This picture made me smile. (Courtest y of NBAE/ Getty Miages)
The Bobcats went on the road to face Kyrie Irving and the Cavs. The Cavs were without Andrew Bynum (nursing his chronic knee problems) and Dion Waiters (suffering from an illness of sorts). The Cats did not have Al Jefferson available due to his ankle problems, but it proved to be a moot point by the time the clock hit 0.00.
For a majority of the first half, and a good bit of the third quarter, the Bobcats struggled to get ahead in this one. The shooting was poor for both teams, but it always seemed like Cleveland was playing more sloppily than the Cats. I have to accredit this to the stingy defense played by Charlotte, as they were contesting nearly every shot and also keeping the pace up by running transition opportunities well. But the scoring here was the problem. Here’s a quick backcourt breakdown:
Kemba: 4-19 shooting for 12pts
Henderson: 4-13 shooting for 8pts
Jeff Taylor: 5-11 shooting for 11pts
That’s not terribly good. If there’s one thing I think the Bobcats need to focus on heading into the summer of the Hornets, it’s definitely a move to attain some type of consistent backcourt scoring. Granted, Al Jefferson was out tonight, and his presence alone will create more open looks for our guards, but there has got to be somebody who’s consistently able to get us baskets. A “go-to” guy if you will. But the Bobcats were able to get into the game by focusing on what they do best: defending and running. The defensive style that the team plays is tough in nature, and it’s good to see the whole team take on a defensive mentality. They play hard and they play with pride, and that’s all you can ask for from a group of guys nobody in the league respects. If there’s one thing you can count on this year, it’s certainly that these Cats will compete every night.
One of the more bright spots of the game, however, was definitely the play of MKG. Like I’ve said before, a lot of good things happen when he’s aggressive and attacking the opponent on both ends of the floor. MKG finished with 16pts off 6-9 shooting, 1 block, and 8 rebounds. He ran the floor in transition well, and his ability to get to the rim and finish is truly incredible. There have been numerous Gerald Wallace comparisons in the past, but MKG certainly has the potential to be much, much better than our beloved Crash. He plays with an intensity that’s tough to match, and his skill set makes him a jack-of-all-trades on the basketball court. Well, except for his jump shot, which he’s still working on. As soon as he’s able to consistently knock down some jumpers, I think we’ll see a huge jump in his production.
Cody Zeller also played fairly well. He finished with 8pts and 4 rebounds, which doesn’t exactly scream “ROY!”, but when you consider that some of the former first-round draft picks Charlotte has made included: Alexis Ajincia, DJ Augustin, Adam Morrison, and Sean May, it’s exciting to see one pick actually produce for us. The main problem I see in Zeller’s game, however, is that he’s not NBA-size yet. While he’s still able to outrun nearly everybody on the court, there are numerous times where he’ll get bodied-up simply because he’s not of true PF strength/weight. I do fear that if he puts on weight, that he’ll slow down a bit, but I also have faith that he’ll find a way to make his athleticism his advantage by the end of the year. He’s a tough kid, and his touch around the basket is very good, so there’s no doubt in my mind that he will be fine.
Overall, it was a game won by defense, and you don’t see that very often anymore. I think Coach Clifford has done a great job organizing and maximizing the roster given to him, and he will be in an even better position next year. It’s always good to get a win like this on the road too, since it’s a huge moral booster. There’s absolutely no way that this team wins this game last year, with Mike Dunlap’s terrible, terrible zone defenses, but these Cats are different. They have a bite to them, and they won’t back down from anybody. There’s a real future for this team, and it will be exciting to continue to watch this team develop. We have some fine, young players, and I think we got a coaching brain trust of sorts. I still don’t think we’re a playoff team this year, but we are definitely exceeding all expectations. Keep it up Charlotte.