(Photos Courtest Jeff Siner-Charlotte Observer)
For the Bobcats, it was a story of connection (26 assists) and rejection (10 blocks).
As the Twitter-verse continued to recover from its hyperbolic shock over the Bobcats’ victory against Indiana, Charlotte successfully defended its home court against the Cavaliers on Friday night. Kyrie Irving and company never led by more than two points and even then, only very rarely.
The tone was set early by Josh McRoberts on a three-pointer early in the 1st Quarter to put the Bobcats ahead 5-2. From that point on it was simply a matter of maintaining and/or extending the lead, and the Cats were consistently buoyed by the momentum of MKG and CDR. Chris Douglas-Roberts drilled four three-pointers all in the first half while Michael Kidd-Gilchrest swatted the ball twice. CDR finished with 14 points and MKG with 8 but their contributions to the momentum of the game were tremendous. Douglas-Roberts continued to fill in spectacularly for an injured Gerald Henderson and I couldn’t help but liken CDR’s body type to Reggie Miller (with hair, of course). Even CDR’s three-point stance looks similar. Still, don’t let me be misunderstood as comparing CDR to Miller-time in any serious way…yet
Gary Neal dropped in 10 points coming off the bench though his fellow trade-mate Luke Ridnour struggled, going 0-3 shooting and committing 4 turnovers.
The Cavs’ defense showed serious toughness throughout the evening though Kemba Walker was still able to slice through them for a double-double, 20 points and 14 assists.
It’s obvious that Kemba’s sense of ownership is growing. He walks the floor at TWC Arena like he poured the concrete underneath and it’s supremely satisfying to see the Bobcats finally playing with a solid frontcourt and backcourt. In fact, it’s a feeling similar to the one I get from the knowledge that the Panthers have Cam Newton. There’s a definite sense of history being mended. The Bobcats no longer rely on Sean May, Raymond Felton, or Primoz Brezec just as the Panthers no longer rely on Kerry Collins, Rodney Peete, or Chris Weinke.
Speaking of the frontcourt, Big Al was player of the…something. What was it? Oh, player of the game. Again, his 6-10, 289 lb frame should lend itself easily to semi-violent post attacks but instead he pirouettes his mass around defenders with his post shots usually coming in the form of baby sky-hooks that float gingerly through the net. No double-double for Al but 28 points and 7 rebounds. That’s something to which I’d be happy to become accustomed. I want 25+ points for Al to be as humdrum and everyday as taking out the trash. “Oh, Big Al scored 29 points again? Well, that’s the way it goes.” Death, taxes, and Big Al.
I don’t want to sell the Cavs short, though. Recent Chicago Bull/new Cleveland Cavalier Luol Deng put up 19 points and Spencer Hawes made his presence felt down low, tossing his towering body around and scoring 13. The Cavs did threaten in the 4th quarter, even holding a 1-point lead with 7:03 remaining but Jefferson, McRoberts, and Walker effectively shut the maroon-and-gold squad down with baby-hooks, a three-pointer, and free throws, respectively. Kemba went 9-9 from charity, several of those shots coming in the final minutes of the game. At 19 seconds remaining and the score 97-91 Kyrie Irving missed a trey and the Cavs bench was visibly finished as Kemba sank his free throws on the following possession. It’s hard not to feel for the Cavaliers and Clevelanders in general: LeBron, the Browns, the Indians, the Browns, and the Browns. But this game was ours and almost indisputably so. We didn’t mop our home court with the Cavs but we also never let them get close to making a mess of it.
Side note: Early in the game it was a case of Zeller vs. Zeller as Cavalier Tyler Zeller and Bobcat Cody Zeller, both wearing #40, collided with one another in the post. Tyler was visibly furious. My brother and I had similar moments growing up.