I just got off work and I've got work at 10 a.m., so please allow me to be brief tonight, as much as I wish I had time to give this game the full recap it deserves.
The two stars in this game, Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving, have duked it out for a few years now, forever tied as the 2011 draft class' top point guards. The past hasn't been too kind to the Walker in that matchup, with Irving averaging about 25 points per game on 55.7 percent field goal shooting and 62 percent three-point shooting, compared to Walker's 30.6 percent on field goals and 29.4 percent on threes. As you can see, these clashes haven't been kind to the Bobcats.
With another year of each team's rebuilding process in the books, the Cavaliers made big steps towards leaving the lottery behind in the rearview mirror. They had the top pick, which they used on Anthony Bennett, and signed a pair of veterans in Andrew Bynum and Jarrett Jack. And to begin the season they took down the Brooklyn Nets, the newly anointed ballyhooed Eastern Conference contenders.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats struggled in their opener and Al Jefferson's sprained ankle reared its head again, forcing him to spend the night confined to the bench. Bismack Biyombo reprised his role as the Bobcats starting center in his place, won the tipoff and away we went.
The first quarter for the Bobcats was a thrilling one, both viscerally in the present and with its promising nature for the future. The offense was almost too good to be true. Walker was fantastic, scooting through the Cavaliers' defensive holes and dropping a couple dimes and scoring nine points in the quarter. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added eight points of his own, mostly coming on drives to the hoop and cuts. Though McRoberts didn't score, he was a terrific facilitator within the offense. His scoring touch didn't have any direct impact, but Cleveland's defense respected it enough to give him the attention that would open up interior passing lanes that McRoberts happily exploited to the tune of four assists in the quarter and eight total. Biyombo even got in on the fun, hitting a baseline midrange jump shot and finishing a pass at the rim.
The Cavaliers' offense didn't quite thrive. Irving is a virtuoso, and found success getting at the rim or as a jumpshooter. The Bobcats' defense stingily permitted Cleveland scoring opportunities and the rebounding opportunities lent themselves well to Biyombo's outstretched arms.
Both team's backup guards flourished. Ramon Sessions cut up Cleveland's defense with his trademark runners and cutting layups as Jarrett Jack and C.J. Miles did their work on midrange jumpers and three-pointers. For the first three quarters the Bobcats's offense was held up by their backcourt and frontcourt's surprising versatility with McRoberts' passing and Biyombo's rebounding and, dare I say, scoring.
The fourth quarter began with the Bobcats up 10 and rapidly declined from there as the offense stalled for nearly five minutes, just like in the first game. Cleveland made a full 10-0 run to complete their comeback. The team seems to be convinced they can jumpstart an offense that falls on hard times when jump shots stop falling by shooting more jump shots, which is a great recipe for scoring droughts.
After the Cavs evened the score, the two teams went back and forth for a while trading blows. It came to a head with a minute left when Kemba Walker nailed a three-pointer to put the Bobcats up three. The Bobcats held the Cavaliers without points (and held themselves, too!) for most of the remaining minute until Jarrett Jack missed a three that forced them to start fouling.
With an exciting victory for the first home game of the season under wraps, the Bobcats showed they've got young talent worth watching in Charlotte once again.
ROOKIE REPORT: Cody Zeller showed some of his improving range with some jump shots and a stunning finish in transition with a dunk assisted by Walker. Statline: 4-for-9 for 9 points, 5 rebounds