There was little reason to tune in to yesterday’s Bobcats-Bulls game. First, there would be no Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was out with a scratched cornea. Second, when they showed Kidd-Gilchrist sidelined on the bench, he was annoyingly not wearing a pirate eye patch. Third, the Bulls have the fifth-slowest pace in the league and were without superstar MVP and frequent public weeper Derrick Rose, which saps the drama considerably. Fourth, Chicago turns the ball over less than Mitt Romney turns over his tax records (3rd-best in the league), thereby narrowing Charlotte’s chances of winning to the size of a hobbit turd. Fifth, the Bobcats hadn’t won in 6 weeks and hadn’t beaten Chicago in nearly two years…really, if you wanted to see an enjoyable underdog story, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were better off watching Red Tails and counting the number of times Cuba Gooding, Jr. puts a pipe in his mouth and grins.
But if you did tune in yesterday and witness the Bobcats—as Steve Aschburner put it perfectly in his NBA.com Hang Time blog—“pinching off another run of futility,” it was pretty savory. This was by no means a work of art, or even a work of The Wanted. I wouldn’t use this game to try to get non-fans excited about basketball any more than the CIA would use Safe House as a recruiting video. The Bobcats made a horrifying 21-of-38 free throws and turned it over 18 times, while the Bulls shot just 35% from the field and had a lousy performance from their one All-Star candidate, Joakim Noah. But the Bobcats triumphed and did so where they’ve failed so often before: in the fourth quarter. And the other three quarters. And usually overtime, though that didn’t apply here, but probably would have it had come to that.
How did the Bobcats avoid a fourth-quarter collapse and a theoretical overtime choke? According to coach Mike Dunlap, “I put the playbook in the freezer and just let our guys go at them,” which brings up a couple of questions. First, is this the same freezer where Bismack Biyombo stores his hands? Biyombo had another unthawed performance in which he went 1-4 from the field and 3-8 from the line, sabotaged yet another layup with a pointless goaltend, and had me questioning whether he could block out Debbie Gibson, let alone Taj Gibson, who pulled down 6 offensive rebounds. But more importantly, what does Dunlap giving his playbook the Han Solo treatment mean, exactly? The Bobcats went on a 10-run to kick off the 4th quarter, but their methods didn’t seem appreciably different. All but two of those points came from their guards, and in fact of the 26 points the Bobcats scored in the 4th quarter, all but ten of them came from the backcourt (and of those 10, 5 of them were of the Hack-a-Mack or a Hack-a-…um-Jeff Adrien variety). For better and mostly worse, this is always how it is for the Bobcats; their offense is sourced like a 6-year-old going to the potty: it’s either a 1 or a 2. So what did the Bobcats do differently this time around and how can they reproduce it in the future?
If I had any idea, believe me, I’d share it. I mostly just have bad ideas, though. Like the one for Friday the 13th-brand cereal for kids, with crispy golden flakes of severed heads and yummy marshmallow chainsaws. All I can do is sit back and enjoy the ride and priceless quotes like play-by-play guy Steve Martin’s for Ben Gordon with 7:10 to go in the 4th quarter. After Gordon, the former Chicago Bull, converted a pretty layup, an excited Martin hilariously painted himself into a cliché corner: “15 points for Gordon in the hall that he made…quite a career out of.” Like I said earlier, it wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but it was pretty enough, and maybe coach Dunlap should keep that playbook in the freezer until it starts speaking terrible puns in an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent.
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