Despite a strong start in the first two quarters, the Bobcats were unable to overcome their slow start to the second half against the Atlanta Hawks, falling 103-94 at home. They made a late attempt to reclaim the lead against the Atlanta Hawks, but it wound up being too late. Charlotte came out slow to start the third as the Hawks only needed a minute and a half to erase an eight-point deficit. Still, the Bobcats did not exactly concede defeat as much as they couldn't figure out how to prevent it.
From the opening tip the Bobcats came out doing what a home team should, asserting themselves and their style of play on their home court. Thanks to contributions from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson, Charlotte managed to keep themselves ahead of their opponents by being aggressive driving the lane and getting to the line. Of course, it helped that the Hawks shoot themselves in the foot over and over again with careless travels and bad passes, but you have to take advantage of that and the Bobcats did. In the first quarter alone, Kemba finished with nine points and Kidd-Gilchrist contributed 10 points, but Charlotte held just a three point lead.
If the way the Bobcats started the third quarter surprised people, others could point to the equally slow way they started the previous quarter as a sign of things to come. Shortly into the second quarter, Jeff Taylor fouled Mike Scott who went on to hit both shots. Then Scott rebounded an Al Jefferson miss and converted a jumper on the other end. Displeased, Steve Clifford called timeout to gather his team. Thanks in large part to Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson, the Bobcats were able to get some stops and go into halftime with a 54-46 halftime lead.
Despite playing fairly well, Walker did not register a single assist in the first half, which seems like bad luck given the balanced scoring the Bobcats exhibited. New Bobcat Al Jefferson was off to a slow start in his second game in a new uniform, but hasn't had much of a chance to play himself into game shape
Atlanta came flying out of the second-half gate right away with a Kyle Korver three, a DeMarre Carroll layup and an Al Horford three-point play. In an attempt to stop the bleeding, Clifford quickly whistled for a timeout after the game was suddenly tied. However, it would do little to stem the bleeding. The third quarter still belonged to the Hawks, who outscored the Bobcats 34-16 in the frame, led by Al Horford. Horford scored 13 of his 24 points in the third, but he did it from everywhere: at the rim, from 16 feet and from 20 feet out. Jefferson was finally able to build some momentum in the quarter, but the rest of the offense stagnated around him.
It's not that Jefferson was the cause of it. The Bobcats seemed to go away from Jefferson as he picked up his production. Ramon Sessions struggled with getting entry passes to Jefferson, but when they did Al would quickly react to the double team and find the open teammate. In the high post, Jefferson played facilitator, and on one play in particular managed to find Sessions cutting to the basket, who then drew a foul. Jefferson played a fairly complete game, finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists, with much of that coming in the second half.
Yet, the Bobcats would end up going away from Jefferson in the fourth quarter and the offense suffered. Kidd-Gilchrist, who finished the first half with 16 points, would be shutout for the rest of the game. The team's inability to get the proper spacing for him to thrive hurt the team as a whole, doing things like leaving Kidd-Gilchrist isolated on the perimeter with no movement around him. These instances often led to turnovers. It was either poor spacing or a well-executed gameplan by the Hawks to force a ton of jump shots, but what ever it was, the Bobcats were suddenly unable to penetrate the lane for easy baskets. They also stopped being able to get to the line for easy points, failing to attempt a free throw from the nine minute mark until the 35-second mark when the game was all but over and in the loss column.
Despite spending much of the fourth down by double digits, the Bobcats nearly rallied back behind careless fouls and a series of missed shots by the Hawks. Yet, they couldn't complete the comeback. Charlotte was able to get the stops they needed, but were unable to prevent offensive rebounds and get their own offensive rebounds, a fatal combination that allowed the Hawks to remain in the driver's seat all the way until the end.
Josh McRoberts finished with 19 points and was the only Bobcat to make a three tonight, going 5-for-8 from distance. McRoberts also added seven rebounds and six assists, but committed five fouls in the defeat. All five starters, Sessions and Jeff Taylor all finished in double figures which is pretty cool. For the Hawks, Horford finished with 24 points, five rebounds and four assists. Jeff Teague registered a double-double with his 14-point and 12-assist performance. Even Cartier Martin and DeMarre Carroll added key contributions down the stretch to put the Bobcats away for good.
Well, this one is in the books and the Bobcats have now dropped nine straight against the Hawks. On the bright side, at least it's not ten in a row? The Bobcats return to action Wednesday in Boston against the new look Celtics.