Oh how I don't miss Raymond Felton...
Hello everyone! Last night we played an incredible game at Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena, in the city that never sleeps. Our Charlotte Bobcats took on the New York Knicks. Last night’s game was a homecoming for Bobcats assistant coach Patrick Ewing, a longtime Knick and NBA Hall-of-Famer. Would we walk out of the building with our second victory? Or walk out licking our wounds? Take the jump to find out!
Clifford's Cats came out of the game red-hot. They jumped out to an 11-4 lead with 5 points from point guard Kemba Walker and 4 from MKG. The Cats started out the game 4-4 from the foul line, which is absolutely amazing compared to the way this team has been performing from the stripe for the first few games of the season. After a monster chase down block by MKG on superstar Carmelo Anthony, the sophomore sensation took the ball coast to coast with a nifty finish around veteran big man Tyson Chandler (mind you, these events started after a catch and shoot 3 by MKG that bricked off the backboard...we all understand that he's still a work in progress.) We witnessed a quick start by both teams as the Bobcats took a 16-13 lead into the first timeout. That hot start was definitely led by Walker, who already had 8 points and 2 three-pointers...who said this team couldn’t shoot threes?
Some early foul trouble by Josh McRoberts led to some early playing time for Cody Zeller, who was absolutely abused by Chandler on Zeller's first defensive possession. There's no question that Zeller will need to put on some weight if he wants to be able to bang with the big boys in the paint. Some sloppy turnovers by Kemba and Jeff Taylor were the only things that kept the Knicks in the game early. Carmelo was a paltry 1-7, and nobody on the Knicks outside of Iman Shumpert could really get anything going on offense; 9 points on 4 shots. A big moment came later in the quarter when Jeff Taylor knocked down his first trey of the season, which meant that the Bobcats had hit 3 3-point jumpers in the first quarter. Melo got hot at the end of the quarter, hitting his last 3 shots and a 3 pointer at the buzzer, but the Cats snuck out of the quarter with a 31-28 lead led by Kemba with 10 points and 3 assists, and Jeff Taylor with 5 points, and a highlight dunk that might light a fire under him and turn his early season slump around.
A couple injuries to note...Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler went to the locker room in the first quarter with separate injuries. Early in the 2nd quarter Jeff Taylor continued his hot start. He scored 5 of the Cats first 7 points to go along with 4 quick rebounds. If he finds his offensive game, look out because he's already a stud on the defensive end. However, the rest of the Bobcats are having a hard time staying out of foul trouble. McRoberts picked up 2 in the first quarter, and Zeller picked up a quick 3 fouls. That foul trouble led to increased playing time for Anthony Tolliver, who has looked really good in limited minutes so far this season. He moved the ball well on offense, drilled a 3 at the end of the shot clock, and played solid defense. Speaking of solid defense...how about Jeff Adrien? His defense on Stoudamire is borderline perfect, he's hustled for loose balls, and done absolutely everything to muck things up in the minutes he's on the floor.
If you could think of one Knick who would keep the team in the game on the offensive end, who would it be? Carmelo? Stoudamire? Shumpert? If you guessed any of those 3, you'd be wrong. Metta World Peace scored 12 points in the first 7 minutes of the quarter, and he was red hot. A late spurt led by Walker ended the quarter with the Cats up 64-54 going into the half, and the 90 points needed for discounted Papa Johns looked imminent.
Kemba Walker was leading the team with 17 points and 5 assists at halftime, and the way he was running through the Knicks on the pick and roll was incredible. Without Tyson Chandler to protect the rim, the Bobcats could get anything they wanted in the paint. Their success in the paint led to wide open 3 point shots which the Cats were converting on, as they were 6-11 in the half...and that's not a typo. Walker hit 2 along with Taylor who was finding his stroke (13 points at the half), and Henderson hit his first 3 pointer of the year in the half as well. The Cats were shooting 57% from the field, and had assisted on 12 of their 21 shots, and that was the formula for success in the half. Another component in the “success formula” was shooting 16-17 from the free throw line. That’s just unheard of for a team shooting 61.1% on the season.
Starting the second half for the Knicks was Kenyon Martin, who wasn't supposed to play tonight but with the injury to Chandler, he was forced into action as a defensive presence. On the first possession of the 2nd half, Kemba drilled a corner three. He was absolutely RED HOT in his first game in the big apple this year. He averaged 21 points and 10 assists in MSG last year, and was well on his way to matching that last night. Later on in the quarter MKG got fouled on a drive to the hoop, and ended up leaving the game with a bloody nose. A few stagnant offensive possessions and porous defense from the Cats led to the Knicks cutting the deficit to just 6 points and a time out by coach Clifford. The Knicks really started to get at it early in the second half, and it showed early as the Cats shooting percentage sank to 47% just 5 minutes into the 3rd quarter.
A scary moment happened midway through the quarter when Kemba went down to the court in obvious pain. He smacked the side of his head and left shoulder into the hip of Metta World Peace and it didn't look good. It would be big if he missed some extended time. A chippy rest of the quarter included a flagrant foul, a technical foul by the Knicks ended with the Bobcats up by 6. The 4th quarter would come down to whoever got the best looks on offense and was able to convert. The Bobcats killed the Knicks in the pick and roll in the first half and they needed to get back to it in the 4th.
Kemba returned at the start of the quarter...and not much changed. The Bobcats scored only 7 points in the first 6 minutes of the quarter, and the Knicks cut the lead down to 2 with 6 minutes left. Thhat would be when the game got super exciting. The Cats and the Knicks started to go back and forth on offense and defense and neither team could break away...until Kemba Walker stepped in. Kenyon Martin picked up Walker on defense, and he drilled a clutch jumper over Martin with 40 seconds left and that was all she wrote. The Bobcats made their free throws down the stretch and they walked out of MSG with a 102-97 victory.
The TSP Gamebreaker award went to the Co-Captain Kemba Walker. The minuscule point guard finished with 25 points, 6 dimes, 5 boards and a steal. On top of those stats, Kemba was a constant threat on offense and willed the team to victory all night with his toughness and drive to win the game.
Honorable mentions go to Jeff Taylor (13 points, 4 rebounds), Gerald Henderson (18 points, 8 rebounds), and MKG (16 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks).
The Bobcats return to action 11/06/13 at home against the Toronto Raptors, looking to go over .500 for the first time this season. This team has a ton of fight, young talent, and potential for the future, and I can't wait to see where it goes.