The Bobcats had to win this game to remain in the playoff hunt. And heading into the fourth quarter, I had all but given up on them. They had lost an eight-point lead and were down by 7, looking lost on offense with a semi-injured point guard trying to lead the team.
But with the strong play of Gerald Henderson and indelible team defense, the Bobcats made a strong comeback despite injuries to both D.J. Augustin and Shaun Livingston. After a wild, mind-boggling final series, the Bobcats emerged the victor (and on a three-game win streak!), gaining a game on the Bucks, who now seem destined for the lottery.
First quarter: With Kwame Brown out, Silas started Tyrus Thomas at center, leaving the Bucks with an advantage, considering Tyrus coming off of injury and Bogut having a major size advantage. Getting into transition, D.J. Augustin was making great decisions, passing to the trailer and just finding the open man in the uptempo offense. The team also found cutting players for easy buckets. But the problem was with Bogut for the whole quarter. Tyrus Thomas had a lot of trouble defending him as Bogut dominate the paint en route to 18 points on 9-11 shooting. Yeah. And yet, the Bobcats still led by one, 27-26
Second quarter: With Bogut returning to the bench for some rest (which I’m surprised he needed), the Bobcats looked to take advantage. Unfortunately, they couldn’t create much more than a two or four point cushion before Bogut re-entered. But with Bogut back in, the Bobcats played smarter, bringing multiple defenders on him. More importantly, they drew him into an offensive foul and then into a foul on Matt Carroll, putting him in some minor foul trouble. Picking up the defensive intensity and keeping up their scoring from the bench (here, Livingston, Cunningham and Carroll), the Bobcats pushed a lead to 8 points. However, as the starters trickled back into the game, the Bobcats lost focus, allowed offensive rebounds for more offensive possessions. The offense also began to stall, as ball movement grinded to a near halt. What was once an 8-point lead dwindled to one point. With under a minute left, D.J. drove hard to the hoop, got blocked with some contact. It didn’t seem too bad at first, but Augustin stayed behind on the possession and went to the locker room when the Bobcats took a timeout shortly afterward. It looks like he may have banged knees on the contact. The rest of the Bobcats shortly followed with the buzzer sounding and the Bobcats holding onto a one-point lead.
Third quarter: Despite his injury, D.J. Augustin continued to play in the third quarter. But that probably wasn’t for the best. His shot was way off with airballs and catching rim occasionally. The team began to flounder as the offense straggled behind. Boris Diaw, very effective in the previous two games, was pretty passive and didn’t look to score hardly at all. Nor did he stretch the defense with his range. But he did facilitate the offense in a passing role (8 assists), which sometimes isn’t best for the Bobcats, as opposed to looking for a scoring role. And while the Bobcats struggled, Brandon Jennings began to go off against Augustin, as he has all year. He had 13 points in the quarter. The Bobcats fell behind by seven going into the third quarter.
Fourth quarter: Shaun Livingston, usually subbed in to bring some scoring off the bench, came in to begin the fourth. But after driving hard, Drew Gooden leveled Shaun with a hard foul. Livingston fell hard onto his back. He managed to get up to hit his free throws but would leave the game immediately afterwards. So, the Bobcats put Augustin back in the game. And a little over a minute back in the game, DJ fell again and left the game to not return. So now the Bobcats are left with no option but to put in Garrett Temple, who had not played since the blowout loss against the Rockets 12 days ago. But wouldn’t you know it, Temple played fantastically. His defense on Brandon Jennings was outstanding and he hit a trey to match one of Jennings’ to keep the Bobcats in the game. The Bobcats drew enough fouls to put the Bucks in the penalty, sending the Bobcats to the free throw line on every foul. Drawing fouls helped bring the deficit within reach. And then Gerald Henderson took over, starting with a driving layup. Running Henderson on the same curl-off-screen play that we’ve seen work all year, Henderson nailed both, which has become basically free money since January. The second of these put the Bobcats up by one. On the ensuing possession, Brandon Jennings missed a layup and Henderson recovered a loose rebound in a wild scramble and managed to call a timeout with about 11 seconds. But then all hell broke loose. After spending another timeout, Boris Diaw threw a risky pass on the inbounds play against great defense by the Bucks. The turnover led to Brandon Jennings barely missing a layup which was then rebounded by Dooling out to Jennings who launched a three from the sideline that careened off the far rim. Delfino made a strong attempt at a tip at the buzzer that hit the back of the rim and wouldn’t fall. With a lineup of Matt Carroll, Gerald Henderson, Stephen Jackson, D.J. White and Boris Diaw, the Bobcats survived the onslaught to win by one, 87-86.
Here's the final play:
Odds and Ends
- Milwaukee ended the game missing 11 straight field goals.
- Mike Cranston reports that the Bobcats final game of the season (vs the Hawks) has been bumped from national television. Cool. (/sarcasm) EDIT: Also noted in Bring Back Primoz's FanShot
- Jackson had a quiet 18 points on 8-14 shooting from the field.
- Tyrus Thomas played 20 minutes and had trouble with Bogut, who had a huge size advantage. But Thomas did rebound pretty well, with 6 boards and shot 3-5. Not bad, but this is a terrible matchup for Thomas – or really any power forward matching up against a true center.
- Indiana beat the Celtics tonight to stay a game in front of the Bobcats in the playoff chase. This. Will. Be. Close.