Raja Bell contained OJ Mayo reasonably well, the Bobcats' reserves held down the fort just long enough for the starters to rest, and Rudy Gay... well, Gay had a really good night, but it wasn't enough to win, as the Bobcats beat the Grizzlies, 101-86.
Memphis just couldn't get anything going beyond letting #22 do his thing. Gerald got frustrated again and again, trying to keep up with Gay without fouling. However, Gay sat out a couple of crucial stretches with foul trouble, keeping him from going beyond 36 minutes and producing more than his 26 points.
On the other end, three of Charlotte's five starters played excellent basketball. Emeka had the big night, with 20 points and 15 rebounds. A bunch of those points came in the home stretch and put the game away. After Marc Gasol plowed into Okafor in the lane, seemingly taking extra steps to do it, and Emeka got called for the foul, the Bobcats' center seemed to bear down. He made the next four baskets for Charlotte, sealing the win. (ALL. STAR. RESERVE. EMEKA OKAFOR.) Gerald had only 13 points, but added 7 rebounds and 9 assists, to lead the team. Raja Bell again fired away, putting up 25 points on 11-17 shooting and 2 free throws. In addition, he made Mayo uncomfortable on both ends of the floor.
This is exactly what we'd hoped would happen. It appears the Bobcats have finally gotten over a metaphysical hump. We can honestly say they should beat some teams. In past seasons, just by virtue of Wallace and Okafor, it seemed like they could hang with all but the elite teams night in and night out, but now they're actually beating the poor squads regularly. This is a good development. Being able to say the P-word aloud without anyone laughing at the notion of the Bobcats on national television is a good development.
With the Panthers' season over, perhaps Charlotteans will notice they've got a middle-tier NBA team in town. It's a shame the schedule has to be weighted with early home games to accomodate the circus, the rodeo, and college tournaments, because they only have about eight more home games to capture that audience before the ACC Tournament kicks off, followed by the NCAA Tournament. If they don't reach a tipping point soon, the Cats will have to be still in contention come mid-April in order to win the local sports coverage.