It was all a dream for Charlotte at the start of the game. No one in D.C. knew this game tipped off before 7:30 so Charlotte was able to jump out to a 32-18 lead after one period due to some scorching shooting that everyone knew wouldn't last. And it didn't.
But it was rather glorious while it did. The Bobcats shot 59 percent in the first quarter and made three of their four 3-point attempts. Josh McRoberts returned in style, hitting all three of his shots in the first to lead all scorers with seven.
McRoberts (12 points) must have benefited from the few days of rest as he had no signs of rust coming out of the gate.
The same could not be said for Washington's Nene. Nene returned to the lineup from a knee sprain in February and looked all rust. The Wizards showed solidarity by playing just as horrible in the first half. Washington looked disinterested on defense, and moved with very little purpose on offense. They started to make a move midway through the second quarter, however, and cut the lead to 54-41 at the half.
Washington made this a game in the third. Suddenly, the entire arena was alive and the Wizards showed a renewed sense of urgency, passion and a desire to play basketball. They made quick work of what was left of the Bobcats' lead and trimmed it to nine in less than two minutes. The Bobcats, for their part, looked awful.
It was a true role reversal, and eerily similar to the game in Charlotte the last time these two teams met. The Bobcats had so much success with the three in the first half that they kept shooting, of course. And Washington had so little success from three (0-6 in the first half); they kept shooting...which also wasn't a great idea.
But the Wizards did their work in the paint behind a massive third quarter from Marcin Gortat. The Wizards big man had success on pick and rolls all night and tuned up the Bobcats for 10 in the third and 27 for the game. He also did a great job of pushing Al Jefferson out of the paint, making him catch the ball further out than he would like before going to work.
It wasn't a vintage Al night, but he still managed a 20 and 18 double-double (his 38th of the year...so maybe it was vintage) and hit ginormous shots down the stretch for Charlotte.
The Wizards finally took their first lead of the game with 5:28 to go in the fourth, and the Bobcats could have easily wilted but they did not. Charlotte managed to keep their defensive intensity where it needed to be, and got big shots from Gerald Henderson (13 points), Kemba Walker (17 points and 12 assists) and Al Jefferson.
Washington executed a pick-and-roll play with John Wall and Gortat for the go ahead basket. Gortat got the ball so deep that by the time he turned to face the basket, there was contact from McRoberts. But it didn't matter. It left the Bobcats just over nine seconds to get a shot off and send the game to overtime.
Out of the timeout, Charlotte used a pick-and-roll play of its own and found a cutting Jefferson all alone (!) from well outside the top of the key. Jefferson converted to tie the game with just over three seconds left.
With a chance to end the game, the Wizards could not get off a shot. Walker played tight defense on Wall, making him turn and readjust before launching a shot after the horn sounded. Again, the Bobcats' defense came through when it was most needed, which was surely a pleasant sight for Steve Clifford.
In overtime, neither team could buy a basket until Walker hit what would surely be a four-point shot if one is ever to added from the hash mark to put the Cats up three. After another stop, two Walker free throws put the Cats up five in the waning minutes of overtime. Bradley Beal (8 points) could never find his range tonight and even though Wall notched a triple-double (14-11-11), he only shot 6-18. Washington fizzled out in overtime and wasted precious seconds not fouling. Jefferson finally went to the line with seven second left and hit both to essentially ice the game. Washington missed the remainder of its shots.
The win gives Charlotte it's 40th win of the season, which, let's be honest, is amazing. One more win seals a .500 or better season -- also amazing -- and a sweep of the remaining games would equate to 45 wins for a team that notched 28 over the last two seasons combined.