(Photo Courtesy Robert Lahser – Charlotte Observer)
The Bobcats spent the better part of this whole season playing well—they defended, rebounded, defended some more, and was aggressive when it came to pace and driving the ball. All of that hard work got them to a respectable 7-7 record on the season, with a majority of those games being very competitive and without their best player, Al Jefferson. And then Monday’s night game against the Celtics happened. If I had to summarize the game with a single sentence, it’d be this one: The Bobcats bench was just flat out bad.
This game was nearly the exact opposite of everything we’ve known of the Bobcats up to the present. The team that played Monday played without much energy, and it really struggled to solidify a play-style. While I attribute most of that to the team still trying to mesh with Al Jefferson, as he played in what I believe was his 6th game with the team. While Al underachieved (14pts off of 6-14 shooting, along with 3 rebounds), the real determining factor of the loss was the horrible, horrible bench play by the Bobcats. The Bobcats bench only scored 15 points. Again, the ENTIRE bench of the Bobcats ONLY scored 15 points. Compare that to the 39 bench points from the Celtics, and you have a real problem that needs to be fixed.
Aside from being outscored by 24, the Cats bench was led (unfortunately) by the straight up terrible play of Ramon Sessions. Just when the Bobcats would find a way to cut the Celtics lead down, or even find a way to regain the lead, as soon as Sessions stepped on the court, it felt as though it all went to waste instantly. Sessions finished with 5pts off 1-7 shooting (!!!), and he also turned the ball over 4 times. While I’m no basketball expert by any means, I’m educated enough to know that that’s just bad. And from watching this game in person, every fan in the arena knew that he was having a bad night. The worst part about it, however, was that Kemba was having a fantastic night (28pts, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists), but Sessions was seriously eating away at Kemba’s playing time. Granted, this was more out of need, as there’s no reason for Kemba to play 40 or so minutes, but there comes a point where a player’s bad play HAS to be accounted for. I question Clifford for not finding a way—any way—to get the ball out of Sessions’ hands, but then again, I’m not getting paid to coach an NBA team.
Along with Kemba, Gerald Henderson was having a great night, going off for 20 points and 5 rebounds. This should be his role for us every night—being a consistent, secondary scoring option—and when he’s on, he’s on. Henderson remained aggressive throughout the game, and he defended fairly well.
The main takeaway and undoubtedly most important factor of the game was the return of the one and only Gerald Wallace to Charlotte. While his Bobcats days are behind him, and his bounce and quickness with them, the man affectionately known as Crash was able to extract proper revenge on his former team, going off for a season high 17 points off 6-10 shooting. He also got a block and 2 steals, and really gave our wings some trouble defensively with his aggression and size. It was a night that was special, as he hasn’t played anywhere near that level in some time. When he first checked into the game, the fans gave him the proper applause, recognizing that he had done more for the franchise than any other player to date. It was a good moment, and also one that I’m glad he had. I could go on for days about how great he was for us, but I’ll suffice it to say this: the Bobcats/Hornets should retire his jersey one day, and that’s that.
The Bobcats fall to 7-8 on the season, and look to take on a very tough Indiana team at home on Wednesday night. The Cats haven’t played well at home recently, so maybe the challenge of the Pacers will ignite a fire in their belly to get a win. But it’s also going to require much better bench play from the team, as well as Al Jefferson getting himself into rhythm.