THIS is how you get a jump ball!!!
The game started off very well for the Cats, as they easily jumped to a 32-18 lead by the end of the first quarter thanks to some lights-out shooting form Gerald Henderson (23pts off 10-17 FG). Nearly every shot he was putting up was going in, and he most certainly knew it. It was refreshing to see him shooting so well, considering just how cold and inconsistent he had been over the last few days. If this team wants to safely exit the proverbial cellar, then Henderson will have to be able to score like this on any given night—especially on a night like this one, where Kemba (5pts off 2-13 FG) really struggled to score the ball. Henderson’s ability to come off of off-ball screens in the mid-range really helped him find his rhythm, and his form looks a lot more fluent than ever before. Look for him to continue to develop and rely on this mid-range jumper when the team doesn’t need him to drive to the basket.
In the second quarter, Toronto started chipping away at the Cats’ lead, one Psycho-T free-throw at a time. Tyler Hansbrough checked in, and immediately began attacking the Bobcats frontcourt of Bismack Biyombo (8pts off 3-4 FG; 11 rebounds) and Josh McRoberts (13pts off 5-14 FG—yes, McBob took 14 shots. This is real life). This was more of a result of the shot-blocking-anxiety that Biz deals with, as he practically jumps at every pump-fake that comes his way. I’m all for blocked-shots, but Biz will have to do a better job of not falling for ball-fakes so often in the paint. As Steve Clifford began looking towards his bench to give the starters a rest, the offense of the Cats suffered; there’s not a whole lot that the Cats bench brings on the offensive side, and outside of Jeff Adrien (2pts, 2 blocks, and 2 rebounds all in 8 minutes of action) and Jeffrey Taylor (13 points) , there’s not a whole lot happening on defense either. I see now why Clifford likes the idea of Biz coming off the bench, as he will give Adrien and the backups a nice defensive punch. Even so, the Bobcats defense held on fairly well, as the half ended in a 53-53 tie.
If there’s one thing that Cody Zeller does better than any other Bobcats draft pick in history, then it’s got to be frustrating the opponent. While Zeller (6pts off 3-3 FG; 3 rebounds) didn’t have a stellar game, he was doing a very good job of containing and frustrating the Toronto frontcourt of Hansbrough and Amir Johnson. He does so many things that a box-score can’t measure—spacing, boxing out, running—that it really wears down the opponent and will make them foul him out of frustration. Cody is certainly tougher than he gets credit for, and as long as we patiently wait, this draft pick will turn out to be a lot smarter than some may have thought. Aside from Zeller doing a lot of neat fundamental things, the third quarter was pivotal for the Bobcats, as MKG picked up his 5th foul early in the quarter. Kidd-Gilchrist (14pts off 6-7 FG; 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block) was everywhere and it showed. He was able to get the offense going in transition; he was sabotaging the Raptors offense; he was diving on the floor for loose balls; this kid was doing it all. And it was neat to see his motor spark and ignite the rest of his team, as Biz began swallowing rebounds and putting up nasty dunks. This helped carry the Cats to a nice 76-70 lead by the end of the quarter. Well, that, and more of Hendo’s incredibly awesome shooting night.
The remainder of the game was dominated by the likes of both teams starters, as both coaches wanted to have their best guys finish the game out. Biz recorded nearly 40 minutes tonight, and it will be interesting to see when he will get that many minutes again once Al Jefferson comes back. The last 2 minutes of the game had the crowd of what had to of been no more than 8000 on its feet, as the Cats and Raptors battled for control. In the end, a very heads-up play by MKG combined with a very questionable non-call by Toronto coach Dwayne Casey, gave the Cats the edge. With about 1 minute left, and the Bobcats up 90-88, MKG hustled to get his hands on a loose ball that Amir Johnson was holding. This forced a jump ball and gave the Bobcats a chance at gaining possession. It worked, as MKG was able to win the jump ball, and then sprint out into transition for an easy outlet-pass layup to give the Bobcats a very relieving 92-88 lead with nearly 40 seconds left. Toronto then came down the court and put up a shot, and with about 17 seconds left, the Bobcats had the ball--and the win—in hand. Toronto decided not to foul, and the game was over.
- MKG is very, very, VERY good at driving the ball. Going 6-7 from the field, MKG relied heavily on fast-breaks and layups to get his points, which honestly, is all that we need him to do right now. He is able to draw fouls and finish through contact, so until his jumpshot develops, I’m more than fine with him driving to the rim with reckless abandon.
- Gerald Henderson was a man possessed tonight. I’d like to see him become a reliable scorer throughout the season, as that would really take off some of the pressure on Kemba. With Jeff Taylor right on his heels competing for minutes, it will be interesting to see how Hendo reacts to the competition. I have faith that he will only get better as the season goes on, and tonight was just a taste of what’s to come.
- Biz was getting busy. There’s no other way to put it. He was playing hard, and it’s starting to feel like he’s beginning to “get it”. He’s still a ways away from having a reliable offensive game, but he’s defending very well. His progress is slow, but it is progress nonetheless. There were numerous times tonight where Biz was actually catching the ball in traffic, and I just had to take the time to appreciate it. I don’t think he’ll ever be the next Ben Wallace on defense, but we should be able to expect him to rebound the ball decently every night.
- What a rough night for Kemba. After torching the Knicks last night in New York, Kemba really struggled to put the ball in the basket tonight. I thought this would be a problem, but when guys like Henderson and MKG step up to take on some of the scoring responsibilities, it makes a rough-Kemba night a bit more forgettable.
- Jeff Taylor showed that he is capable of being our sixth-man of the future. He’s a surefire two-way player, and he played some very pestering defense on both Demar DeRozan and Rudy Gay throughout the game. I’m really liking how his game is developing.