Charlotte finished up their road trip and tried to slay a dragon at home later in the week. One of those endeavors was more successful than the other. That and more happened this week for the Bobcats. Let’s take a look back at the week that was for the Charlotte Bobcats.
- Monday, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reported that the Bobcats have explored the option of trading for Philadelphia 76ers forward Evan Turner.
- Kemba Walker returned to practice on Monday, raising hopes he would play on Tuesday against the Warriors. Those hopes became reality as Walker did return to the starting lineup against Golden State.
- Tuesday also saw Associate Head Coach Patrick Ewing share his thoughts on his road to one day becoming a head coach, and the challenges that being a former frontcourt player seem to present.
- Like the idea of tanking? Kemba Walker disagrees with your strategy, kind citizen.
- On Saturday, Matt Moore of CBS sports detailed how Steve Clifford’s approach may just be what the franchise has been lacking in years past.
Tuesday, February 4th at Oracle Arena: Charlotte 91, Golden State 75
With Kemba Walker making his much-anticipated return to action Tuesday night, some rusty play was to be expected. That rust, however, unexpectedly came from the Warriors in Charlotte’s 91-75 rout of Golden State.
Buoyed by their freshly healed floor general, another dominant performance from Al Jefferson (30 points, 13 rebounds) and a stout defense that held the high scoring Warriors to a paltry 75 points on 31.2% shooting, Charlotte capped off their 4 game road trip with a 3-1 mark. Couple that with surpassing last year’s win total after just 50 games (22 wins this season compared to 21 last season) and the Bobcats sewed up some success they haven’t seen in recent years.
“If we come out and play like we played tonight, focused on both ends, we’re going to be a hard team to beat,” Al Jefferson told Stephanie Ready in his post-game comments on SportsSouth.
“The three wins we got on this road trip against three good teams that play well at home says a lot for us,” Jefferson continued.. “That proves that when we’re focused and have a game plan we can be a heck of a team. We proved that.”
The Bobcats began proving that point against the Warriors midway through the first quarter. Charlotte went on an 18-6 run fueled by 7 Golden State turnovers and a healthy dose of Jefferson’s post play to take a 26-13 lead at the quarter break.
After a brief Golden State spurt cut Charlotte’s lead to 7 midway through the second quarter, the Bobcats rallied behind their defense and steady play by Gerald Henderson (17 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists) to blast out on a 18-8 run that ballooned their lead to 17 points. Henderson’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by his coach.
“I’ll tell you, Gerald had a great game too,” Charlotte Head Coach Steve Clifford said in his post game comments on SportsSouth. “He had eight defensive rebounds and his defense was very good. He played a really balanced game”
For the remainder of the contest, Charlotte fended off any advances Stephen Curry (17 points, 1 for 7 on 3-pointers) and Golden State made at the lead.
The final such stiffarm came early in the fourth quarter. Pulling to within 12 points and gaining momentum, the Warriors were looking to put the pieces together for one final run. That attempt was shut down in short order though, as Anthony Tolliver hit back-to-back three pointers while Walker also hit a three to push the lead to 21 points with 9:14 left. Paired with his long-range heroics, Walker (7 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds) also took a charge to effectively seal the deal for the Bobcats. Not bad work for a guy who didn’t feel like he was hitting on all cylinders for the entire game.
“In the first half, I felt good,” Walker told Ready. “In the second half I felt pretty rusty. My teammates told me to stay with it, so I did. I was able to hit a big three and take a big charge.”
And with that, Charlotte ended one of their most successful road trips in franchise history. Though the immediate schedule gets a little rough, for the moment, there’s good reason to be in high spirits.
“Yeah, 3-1 is obviously a lot better than 2-2,” Clifford relayed to Ready. “We have three tough games left before the All-Star break and we’ll have a couple days to get ready, but this win will make the trip home a lot easier.”
Saturday, February 8th at Time-Warner Cable Arena: San Antonio 104, Charlotte 100
Some mountains are harder to climb than others. Just as Mount Everest presents more a challenge than Grandfather Mountain, the San Antonio Spurs present such a challenge to Charlotte Bobcats.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Bobcats had beaten San Antonio only twice in 17 all-time meetings. And for most of Saturday’s contest, it looked plausible that Charlotte would plant their flag atop Mount Spurs for a third time. But as most steep challenges go, the last steps are often the hardest to take and can be wrought with miscues. In this case, the miscues resulted in a 104-100 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
“Our effort, our approach all day was good,” Charlotte Head Coach Steve Clifford said in his post game comments on SportsSouth. “At the end of the day what we didn’t do, which we’ve been pretty good at at year, is we didn’t play with near the level of discipline defensively that we need to. Just too many mistakes. Starting in the first half and then in the second half, the things that were the big point of emphasis we weren’t nearly locked in on the way we needed to be.”
Where Charlotte’s defense lacked the most discipline was on Spurs’ reserve guard Patty Mills. Mills, who entering the game averaged just 8.9 points per game, took advantage of the Bobcats’ mistakes to the tune of 32 points, 20 of which came in the second half. His ability to get into the lane wreaked havoc on Charlotte’s usually effective defense, allowing San Antonio to get the efficient shots they were looking for.
“Against them, if you don’t have all five guys tied together on every possession you’re going to give up the shots we did” said Clifford. “Again, to me it was a good effort but we’re going to have to play with much more disciplined game to beat a team like them.”
The Bobcats did look to be disciplined on both ends of the court early in the game. Spurred on by six San Antonio turnovers, a defensive effort that held the Spurs to 38.9% shooting and strong play from Al Jefferson (26 points, 9 rebounds), Charlotte ran out to an 18-6 lead in the first quarter.
San Antonio would clean up their act, however, en route to going on a 29-14 run after Charlotte’s early spurt to take a 35-32 lead with 6:47 remaining in the second quarter. Mills played the heavy in that run, scoring 12 of San Antonio’s points during that span. Charlotte would answer the Spurs’ challenge, taking a 42-41 lead into the halftime break.
Following a back-and-forth third quarter, Charlotte and San Antonio played to an 82-82 draw after Anthony Tolliver’s 3 pointer with 8:22 left in the game. At that point, Mills and the Spurs went on a decisive 14-5 run that gave them a 96-87 lead with 2:10 left in the contest. Mills again put the Spurs on his back in that run, scoring six points and notching an assist in that time frame.
Charlotte would make one last run towards the summit, pulling to within 99-95 with 33 seconds remaining. But as hope mounted to cut the lead further after a San Antonio turnover at midcourt, Josh McRoberts’ attempt to advance the ball was stolen by Mills. Forced to foul the Spurs from that point forward, the Bobcats watched San Antonio sink five of six free throws to seal the victory.
Armed with the lessons of the mistakes they made, Charlotte will have the opportunity to atone for them on Tuesday night. Charlotte will face another foe whom they’ve had less than optimal success against in the Dallas Mavericks, a team they’ve beaten only once in franchise history.
Kemba Walker had been here before: A big moment in a big game against a big opponent. Leading the defending champion Miami Heat 64-57 at home midway through the third quarter, Walker blocked Mario Chalmers’ layup attempt and corralled the loose ball. Racing down the court on a fast break looking to challenge the 6’11” Chris Bosh, Walker did as he always as he’s always done…he barreled his 6’1” frame straight ahead looking to convert a tough opportunity.
What followed, though, was new to Walker and the Charlotte Bobcats franchise. Walker stepped on Bosh’s foot, severely rolled his ankle and curled up in a lump on the floor. A hush fell over the Charlotte faithful as Walker continued to lie on the hardwood. After collecting himself, Walker tried to amble off the court but the pain in his ankle would not allow it. Once more, he fell to the floor in a lump and had to be carried to the locker room by his teammates.
A quick x-ray revealed no broken bones but further tests would reveal a second degree ankle sprain that looked to cost Walker approximately 10 to 14 days.
Walker’s absence would leave a large hole for his teammates to fill. Replacing his 18.7 points and 5 assists per game would be no easy task and require more than one person’s efforts. Enter veteran backup point guards Ramon Sessions and Jannero Pargo.
Sessions, whose calling card is relentlessly driving to the basket, quickly paid notice in the same game Walker was injured that he’d be up for the challenge. His consistent performance during his seven-year career along with his playoff experience for the Los Angeles Lakers suggested he would be a steady hand during Walker’s absence.
And what a steady hand Sessions was. Not one to break down the defense with spectacular crossover dribbles like Walker, Sessions tweaked his style to fit what would help Charlotte win. While still making time for his patented attacking of the rim and getting to the free throw line, Sessions also knew a good thing when he saw it…getting the ball to Al Jefferson as much as possible. That decision, while also finding other open teammates at opportune times, helped Sessions double his assist average from 3.2 to 6.4 per game. That, paired with his calm, cool demeanor, played a large role in the Bobcats notching a 4-3 record while Walker was sidelined.
While Sessions playing the steady hand was a safe bet, third-string point guard Jannero Pargo was the wildcard. Known for his propensity to let shots fly, Pargo has filtered in and out of the league before finding a home in Charlotte recently.
Shooting just 40% from the field, 33.3% from three while only notching 2 points and 0.4 assists per game in limited minutes, Pargo’s play up to Walker’s injury didn’t look as impressive as Sessions’ did.
But looks can be deceiving, and that was certainly the case with Pargo. Though early returns showed an offense that was prone to bogging down occasionally while he ran it, the offense eased into Pargo as time passed and he lit up the scoreboard. Strongly reversing his early-season numbers during Walker’s absence, Pargo upped his overall shooting percentage to 50.9% and 44.8% from three. His scoring average skyrocketed to 10.6 points per game and even though he was often finding the bottom of the net, he was also finding his teammates, bumping up his assists average to 3.6 per game. These unexpected numbers were very welcome, as Pargo played a large role in guiding the second unit to performances that helped the team keep their head above water with Walker out.
While they’d rather not have had to find out in the manner they did, Charlotte gained solid proof that their reserve point guards are capable of manning the helm when needed. Sessions’ steady hand and Pargo’s hot shooting proved valuable assets in Charlotte’s chase to remain a playoff contender. And with Walker now back in action, knowing that those kinds of assets are available look to be comforting options to the Bobcats.
Do What Now?
- Hi Dad!
- Have you ever played an organized basketball game and been so mad you got in a fight, got ejected and were actually locked out of the gym? Stephon Marbury has.
- Have you ever played an organized basketball game and had such a lack of teammates on the bench that you just decided to take a nap during said game? Chris Kaman has.
- Have you ever had a breakaway dunk, tried to lob it off the backboard to yourself and had things go sideways from there? Derrick Williams has.
The Week Ahead
Only two games are in store for Charlotte in the coming week, though they are of the back-to-back variety. On Tuesday, Charlotte hosts Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. The next night, Charlotte travels to Brooklyn to take on a rejuvenated Nets squad. After that, Charlotte and the rest of the NBA will celebrate the annual All-Star break, with the big game coming to the Big Easy on Sunday night.