In a season like this when your favorite team is 7-41 and reduced to a target of jokes or disdain, it's easy to focus your disgust on the dismal record. The losses pile higher and higher and frustration grows. I know the feeling. You want to yell at the team to just win already, consarnit! You know your cries can't travel backwards through the television, but you'll be damned if you don't try. With this, it's also easy to undervalue heart in losing efforts.
Tonight, the Bobcats took on the red-hot Kevin Love and showed a valiant effort in refusing to let the Timberwolves run over them despite Love ravaging the Bobcats' frontcourt.
I'm used to the opposite level of exertion. As I'm always quick to mention, the Bobcats are on a big losing streak when I watch (21 straight) and it's by an average of about 16.5 points. It's rare for me to see them show consistent effort. Maybe that makes me value it more, but regardless of how many losses or how many Bobcats wins you've seen, you should not overlook effort. It's easy to take a lack of effort somewhat personally. The investment of time or money may not be a small one, and I get why constant losing with only minute respites make people upset.
But a loss is not always just another notch in the 'L' column. This game was one of those. Sure, Minnesota was missing Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barrea, Michael Beasley and Nikola Pekovic, but that is beside the point. If you watched the game you saw a Bobcats team, save for maybe one player, giving it all. Frankly, there's not much more I can ask for. They kept it close for much of the night, showed improvement, pushed the tempo and executed pretty well, especially by Charlotte Bobcats standards. You can certainly call me a happy camper tonight.
I said Kevin Love would have a big night, and though it certainly doesn't take Miss Cleo to predict that against this Bobcats frontcourt, he showed what he could do from early on in the first. Love roamed off Biyombo and took advantage of the green light to go ahead and shoot some long balls. Simply put, Kevin Love was in Kevin Love mode. Extending his range and rebounding with smart positioning. Defensively, the Bobcats were frighteningly bad early but got lucky on missed connections. The lane became open season, and the T-Wolves got great looks on cuts. But in what would become a recurring theme, the Bobcats ran in transition very well and stuck with Minnesota. Biyombo had a couple dunks on fast breaks, which is a rare sight for Bobcats in recent years - to see a big man running the floor and finishing before everyone else. In other spots, he had trouble. This shouldn't come as much surprise. Kevin Love is the most elite rebounder today and is good at getting to the free throw line. Biyombo did have some nice help defense here and there, but all told, he wasn't too effective tonight. For a rookie, though, I guess I'll take it.
The second quarter looked rough for a bit there, as the Bobcats dropped to a nine-point deficit. But they turned up the defensive pressure, forced turnovers and got back into transition. Gerald Henderson really used these moments to attack the rim, which proved to be an instrumental part of his game tonight with his jumper not falling. Corey Maggette picked up the slack in this regard tonight, and looked pretty solid, ending with 22 points on 15 shots. Byron Mullens came in shortly and was really something terrible. But his troubles caused Silas to put in Eduardo Najera. Najera is a guy I've mentioned before who's a bit of a spark plug. No, he's not going to spark scoring runs by himself, but he's electric on both ends of the court. He's solid fundamentally and just gives the hustle you want to see. Last year I did not like the guy, but put him next to a bunch of guys who don't show great consistency in their effort and I've seen the light, of sorts. The second unit really fueled the Bobcats on the night, frankly. Kemba was 'Pretty-Good Kemba' and showed more enthusiasm than a certain other point guard who shall go nameless here but whom I'll also describe as scoring zero points and generally not looking to score at all, really. And his last name is Augustin. Whoops. Anyway, the Bobcats pushed the tempo and finished the half up 47-45.
"Surely they didn't give up a whole two-point halftime lead!" you might say. "Is this your first time watching the Bobcats?" I might respond. Yes, the Bobcats did relinquish the lead. Augustin's shot was still flat. Both point guards still had difficulty stopping Luke Ridnour's quickness, especially on pick and rolls. Ridnour's floater in the paint was also a lethal weapon against Charlotte. Eventually the Bobcats did tighten that up and slow down the ball on PnRs, but it took a while. Maggette continued to score and get to the line. After being controlled in the second quarter, Love returned with a vengeance and proceeded to pull the Bobcats apart. Inside. Outside. Outside. Inside. The Bobcats became more active on defense, but sometimes Love just can't be stopped. On the other end of the floor, Charlotte had plenty of trouble solving the Timberwolves' zone defense. Outside of Walker, no one was shooting over it. The east-west ball movement was good, but there was just nuthin' doin' on the north-south passing. And so Love poured in dagger after dagger until Minnesota escaped with a five-point win, 88-83.
- I'd be remiss not to mention D.J. White's nice night. Dropped in some nice buckets when needed from midrange and finished with 14 points on 12 shots.
- Some final statlines from tonight's best performers: Kevin Love 40 points (14-31 FG, 4-7 3P, 8-10 FT), 19 rebounds, 4 assists | Ridnour 15 points (6-13 FG, 3-3 FT), 14 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block | Kemba Walker 20 points (6-13 FG, 2-6 3P, 6-7 FT), 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal | Corey Maggette 22 points (7-15 FG, 1-2 3P, 7-7 FT) 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
- Tonight was one of those nights that makes you wonder how soon Kemba Walker will be starting. Augustin looked like a shell of himself out there.
- My word, did Anthony Tolliver have the play of the game tonight. While open a couple feet away from the basket on the baseline, Tolliver was shoved and he tried to get any semblance of a shot up with his free arm as he was pushed out. The ball went up in a straight line, maybe three feet above the rim and then fell smack dab through the net. No glass, no nothing. Just amazing.
- Stephanie Ready is awesome. I want her to call NBA games every game.