The Charlotte Bobcats Tip Off the 2013-2014 season
Tonight, the Bobcats took the court in Charlotte for the first time this season, and after a summer of roster retooling, it seemed as though everybody in Time Warner Cable Arena was anxiously waiting for the team to take the floor. And needless to say, they surely delivered. Even with their big-ticket free agent, Al Jefferson, sitting out to nurse a sore ankle, the Bobcats got off to a hot start with the help of their high-pressure defense. After getting the lead very early on, they didn’t look back, even when the Cavs were closing-in on the lead.
Defense was Steve Clifford’s main focus upon accepting the coaching job, as he wanted his team to build its identity around a solid defense. Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were able to put enough pressure on Kyrie Irving early enough to force turnovers and create fast break opportunities. Kemba finished with 3 steals, and I fully expect to see both Kemba and MKG flourish under this defensive system, as they are both quick and smart enough to really bother opposing teams backcourts.
Speaking of defense, the Bobcats got a huge boost from blocked shots. They finished the game with 8 total blocked shots (compared to Cleveland’s 1), with the most notable coming from Jeff Adrien, whom absolutely denying Andrew Bynum on a hook-shot midway through the second. The blocks energized the crowd and really helped to solidify Charlotte’s defensive presence throughout the game. Kyrie and the Cavs were really thinking twice about sending the ball inside, as there was surely one Bobcat waiting to swat it away.
Towards the end of the 2nd quarter, Cleveland began making a run thanks to the hot shooting of CJ Miles (22pts off 9-16 FG), and the solid low-post game of Tristan Thompson (21pts off 6-11 FG). The Bobcats responded by relying heavily on Kemba’s ability to generate offense off the dribble. There were many times where the Cats would set a screen for Kemba, and watch him go to work in the mid-range. Thanks to Kemba’s reliability as an offensive option, the Cats were able to hold on to their lead.
Throughout the 3rd and 4th quarter, Cleveland would tie the game on a few occasions, but they were never able to take the lead away from the prideful Cats. Charlotte was playing with a ton of energy on both sides of the floor that was contagious throughout the seats of the arena. MKG led the way by pushing the tempo in transition, which really kept Cleveland on their toes. Having both MKG and Kemba—who are capable of beating the defense in transition—really gave Charlotte an advantage on the fast break. MKG still can’t shoot, but his ability to finish at the rim came in handy as he was soaring up and down the court finishing “and-1” opportunities by any means necessary.
The crowd was on its feet for the remaining 2 minutes of the game, which really said a lot about the mental fortitude of this team. I saw a team that–for the first time in a long time–looked like it didn’t want to lose. These players were playing hard, and the crowd loved them for it. Kemba would hit a go-ahead 3 with about 17 seconds left that made the crowd roar, and for a moment, it really felt as if people cared about this team.
It’s been a while since I felt this good from watching the Bobcats play, and it’s been even longer since I attended a game that felt like a real home-game for the Cats. There were people of all ages filling the seats, and the mix of vintage Hornets gear and current Bobcats gear gave a unique glimpse into the future of this team. The teal and purple will be in full force throughout the season, and with it, there were feint hints of TWC Arena reclaiming the “hive” that we knew and loved back in the 90s. If people really can get behind and care about a Hornets team that played as hard as the Bobcats did tonight, then I think that our city will have a team it can truly be proud of yet again.