For the first half of tonight's game against the Denver Nuggets, the Charlotte Bobcats showed no ill effects from playing a brutal game 24 hours earlier in a loss to the Chicago Bulls. The Bobcats came out with surprising energy and were the aggressors early on. Well, one of the aggressors. The Nuggets played last night as well and they too, did not care.
The Bobcats were actually playing pretty well, but the Nuggets wasted no time getting to work in downtown Charlotte. Charlotte played generous hosts, rolling out the red carpet down the center of the lane for the Nuggets (mostly JaVale McGee) to take flight and dunk with reckless abandon.
Still, the Bobcats were playing pretty well.
Kemba Walker had a nice skip in his step trying to energize the team early on. He was able to keep his dribble alive for some nice dishes in the paint. Walker also continued his hot shooting as of late and kept the Bobcats close for a while.
For the Bobcats, matching up against freak athletes like McGee and Kenneth Faried was a daunting task. It proved to be an incredible challenge all night. Throw in another able big body in Kosta Koufos and it made for tough sledding inside which means Bismack Biyombo (nine points, nine rebounds) had to work really...really...hard.
Backup big man Brendan Haywood even played some early minutes and hit the boards fairly well (5 rebounds). The Bobcats were hanging with Denver in points in the paint (32 and 34 respectively) and had 18 second-chance points to Denver's eight but were outgunned on fast breaks 11-4 in the first half.
It was odd watching because the Bobcats played well enough to lead, but found themselves down six points at the half. I mean, Charlotte gave up 60 points in the first half, which admittedly, is not ideal. Of course we've seen this before but the good news was the Bobcats were able to score 54 points. So it wasn't all gut-wrenching, eye-gouging torture.
To be fair, there are many, many games that could be described as such but this was not one of them. The Bobcats played well; they just went up against a team that is better. Denver is one of the top teams in the Western Conference. They have the speed and quickness to match the Bobcats, and the size and length inside to overwhelm them. It's not a good matchup but this game was a lot more competitive than it might have appeared to be.
Walker had another 20-point scoring game (24 points, five assits), his fourth in a row, and has really dialed in that free throw line/elbow jumper once he gets free. It's encouraging to see him rebound after the All-Star break and continue on a very nice season in which he appears to have made a jump. He went 9-14 from the field tonight scoring nine points in the fourth quarter.
Jeff Taylor scored a career-high 18 points and played very well, despite having a team-high four turnovers. Fellow rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had some tough turnovers as well (3), coming on drives in the lane when the ball was just taken away from him. As his strength and awareness improves, so should that stat.
MKG only scored two points in the second half, after hitting double digits in the first with 10 points. Honestly it's just good to see him out there playing, and being effective. Bobcats fans should just be looking for the rookie to make some strides over the last part of the season. You can see the skill and his jumper seems to be getting a little more consistent.
Charlotte kept the game within arm's length through the third quarter, trailing by nine entering the final frame, although it felt like much more. The Nuggets didn't have much trouble getting what they wanted tonight and when they needed it, Ty Lawson used his explosive quickness and sneaky strength to extend the lead. Lawson scored nine of his 20 points in the fourth.
Ultimately the Bobcats just lost to a better team playing at a pretty high level tonight. Denver had won nine in a row before losing its last four on the road. After the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Nuggets are among several teams out west jockeying for the next best. The biggest knock against them is they don't have that one guy to go to down the stretch. Tonight they had more than enough guys to beat a plucky Bobcats team.
Byron Mullens had an awful game going just 1-9 from the field (0-3 from three) and scoring just four points to go along with three rebounds. Gerald Henderson shot well (7-11 for 19 points) and went to the basket strong in the lane. Ben Gordon got back on the floor tonight for just over 11 minutes, but was pretty much a non-factor scoring zero points. New addition Josh McRoberts got his first burn as a Bobcat, grabbing a rebound on his first possession.