The news was mostly bad in Miami last night. First, the Bobcats lost their 9th straight game to the Heat. The Heat dominate the Bobcats like Rafael Nadal dominates clay courts, Beyoncé dominates national anthems, Ray Lewis dominates psalms, and Gana Diop dominates White Castle drive-thrus. Second, while the Bobcats were going down in Heat flames, the Wizards were winning their 12th game of the year against the Clippers, which leaves 11-win Charlotte trapped all alone in an underground bunker of last-place suckage. Third, the Bobcats continued waging their deadly jihad on 4th quarter leads—albeit this one was only a blown single-point lead. Fourth, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist remains out of action after unsuccessfully using his skull as a cushion for teammate Jeff Taylor’s knee in Houston, and there’s no return date in sight. In summary, Charlotte is slumming once again in the NBA and the rent is too damn high.
But there was some good news last night. First, it took another remarkable effort from LeBron James to enable the Heat to eke out a 5-point win. Bron-Bron shot 13-of-14 for 31 points, 8 boards, and 8 assists (and felt the odd need afterward to point out that he “didn’t plan it that way”). James was covered primarily by Gerald Henderson and Jeff Taylor, each of whom looked tiny enough next to him to pose for a Vogue cover. The Bobcats couldn’t stop King James, nor could they really contain him, nor could they even isolate him (Miami’s Big 3 combined for 64 of their 99 points). But Charlotte at least stuck with their game plan, which was to force LeBron James to beat them…which he then did…so I forget why I put this in the “good” paragraph. But anyway, in general, the Bobcats played a feisty game, narrowly out-blocking, out-stealing, and (get this!) out-boarding the Heat. Ramon Sessions epitomized the team’s toughness by going a perfect 10-of-10 from the line, including once after taking a stiff though mercifully testicle-free shot from Dwyane Wade on a breakaway. And for once in their lives the Cats closed out the perimeter by limiting Miami to just 1-of-12 from 3-PT range. So all of that was good.
Other good things included the return of Byron Mullens after several months’ worth of an ankle injury. Mullens shot just under 33% and finished -14 for the night—it’s like riding a bike with him! Also getting in a few minutes was Reggie Williams, whom I’d nearly completely forgotten about. Reggie’s like the semi-regular cast member of a great ensemble show who I’m always happy to see and wish would get more screen time—a la Senator Clay “Sheeit” Davis on The Wire. Overall I’ve been pleased with coach Dunlap’s lineup radicalism; he’s not afraid to replace Tyrus Thomas with Hakim Warrick and Warrick with Jeff Adrien. And then when they’re yanked these guys stay gone-gone, because Dunlap’s got a dog house the size of Marmaduke’s; Warrick hasn’t played a minute in 4 games. Tyrus Thomas may be wiping himself with leaves in a Pakistani spider hole, for all I know. Coach Dunlap don’t want no scrubs, and he rightly believes both of those two were hanging out the passenger side of their best friend’s ride instead of hustling back on defense.
The results are guys who buy into the system and produce non-embarrassing losses like last night’s. Even some of the ultra-homer opposing announcers have lately had to hand it to our boys. For example, I appreciated Heat play-by-play announcer Eric Reid’s line on Kemba Walker: “Walker has only one speed: full.” Cool! On the other hand, Reid was thoroughly befuddled by what might happen if the Bobcats were to re-claim the “Hornets” nickname, so take his opinion for what it’s worth. “What would they do with the records?” he puzzled aloud, “Because it’s not the same franchise. I really find that confusing.” Is it really that confusing? How has Reid been dealing with the Cleveland Browns for the past 15 years? Has anyone broken to him the news about the Kings?
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