Score: 114-109 (OT) Bobcats
Charlotte Bobcats record: 22-22
Offensive Efficiency: 118.8
Defensive Efficiency: 111.2
Meritorious Player: Stephen Jackson – even if a few of his shots were “No, no – good shot” ones, he made them and helped carry the Bobcats to the win. A three to tie it up near the end of regulation and the Bobcats first basket of overtime were part of 30 points on the night for Captain Jack, who got there by going 11-23 on fga, 4-8 from deep, and 4-6 from the strip. Additionally, he snared 9 rebounds, dished 5 assists, and had one steal to match his lone turnover.
The other story of the night? Probably how the Bobcats forced Steve Nash into another very difficult night. The two-time MVP (I think I am required to refer to him that way at least once) managed 23 points on the night, but it took him 22 shots to get there, as Nash went just 7 of 22 from the floor. In addition to the poor shooting night, Nash was generous with the basketball with 9 assists…and 6 turnovers. Raymond Felton was all over him and the Bobcats continued to throw the occasional half-court trap at their opponent, which, even when it does not generate a turnover, was useful in slowing down the Suns and forcing them to use more clock than they wanted. The issue with the traps? The Suns made 15 threes – some of that was rotations on drives, where guys had to help and the defensive rotations dictated someone being given an open look. Some of it was from the traps – a man is being left open if someone else is being double-teamed. The trio of Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, and Steve Nash each hit at least 4 three-pointers, as they respectively shot 4-8, 4-7, and 5-9 from distance. Considering their season numbers, none of those nights is outlandish, so the Bobcats may want to consider slightly different rotations – next season.
They will not have to worry about dealing with the Suns again this year, because last night's win made it a sweep of the season series for the Bobcats, going 2-0 against the Suns and winning in Phoenix for the first time. As much fun as it is to watch the Suns style of play, I certainly will not miss the Bobcats playing them. The Bobcats had some good fortune, with Leandro Barbosa and Grant Hill both missing the game, and then Amare Stoudemire dealing with foul trouble throughout the contest. Not that the Suns were the only ones who had guys in foul trouble; the Bobcats lost Gerald Wallace to fouls with 3 minutes left on a dubious offensive foul as he peeled off an offensive screen to pin down Steve Nash. Crash had already played a solid game (and plenty of minutes) to that point: 21 points on 13 attempts and 9 rebounds in 43 minutes of action. Luckily for the Bobcats, Derrick Brown was ready for action. Brown may not have contributed much visible in the box score, with 4 points and 4 rebounds in 15 minutes, but he was active, on offense and defense, and did a really sound job of showing on screen and rolls to slow the Suns offense. Derrick has good athleticism, quickness, and length – all the makings of a sound defensive player and it is no wonder Larry Brown is getting him minutes (which kind of sounds like a description I could make for Gerald Henderson – good athleticism, quickness, and length – but not the minutes part – I know there is a minutes crunch at the guards spots, but come on).
Last things I want to note: In addition to his strong defense, Raymond was more than solid offensively as well, with 17 points on 7 of 8 from the floor, plus 4 assists. The 4 turnovers are a bit much, but 2 of them came within about 20 seconds of each near the end of the first half: Aside from those miscues, a solid floor game for Raymond. Which brings me to the last point: Boris Diaw had himself a ball-game: 24 points (on 17 attempts), 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and just 2 turnovers. It was the Boris we all like to see, as he was aggressive with the basketball, with just 3 attempts from deep among the 17 attempts, and active every where else, playing his usual strong defense but also grabbing his fair share of rebounds. I know better than to think we will see it every night, but it really is fun to watch Diaw play when he is engaged.
With the win, the Bobcats are back to .500, for the season and on their current road-trip at 1-1. Considering their road woes to this point in the season, it may only be mildly premature to call the road trip a success with at least this 1 win – I know that some people thought there was a good chance the Bobcats would go oh-fer the West Coast. With winnable games coming up at Golden State and Sacramento, the Bobcats are poised for a very strong week.