Are all of these frustrating losses getting to anyone else?
This is the one. How do you break a fifteen game home court losing streak? What’s the best way to recover from a tough loss where you controlled the pace and led against a stronger team only to have them steal it away in the closing moments? How about a game against a playoffs-bound team that is currently dealing with 4 major injuries to key personnel? If ever a pack of Cats lived up to the reputation for clipping birds wings, this would be the opportunity for the Bobcats – walking into their den to discover a team of Hawks with clipped wings. For the Bobcats, Kemba Walker has been absolutely deadly of late. Let’s get right to it. The Hawks started the scoring, followed quickly by a Charlotte turnover out of bounds. Wait! This isn’t the start I just set up…
As both teams began to settle into the flow of the game Charlotte fell into predictable habits. This was a good thing. They held the early lead because of a series of fast break baskets and taking advantage of a quartet of Atlanta turnovers. Then it was a bad thing. They committed a trio of their own and Atlanta, a notorious perimeter scoring team, started uncharacteristically racking up points in the paint. Midway through the quarter Atlanta gained composure, as well as the lead 15-10. At that point Fox viewers needed to exercise focus as the commentators turned their attention to the Daytona 500 and the recent arrival of a baby born to the impressive gene pool of NASCAR driver Danny Hamlin and a former Lady Cat. Congrats to the new family! As the first quarter of the game came to a close the remains of the Atlanta bench were so thoroughly dismantling the much-vaunted Cats Bench Brigade that Michael Jordan, sitting courtside in a natty winter suit, looked like he’d rather be playing goalie for the newly resumed NHL. After one the Hawks were flying high, 28-20.
With the ink on his ten-day contract still wet, Bobcats fans were introduced to Atlanta’s Jannero Pargo. Why mention a lowly ten-day player? He debuted in the last game and poured in 16 points and 5 assists, that’s why. Exactly why is it that a player capable of that kind of offense was at home cold chillin’ on his rec-room couch last weekend instead of inking his Hancock to a Bobcats minimum contract? I’m looking at YOU Rod Higgins. This dude may not have exceeded Tyrus Thomas numbers for the entire season in his debut, but he came mighty close. We do have an amnesty to use, don’t we?
Okay, the Cats spent much of the second hanging close, but gaining no ground on Atlanta, which gives me a perfect excuse to pause for a second and ask a question. After watching the game against Houston on Monday and spending ample time eyeing James Harden at the free throw line (19 of 21!!) I noticed something. Then, as I watched the Hawks playing tonight I noticed the same thing on several of their players. I have to ask… What’s up with the Isaac Hayes’ retro bird’s nest beards that suddenly seem to be sprouting out of the chins of NBA players? When did ZZ Top become the new heroes of NBA locker rooms? I’ll take the editorial risk here as the site codger-in-residence. Back in the day those beard, like the ludicrous Nehru shirts a lot of us dudes (me included) wore, while stylish, were a guarantee that you weren’t going to score a date any time soon. Some things – disco, Nixon, Milli Vanilli, and parachute pants jump immediately to mind – should never be allowed to make a comeback. Someone call Reverend Al Green. We need to get a telethon started. When we do, please dig deep y’all. Your contribution could buy the razor blades that save some poor chin from total suffocation. If you don’t think this problem is serious I only have one thing to say. Y’all know it’s only a matter of time before all the freckle-faced and red-headed wannabe white dudes start pawning their bling and buying beard extensions. Is this something you truly want to see? Ahh, I hear wallets opening all over the Carolinas. I knew you’d understand.
The Cats fought hard in the waning minutes of the half and came to within a point twice, but each time we drew close Atlanta would make rain from the arc and run out ahead once again. Atlanta had continued trouble holding on to the ball, committing nine turnovers before the horn sounded at half-time, but the Cats rendered that sloppy number moot by coughing up the ball 11 times for the half. The guys looked flat, frustrated, and even worse, disinterested for the most part. Would Jordan wait until after the game was over or was he waiting in the locker room when the guys strolled in at the half? Judging from his expression during the game itself, he would be the absolute last man I’d want to face. Important advice alert to our younger readers – when the man that signs your checks is watching you work it is NOT the time to look like you couldn’t care less about what you are doing. Especially when he sports six HUGE rings that are capable of raising some serious cartoon knots on your dome.
The halftime stats reflect just how disconnected Charlotte was during the first half:
Ramon Sessions led all Cats scorers. He had 8 for the half. Yeah. Eight. Ocho. Octi.
Kemba Walker, he of the 35 points Monday, only had seven.
As I mentioned, we coughed up the ball 11 times.
Atlanta dropped in seven treys. We hit two.
Josh Smith was killing us. He had 17 points and 5 boards.
Speaking of rebounds, Ivan Johnson already had 10 of ‘em.
The halftime score showed the Hawks in the lead by a lot less than momentum would indicate. Hawks 53, Bobcats 48.
We were in range and if we could but wake up even a little bit, victory could be attained. All that separated Charlotte from victory was some motivation. When the third opened though, it looked like someone was handing out Valium in the Cats locker room. Before three and a half minutes could elapse the Hawks had pushed the lead to eleven. While I typed the last sentence, the lead grew to thirteen and Ramon Sessions used a fast break chance to commit a charge to turn the ball over yet again. It was the only number that was growing for the Bobcats. They had rung up fifteen of them. Before the supposedly battered and depleted Hawks took the court the Cats coaching team’s plan was to make Atlanta run. Not only were the Hawks running, they were pushing the pace and with the exception of Ramon Sessions, it was the Bobcats that seemed to be trying to slow the game down. Sessions at one point accounted for more than half of the entire Cats point production in the third quarter, scoring 9 of the team’s first14 second half points. One man does not an NBA squad make. Unless others began to step up and play Atlanta had the game all but wrapped up after three, leading a listless Charlotte by a solid dozen, 79-67.
If you’ve read the recent “Bee-lieve” articles here at TSP let me just mention that it was this kind of effort by the Bobcats that triggered the email conversation between Andrew and I that gave birth to those op-ed pieces. Prior to the game, Stephanie Ready reminded viewers that a press conference was scheduled for tomorrow in which the announcement would be made that the Hornets will officially become the “New Orleans Pelicans” next season. Around the nation hoops fans everywhere are shaking their heads at the stupidity of THAT decision. Here in North Carolina however, most people seem to be thinking of it as “Phase One” of getting the Hornets name back in Charlotte. I’ve made no secret of just how unnecessary and recklessly expensive it will be to abandon the Bobcats name, but I don’t get a voice in team policy. I have it on very good authority that Michael Jordan is leaning heavily toward renaming his team. It isn’t a question of “if,” but merely a matter of “when.” Congratulations to all in favor of the decision and my sincere and shared condolences to all fans of the soon-to-be-defunct Charlotte Bobcats. I expect the funeral for Rufus will take place sometime this July. I think we’re going to live to regret the decision. Based on the first three quarters, this team doesn’t deserve either name. The Charlotte Siestas might be more deserved.
In the fourth quarter, Ramon Sessions continued to be the only member of the team displaying fire in his belly. He scored his 25th point before Ben Gordon became the second Cats player to reach the double-digit plateau. Atlanta eased up just a bit on the throttle, began keying its defense on Sessions, and the hoped-for Bobcats run was quickly underway. Gordon and Walker took advantage of the extra room given to them by Atlanta’s coverage to cut the Hawks lead down to seven. They couldn’t sustain the momentum however. Successive Bobcats turnovers gave Atlanta all the chances they needed to roll back out to the same dozen point lead they had when the clock started ticking in the final frame. Final score, Atlanta 104, Charlotte 92.
Next up for the Hor…uh Bobcats, is another team crippled with injuries. The Minnesota Timberwolves will take the court at Time Warner Cable Arena – also known as “The Litter Box” of late, on Saturday evening. This gives the Cats several days to work on their motivational problems and hopefully try to grow a proverbial pair. This should be one of those games where Charlotte can notch a win without too much trouble so barring a disaster I’m not touching that recap with a 10-foot pole. I will however, be watching along with all y’all. See you then.