This is how pitiful I am: anytime the Bobcats have a lead in the fourth quarter, I start calculating how soon they could theoretically win if they did nothing except commit 24-second violations for the rest of the game. Then I’ll start changing variables, like how fast the other team scores and whether they shoot 2’s or 3’s. For example, if the Bobcats are up by 8 and we assume the other team scores a bucket every 10 seconds, we could implement a 24-second violation-only strategy starting with 1:42 left. Or let’s assume the opposition hits 3-pointers but it takes them 15 seconds, we could implement Operation 24 with 1:18 left. I’d actually like to see a table of this, like they have for NFL coaches and when they’re supposed to go for the 2-point conversion. Anyway, lately I’ve started doing this earlier and earlier in the game: last night against the Magic, I think I started with about 8 minutes to go in the 3rd.
That’s because the Cats were improbably ahead by 7 and Gerald Henderson had just gone to the bench. I knew something was wrong, because it was way too early to sub in for him, considering Hendo had been scoring more efficiently than a Fembot. He left the game having gone 8-11 for 17 points and never returned; apparently his back seized up on him. Fortunately, the Bobcats persevered and managed to maintain their slim lead throughout the entire second half, although watching it whittle and whittle was the basketball equivalent of watching Nathan Thurm’s cigarette ash in those old Martin Short bits.
The Bobcats won despite the best efforts of Bismack Biyombo, who committed two turnovers, shot 1-for-4, and was a -4 in the game. He had an irredeemably bad goaltending violation in the second quarter and also inexplicably saved a ball going out of bounds right into the Magic’s hands. Regarding the goaltending, I’m starting to think Bismack Brodeur has got some sort of goaltending Tourette syndrome; it’s like he can’t help himself. I haven’t been able to find a leader board for most goaltending penalties, but he’s got to be at the top of the list. There is a list for turnover rate, though, and he’s 5th, and I was surprised he was that low, considering the man turns it over like a pig on a spit. If you look closer at the list, though, three of those guys barely play, and the fourth, Reggie Evans, couldn’t be trusted to handle a leech, so I guess that makes sense.
But ANYWAY, this was a win so let’s be positive! Saint Kemba finished with 25 points and had some huge plays in the 4th quarter. He hit a ballsy 3 to put the Bobcats up by 10 with 3:24 left (at which point I began frantically screaming the code word to initiate Operation 24) and three free throws to help ice it. “I embrace that,” Walker said afterward of his expanded role in crunch time. At this rate he’ll hopefully not only embrace it but soon make full-on love to it. Probably just as important as his shots were three offensive rebounds he grabbed, the second one coming after the Bobcats had inadvertently run my play: with 2 minutes to go in the game and one second left on the shot clock, Walker grabbed his own failed layup to keep the clock going with a new possession. Walker’s last board set up those foul shots, and the Bobcats sealed it like a container of Lance Armstrong’s backup red blood cells.
And about those rebounds, the Bobcats grabbed 6 of their 11 offensive boards in the fourth quarter and had the overall rebounding edge, 43-36. Just as important, they only committed 11 turnovers in the whole game. No wonder why they won! (Sometimes I approach these Bobcats wins like a forensic expert at a bizarre crime scene.) “Perhaps maybe we’re not turning it over because some of the guys are being a little more responsible with the ball,” Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap said. That’s a whopper of a hypothesis coach has, but I think he might be onto something.
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