a little better with the return of big man Byron Mullens after a 19-game layoff. It took five games, but boy were we all right.
Mullens lead the way by far in Monday night’s impressive win over the Boston Celtics, as the Bobcats snapped a seven game losing skid with a close 94-91 victory. Mullens was just abusing Boston in the paint on his way to 18 rebounds, as well as a solid 25 points off of 10-of-16 shooting. While his shooting touch (4-of-5 from three) was worth talking about on its own, it was the intensity on the boards that got attention, and Mullens was pleased with that.
”I just have to show the league and this organization that I can rebound,” said Mullens after the game.
It’s not like Mullens can’t hit the glass. He averages over eight boards per game, but at seven feet tall, he and just about everyone else is probably shooting for over 10 rebounds per game. It’s clear with this rebounding outburst that he has the potential, and it’s also evident that he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder and is dedicated to improving his rebounding craft.
As great as Mullens was on Monday night, he didn’t get the win on his own. Team leader Kemba Walker pitched in a stellar stat line with 18 points, six assists, six rebounds and three steals. Gerald Henderson was the only other started in double figures scoring (16 points), while Ramon Sessions continued his solid play off the bench with 19 points in 30 minutes of play.
In addition to halting another long losing streak, Charlotte snapped another run, as the win handed Boston it’s first defeat since losing star point guard Rajon Rondo (acl) for the remainder of the season.
This looks to be a big confidence win for the young Bobcats, as they kept it tight with Boston for the entire game, and even when their offense was wavering a bit late (just 19 4th quarter points), their defense chimed in and helped limit the Celtics when it mattered most. In fact, Boston held Paul Pierce in check (13 points), while both he and Kevin Garnett collectively struggled from the field.
While a mild dose of reality could be in order: the Bobcats are still terrible overall and the Celtics really aren’t an elite team anymore, I don’t have the heart to come down hard here.
After all, in a season that had Charlotte winning just 11 games entering Monday night’s NBA battle, every single successive loss has to be welcomed with ear to ear grins and applause. Right?
For the most part, yes. But for me, this one wasn’t even about getting the win. Wins are great, but in a lost season, we all know getting the best positioning for the lottery in the 2013 NBA Draft is what it’s all about. Still, second or even third place here is the bright light that is and could continue to be Byron Mullens. His overall shooting percentages aren’t much to look at, but he’s a massive kid with tremendous upside. He has range out to a consistent three, can hit his free throws, can block shots, and just put on a rebounding display against solid competition – the type that shows he could develop into a special double-double type of player.
In my mind, the Bobcats have their point guard of the future in Kemba Walker, and there’s still a ton of hope they have a solid starter on the wing for years to come in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. What Mullens did last night, though, was show the Bobcats have some real potential in one of their bigs, and that’s something worth building on.
Mullens needs to get more consistent in all respects, get strong, and defend light years better than he normally does. But he’s only 23 and the Bobcats just won. Those two facts should have Bobcats fans looking for the upside in an awful season. At least until the next losing streak comes.