It was a duel for the ages, a real clash of the titans. Friday night featured two Southeastern division powers going head-to-head. Okay, I'm being dramatic, but it was a pretty fun matchup that wound up living up to the billing. How could it not be fun? You have two young and intriguing teams! Anyway, let's get into it.
The Bobcats came out ready to put their stamp on this game from the get-go, jumping out to an 11-2 lead with 8:39 to go in the quarter. Josh McRoberts got going early and rarely cooled off, hitting an early three and finding his teammates for a pair of assists. Charlotte didn't allow the Magic to score from the 11:15 mark until Glen Davis sunk a free throw with 5:20 to go. Thanks to Ramon Sessions' entrance in the game, the Magic finally got going now that they had the break they were looking for. No, really. Arron Afflalo got his jumper going and even Jameer Nelson chipped in. Still, Kemba Walker checked back in and the Bobcats scrapped together a few baskets to finish the first quarter up 30-18.
This was going to be an interesting quarter for the Bobcats after they held the Magic scoreless for half of the first but still eventually surrendered 16 points in the final five minutes of the quarter. In the second, the Bobcats continued to stray away from what got them out in front earlier. Their decision-making was questionable and the Magic jumped on their turnovers and lack of defensive rebounding to climb back into the lead. Afflalo eventually tied the game at 47 with his three and Tobias Harris gave them their first lead with less than three minutes to go in the half. However, it was McRoberts who continued to sizzle from three to keep the Bobcats in the game as they wound up trailing at the break 53-51.
McRoberts finished the half with three made treys and his 14 points were a career high in the first half. Magic rookie Victor Oladipo was on the triple double watch with 10 points, five rebounds and seven assists after two quarters of play.
Considering the team's hot start in the first, their second quarter seemed to be especially disappointing. They gave up way too many easy possessions and were paying the price for it. Yet, the Bobcats would recover and get back to their ways by forcing Orlando to show their youth with needless fouls and turnovers. Charlotte pushed their lead to as many as seven and would finish with a 78-74 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Thanks mostly to Al Jefferson, the Bobcats would eventually distance themselves from the Magic, who seemed hellbent on covering him one-on-one instead of sending help. Jefferson continually cooked Kyle O'Quinn like a rotisserie chicken. His team's reluctance to send help would eventually lead to their downfall. To be fair, with Walker playing well and McRoberts' jumper in top form (although that didn't stop the Magic from leaving him wide open for much of the night), it may have been a little risky to send an extra defender over. Still, the Bobcats took advantage of this and finally gained separation.
It appeared the Bobcats were in good position to coast to an easy win with a 103-93 lead with 2:55 to go in the game, but would foul Arron Afflalo on a three-point attempt, which he converted into a four-point play to make it a two-possession game. Unfazed, the Bobcats turned straight back to their workhorse, Jefferson, who would score the team's next six points before Gerald Henderson's dagger gave the Bobcats a 12-point lead with 41 seconds to play.
The Bobcats were led by Jefferson's efficient 30 point and 16 rebound night, but also McRoberts' 17 points and five rebounds. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention Walker's 19 point and 10-assist performance in which he also had zero turnovers.
After a big first half, the Bobcats limited Oladipo to one point, three assists and zero rebounds in the loss. His teammates would pick up the slack, most notably in Afflalo's 24 points and 4 rebounds. Harris would also add 17 points and seven rebounds.
As a fun scheduling thing, the Bobcats will turn around and run it back tomorrow night in Miami. Love you, schedule makers!
- On the surface, Sessions played well with 10 points and five assists, but he was torturous to watch. Again, we saw too much dribbling before he would force a pass to a teammate who had to throw up a quick contested-shot before the clock expired or a rushed shot of his own. The real toppers were the two turnovers he committed within eight seconds of each other and the three pointer he shot four seconds into the shot clock out of a timeout. Leads also dissipated quickly when he entered the game, which was also irritating.
- Seriously, after Oladipo's first half it's impressive he was held to 10-5-11 when it was all said and done. Really nice work by the defense much of the night.