Normally, the Bobcats report about 12,000 attendance, and only about 5,000-8,000 show up. Bump it a bit for non-school nights. Saturday night, more than 17,000 braved record freezing weather to watch the Bobcats beat the Portland Trailblazers 102-97 in overtime.
The building was fuller during the Celtics game, and it was louder during the Pistons game, but, for what it's worth, this was the first time I truly believed the Bobcats would beat an above average team during the contest, even while they struggled to hold the lead. I was confident in the Cats' starting five, which has been extremely productive thus far, and especially confident that Gerald Wallace would keep coming up big. He ended the night with 31 points and 16 rebounds, despite not scoring during the last 11 minutes of the game. Emeka Okafor was strong in support, putting up 22/11 on 9-14 shooting, and holding Greg Oden and Joe Przybilla in check.
For some reason, the Bobcats went away from Gerald, giving him only 3 field goal attempts in those final 11 minutes, two of which were from beyond 20 feet. Now, I know he's not the best shooter, but he's one of the best in the league at attacking the rim. Raymond Felton is neither an exceptional shooter (stifle your giggling), nor is he Gerald's equal at getting to the goal, though he is probably better than most point guards at that. So, with overtime in the balance, why didn't our best slasher get the ball? Or, if you don't want to risk having your man get mugged in the lane with no call, isn't Raja Bell or Boris Diaw the guy you want with the ball beyond fifteen feet? I understand Felton his the shot against the the Pistons, and he might be the best option to create just over Diaw, but he's probably only the fourth best option to finish.
Raymond missed his shot over Jerryd Bayless at the end of regulation, with Emeka nearly tipping in a game winner. But with the starters all still in the game and the Blazers going with a small lineup due to Oden fouling out and Przybilla's offensive ineffectiveness--Brandon Roy at the three, FTL--that meant Gerald was matched up on their best offensive option.
The teams were shockingly even, but Brandon Roy never got in a groove, which hindered the Blazers' offense, even as LaMarcus Aldridge torched Boris Diaw early. Ultimately, if there was one element of the game where the Blazers lost it, it was at the free throw line, where they went only 16-31 from the charity stripe.
-- The starters played big minutes again, with all five playing at least 39 minutes, and three of them playing more than 43. Remember: With a poor bench, this is the only way Larry Brown's going to yank the roster into the playoffs. The guards might get a little more of a rest when DJ Augustin returns, but I don't trust Brown to resist the double point guard setup when he could simply use Shannon Brown or Adam Morrison in Raja Bell's slot.
-- The vets pulled a prank on the rooks during pregame warmups. Until Matt Carroll was traded, he led the team out of the tunnel and on to the floor for the layup lines. This time, Sean Singletary and Alexis Ajinca led the charge... alone, because everyone else ran with them to the mouth of the tunnel and then stopped until the two young 'uns realized they were alone at center court throwing t-shirts into the crowd. Dudes seemed to get a kick out of it.
-- Speaking of Ajinca, he's played roughly 25 minutes in the past month. Yet another DNP-CD in this game. I'm still not sold on the notion that NBA instruction every day outweighs D-League instruction and game experience.
-- Okafor All Star Watch: 6th in per minute scoring among Eastern Conference centers. He's also 7th in per minute rebounding, and a far better defender than the only other legit All Star candidate in Big Z's absence, David Lee.