Having won five of the their last six, including four in a row, the Bobcats came into Friday night's game looking to try to continue their strong play into their toughest stretch of the schedule. The Spurs are going to see Tony Parker back any day soon, but he wound up being out tonight, leaving the Bobcats with the opportunity to pounce.
The Bobcats came out sharp after their six-day break and were able to jump on the home team early. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the spark early on with a pair of assists and also an offensive rebound and steal. As a whole, the team out-hustled San Antonio early, beating them to loose balls and being defensively scrappy. Six forced turnovers led the Bobcats to a 25-14 advantage after one.
Despite their slow start, you knew the Spurs were going to eventually get it going and they did in the second quarter. And when they clicked, it began to rain threes. Whether it was Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills or Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs used the long ball to chip away at the lead and eventually eroded a 14-point deficit down to four. If it wasn't for Al Jefferson's 12 points and five rebounds, things may have been much worse for the Bobcats.
San Antonio came out firing again to begin the second half as Green hit a three early in the third and the Spurs defense forced the Bobcats into a web of midrange jumpers and long twos. Save for a pair of Kemba Walker free throws, the Bobcats were held without a field goal for four minutes in the middle of the quarter as the Spurs continued at a grinding pace. It wasn't until newcomer Gary Neal's jumper with about four minutes to go in the third did the Bobcats rally to finish the frame down 66-65.
Neal proved to be a spark off of the bench in his Bobcats debut and exhibited a strong ability to get in the lane as well as stretch the defense with his range.
Like prize fighters, the two teams would exchange blows, maintaining a hard-fought game until just under the two-minute mark when the Spurs cracked the game open. With an 8-0 run fueled mostly by Manu Ginobili, the Spurs were finally able to overtake the Bobcats for good and would eventually find themselves the victors. It didn't help that Kemba Walker's layup in the final two minutes was their only basket in that time, either.
Jefferson led the Bobcats with 20 points and seven rebounds. Neal added 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting, which pretty much exemplifies why he's here. Cody Zeller barely missed a double-double and Josh McRoberts added 10 assists. Tim Duncan proved once again to be the ageless wonder for San Antonio as he finished with 17 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.
However, Friday night's effort was commendable. They took the team with the second best record in the West and put them on the ropes and really gave them all that they could handle. Most importantly, they never quit. San Antonio is not an easy place to play in and the Bobcats were nearly able to steal another one. They got the one win in Memphis last Saturday as a part of this onerous stretch and lost tonight, but we knew that if they were able to steal a couple in the next few days they would be okay and they seem like they're on the right track.