So the Bobcats were like, "Yo, let's give this winning thing a try."
Then the Grizzlies were like, "Yo, we're playing Charlotte. YAWN."
Then the Bobcats were like, "Yo, this winning thing ain't so hard."
Then the Grizzlies were like, "Yo, we're a playoff team. Lock down time."
Then the Bobcats were like, "Yo, :("
Oh boy. What an anticlimactic game.
Okay, okay. It wasn't terrible. This was a feel good game from the jump; a near-perfect performance against a disinterested Memphis Grizzlies team. A game that looked like it might be a win until the last 30 seconds. A game full of highlights with only a handful of lowlights. A game where I wasn't ashamed to be a fan of this team.
I'm not sure what made the Bobcats come out of the gates with so much energy and purpose, but I genuinely enjoyed it. Maybe Henderson's little speech actually hit guys in the heart. Maybe Tyrus Thomas was a poison. Heck, maybe the guys just had a bunch of caffeine before the game. Whatever happened, I hope they do it again. And again. And again.
The Bobcats were able to get a 13 point lead in the first quarter with 5:22 remaining. The Grizzlies turned it on and brought it within 4. The second quarter was an even match up, and I was worried that the Bobcats wouldn't be able to sustain their effort after the half. Then they pushed the lead up to 10 in the third. The Grizzlies realized that they might have to put in some work to get the win, and things changed quickly. They displayed why they're a playoff team and the Bobcats are not. The lead quickly dwindled, and a last ditch effort by the Bobcats wasn't enough to secure a win.
Ben is sad. His watched games record is now at 0-27, with an average point differential of -17.6. Yes, he keeps track of these things.
Despite the outcome, we were treated to a plethora of highlights, including 10 dunks and a variety of pretty finishes at the rim. Henderson's reverse layup in the second quarter was especially memorable, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it in the Top 10 tonight.
Highlights aside, there were certainly some interesting trends and developments in this game. A lot to learn from. Byron Mullens, a player you guys know I'm not very fond of, had a terrific game on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he hadn't quite broken out of his recent slump, but Mullens acknowledged that his offensive game was still off early in the game and focused his efforts on attacking the paint and nabbing offensive boards. Only 5 of his 13 field goal attempts came from outside the paint. For him, that's fantastic. He also managed to grab 11 boards overall, the majority of which were awarded to him for his effort (ndkalsnalkdnakldn) and tenacity (dnaklsndwkmdlknd).
But this wasn't Mully's night. No way. This...this was Gerald Henderson's night.
32 points on 24 shots. 2 made threes. 6 made free throws. 4 assists. 2 steals. 3 boards. Incredible defensive pressure.
Henderson was huge tonight. I'm prepared to call this his best all around game this season, if not in his career. Hendo scored in every way imaginable: jump shot off a screen? Check. Pull up jump shot on a blow-by? Check. Post fadeaway? Check. Layups? Check. Dunk on a blow-by? Check. Threes? Check. Free throws? Check. SO. MANY. CHECKS. AND. I. LOVE. IT.
But his scoring isn't what grabbed my attention. Henderson decided that he was the guy tonight. He demanded the ball and his teammates recognized that he was their best option every trip down the floor. It's one thing to demand the ball. Any player can do it. Heck, Andray Blatche does it. But it's another thing to demand the ball and produce consistently. Henderson did that, and I'm sure that he's guaranteed himself a spot in the Bobcats' plans for the future.
Speaking of the future, the rookies performed fairly well...
I'm not even going to discuss Kemba Walker's game. He did a perfect Kemba Walker impersonation, which was to be expected. He's going to be good. He's just not ready yet.
Bismack Biyombo, on the other hand, intrigued me. Initially, I was worried that Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph would destroy him in the post. Despite his best efforts, they did. He's simply not strong enough to be a good post defender against bigger players. But that's not what intrigued me.
Over the last month, I've noticed subtle changes in Biyombo's attitude and the chemistry between he and his teammates. He's become more vocal and involved in the game, to the point where I now consider him the soul of the team. He is the guy that fires up his teammates with dunks and defensive stops. He is the guy that barks out orders on defense. He is the guy that directs the wing players on offense. He is the guy that gets in opponents' faces when they pick on his teammates. He has become a leader.
Kind of crazy, isn't it? During a season where the Bobcats are essentially a "rudderless ship", as Ben put it, a rookie, and an international one no less, has become the heart and soul of a team of misfits and kids.
Seeing Biyombo get in Rudy Gay's face tonight might be my favorite moment this season. The Bobcats are a team that get beaten and humiliated on a nightly basis. It's nice to know that Biz cares.
Heck, it's nice to know that Mullens cares. That Henderson cares. I'm not sure what happened. Something set these guys off. They're tired of losing and are playing their asses off in a meaningless season. Call me crazy, but I think this team might be good sooner than later.
One of my favorite NBA quotes was when Kevin Durant said, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." That's what we're seeing from the Bobcats now. They're dinged up and are essentially playing for nothing more than their pride. I remember nights where the Bobcats would be down only 5 or 6 points with a minute remaining, and they'd admit defeat. No more.
Only four games left, guys. Let's hope Ben gets a win that he sorely needs and that the Bobcats continue the fight for their dignity. Then, we let the balls fall where they may and let Cho work his magic.
God, I love this team.