LeBron James scored 61 points against the Bobcats tonight in one of the most incredible single-game performances I've ever seen in professional basketball. Let's first remember that the Bobcats have the sixth best defense in terms of efficiency, and even without the injured Gerald Henderson they are a damn good defensive team. LeBron scored his 61 points on 22-33 shooting and was 8-10 from three, and he made all eight in a row. He also added nine points from the line, grabbed seven rebounds (three offensive), and added five assists.
This was with solid defensive positioning by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, double-team coverage for most of the second half, an occasional triple-team, and, on one possession, defensive coverage by nine members of the Bobcats, including two players on the bench, assistant coach Patrick Ewing, and sideline reporter Stephanie Ready (LeBron drove to the rim for a layup). I don't know how the Bobcats can acquire a LeBron, but I want one too.
But that's enough sadness for tonight. Al Jefferson dominated on offense yet again, scoring 38 points on 18-24 shooting (which is really quite amazing) and pulling down 19 rebounds, four of which were offensive. Jefferson played what was probably his best game of the year, and it'll almost certainly be completely ignored by everyone because these are the Bobcats and LeBron scored 61 points. I would have to imagine that if a Bobcats player ever scored 50 points in a game, the opponent's star player would break Wilt Chamberlain's single-game scoring record (and that player would be Patty Mills).
Despite the gloom and doom (which, to be fair, is what I was hired for), there are a lot of good things to take away from this game. For one thing, the Bobcats actually played very well. Take away the third quarter -- which appeared more similar to the scene in Cloverfield where the monster eats a helicopter rather than a team basketball competition -- and the Bobcats' point deficit was only four.
Look at the game as a whole: The Bobcats shot 51.2 percent from the floor and 39.1 percent from three, both very respectable, especially against the reigning champs. The Heat shot a slightly better 55.4 percent from the field, but their 57.1 percent from three, coupled with the fact that they made seven more 3-pointers than the Bobcats was simply too much for the Bobcats to handle. In most other areas, though, the Bobcats looked good. They out-rebounded the Heat despite having fewer defensive rebounding opportunities, displayed excellent ball movement, got to the line, and didn't foul too much. If I had to nitpick, I'd complain about the turnover margin. The Bobcats gave up the ball twelve times to Miami's seven. Not terrible, but it could have been better.
Despite the score, it was a good game for the Bobcats and it would have been much closer if it wasn't for one of the best players in NBA history having perhaps the best regular-season game of his career. Here's some additional assorted notes and observations:
- Kemba Walker underwhelmed again, continuing a rough stretch that has plagued him since winning the Player of the Week award. He finished with seven points on 3-8 shooting with eight assists and two rebounds. He knows he's been struggling the last few games and didn't take as many shots as he usually would, but this was a game where the Bobcats could have used a consistent offensive threat from the perimeter, and Gary Neal was no help on that end, making only three of his eleven shots.
- I've been a little critical of Josh McRoberts at various points in the season. That was wrong. I was wrong. He is terrific and I wish every player on the team had his passing eye. At one point, he made a cross-court bounce pass with his off-hand that set up Luke Ridnour for an open three from the corner. That was a scoring opportunity created by McRoberts that most players wouldn't have seen, let alone have been willing to execute.
- Only five minutes for Bismack Biyombo tonight, which seems fair. He didn't look good during those five minutes either, and Cody Zeller, who got nineteen minutes, looked like he belonged on the court. Zeller finished with 10 points on 4-7 shooting, five rebounds, and five assists, and appears to be improving as the season progresses. For the people who claim that they want to see legitimate results rather than just potential for the Bobcats' young players, tonight's game must have been a treat.