Coming into Wednesday night's game against the Indiana Pacers, the Bobcats were in the midst of their toughest stretch of games yet. They beat Memphis then lost to the Spurs, Heat and Thunder. None of these could really be considered bad losses, but the Bobcats were to wrap up this stretch Wednesday night against the team with the best record in the NBA -- the Pacers. Hey, at least they were at home.
Al Jefferson won the tip to begin the game for the Bobcats and Chris Douglas-Roberts hit a three on his first shot attempt starting in the place of the injured Gerald Henderson. From there the night was indicative of where things were headed. Paul George missed his first three shots for the Pacers and the Bobcats would turn that into a 9-2 advantage near the halfway point of the first quarter. Jefferson cooked the Pacers defense with 12 points to begin the game. Not too bad against the NBA's best defensive team.
While the Bobcats' bench gave their starters some rest, the Pacers went to work. Evan Turner and Lance Stephenson provided a nice one-two punch that cut into their deficit, while Gary Neal struggled to provide the spark. You take the good with the bad as far as Neal goes and this was one of the latter; Neal had one turnover and a couple of missed midrange jumpers before Steve Clifford called timeout. With their lead down to just eight the Bobcats regrouped and were able to stave off the Pacers charge. That's the tricky thing about the Pacers: they play possum and are very good at it. Charlotte did a great job keeping their composure as they have all year in these situations.
Carrying a nine point lead going into the break, the Bobcats were going to have to continue to be resilient in order to pull off the upset. While it was clear that the Pacers just did not have it by the start of the second half when they made just one field goal in the first 6:44 of the third quarter, the Bobcats still had to be opportunistic. And they were; Jefferson continued to take the Pacers to task in the paint while getting support from Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller. By the time the end of the quarter came around the Bobcats held an impressive 73-57 point lead.
The Bobcats were making a killing off of uncharacteristic Pacer turnovers while limiting their own, and it showed with their performance so far. So, this wasn't just some "off night" for Indiana and the Bobcats deserve credit for their role in that. The two teams were trending in opposite directions; the Bobcats were flying high with confidence and the Pacers seemed conscientious of a team that just didn't come ready to play. When Zeller converted a three point play to begin the fourth to push the lead to 19, it seemed like a back-breaker for the road team in addition to their offensive struggles. In fact, it was another Zeller and-one and a pair of big Anthony Tolliver buckets that would put the Pacers away for good. And if there was one play that summed up the night for the Bobcats it was Jefferson nailing a forced 31-footer at the end of the shot clock.
Everything seemed to go the Bobcats' way on Wednesday night. Jefferson finished with 34 points, eight rebounds and three assists, but also contributed a block and steal to the cause. The rookie Zeller was exceptional with 11 points and five rebounds and seems to be improving as the season goes on. Of course, there was Kemba Walker's 19 points and nine assists in what was certainly his best game since being named Player of the Week. As a team, they also did well with their 18 forced turnovers, but also taking it to the paint and finishing with a 44-24 edge inside. The latter is just as impressive as the former considering the team's propensity for midrange jumpers and the post players the Pacers have.
Most times people talk about signature wins they're talking about college teams proving they belong in the tournament and that's kind of what we saw last night. The Bobcats made a statement in shutting down one of the league's best teams and taking advantage of an off night from their star player, Paul George, of course. The Twitter conversation has gone from "The Bobcats REALLY??" to "Guys, I think the Bobcats are for real" which is a big win for the team and their fans. The Pacers may put up a game like this once if they played it 10 different times, but that still doesn't tarnish the shine on this win. Last night the Bobcats made a statement and the entire league noticed as the Bobcats proved that they have what it takes to be a playoff team.