Despite an impressive team performance in the first half, the Bobcats lost a close outing to the Suns on Saturday night, victimized by poor offensive movement and fading defense during the game's final minutes. More thoughts on a generally encouraging game after the break.
I came into this game genuinely enthused about watching the Bobcats, a rarity in recent weeks. The reason for my excitement was the Bobcats' new starting lineup, including Bismack Biyombo and Reggie Williams, who didn't disappoint.
Against the almost equally lowly Suns, the Bobcats did the seemingly impossible, passing well and defending well for the first half of the game. Reggie Williams looked like his 2010 self and scored with ease. Kemba Walker had one of his best passing halves, and took few bad shots. Bismack Biyombo and Tyrus Thomas rebounded extremely well. Boris Diaw even played admirably, making threes and helping to initiate the offense. The Bobcats strong start faded greatly in the second half, namely in the fourth quarter, as the team struggled to score and defend as a unit. Despite an energized comeback attempt, the team was unable to close the gap.
The Bobcats aren't a good team, so any close game is a welcome surprise. Losing consistently may help the team's long-term prospects, in regards to a high-loterry pick, but it's important that the team show positive flashes and play close to teams when possible to instill optimism into the fan base and team personnel. This was such a game, and the mostly excellent play of the Bobcats' young, hopeful future cogs was as encouraging as anything that's happened to this franchise during the team's 11-game losing streak. It wasn't a perfect game - the Bobcats allowed far too many open corner three-point looks, along with other minor failings - but it was an important one, both for morale and long-term outlook.
The Bobcats gave this game away in the fourth quarter, but I'm not disappointed. They simply don't have the personnel to close out games resoundingly. This was actually a fun, close game, and a largely revitalizing one.
Kemba Walker: I was impressed with Walker's passing and shot selection in the first half. He's often asked to do much offensively for this team, so it was nice to see him find an open Reggie Williams with frequency. He was forced to throw up bad shots late in the game, as the Bobcats' offense stalled, but he continued to keep from turning the ball over. More assists in the second half would have been nice, but 22 points on 16 shots was a welcome addition to the offense. Grade: B+
Reggie Williams: Williams carried the offense for much of the night, and provided a nice all-around line (22 points, seven rebounds, and six assists). It was nice to see Williams find his offensive rhythm after struggling in his first two games back. Grade: A-
Tyrus Thomas: Thomas couldn't make a shot tonight (3-14 FG), but rebounded quite well (13 rebounds). Grade: C
Boris Diaw: Other than his five turnovers and relatively stagnant play for portions of the fourth quarter, Diaw played acceptably. Grade: C+
Bismack Biyombo: Biyombo played brilliantly in his first start. I've been waiting for Biyombo to play significant, important minutes, and he capitalized on the chance. He affected shots in the interior, rebounded very well, and turned in a strong offensive performance that included both a hook shot and two "and-1" layups. 11 points (5-6 FG), 12 rebounds, and two blocks is the best performance the Bobcats have gotten from their starting center in what feels like a long time. Grade: A
Derrick Brown: Brown provided a scoring punch during his 22 minutes off the bench (nine points, 3-6 FG). He also had an impressive dunk, so that was cool. Grade: B
Matt Carroll: Hey, three rebounds in nine minutes! Grade: C+
Byron Mullens: Mullens continue to struggle with his mid-range jumper, which he is reliant on for offensive success. Grade: C
D.J. White: White played quite well to start the season, so this kind of performance is somewhat disappointing. But it's difficult to find playing time when you pick up four fouls in ten minutes. Grade: C-
Cory Higgins: Hey, three rebounds in seven minutes! Grade: C+