By Scott Lauer
December 19, 2013
Scott Lauer is the radio play-by-play voice of the Charlotte Bobcats. His column will appear on bobcats.com on Thursdays throughout the season. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bobcats organization.
Making the conversion to becoming a playoff team can be a difficult and frustrating process. We knew that when the Bobcats inked Al Jefferson they had taken strides toward that status, but they still needed to learn how to close games. As Head Coach Steve Clifford has discussed several times, the fourth quarter comes down to star players with “break-you-down” skills and the pick-and-roll game.
Let’s dissect the games in this month of December, which essentially have all come down to the final minutes, and how it suddenly appears that the Bobcats are moving the needle in their quest to finish off opponents.
On Dec.1, the Bobcats were seemingly on their way to stunning the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on the road, as they led by 14 in the fourth quarter, but Chris Bosh engineered a dramatic come-back, draining three treys and scored 13-straight Heat points, leading to a one-point Bobcats loss.
Two nights later in Dallas, The Bobcats showed resolve, building a 12-point, third-quarter lead. Dirk Nowitzki pumped in 14 points and Monte Ellis added 10 in the fourth quarter however, and sent the Bobcats to seven-point defeat.
After whipping Philadelphia on Dec. 6, Steph Curry and the Warriors entered Time Warner Cable Arena on Dec. 9, and the Bobcats earned an 11-point lead midway through the fourth. It was another example supporting Coach Clifford’s perspective of late game play in the league, dominated by skilled individual play. Curry blew up for 19 fourth-quarter points en route to a season-high 43 points for Golden State, as he willed his team to an 88-88 tie late. The Bobcats, having experienced those tough losses in Miami and Dallas just a week earlier, would reverse their fortune behind Kemba Walker, who scored their final 15 points as Charlotte picked up the win!
Following a home loss to the Magic on the Dec. 11, the Bobcats went into Indiana on Dec. 13 and recovered from an early double-digit deficit, to eventually take a one-point lead with 5:17 to go on a Gerald Henderson jumper. Lance Stephenson’s basket a minute later would give the Pacers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and the Bobcats had to absorb the emotions of another tough loss to an excellent team on the road.
Then came Kobe Bryant and the Lakers the next night at home. The Bobcats led by six with 2:49 to go in the game, but Bryant, playing in his fourth game of the year, eventually carried his team to their first win since his return from the Achilles injury, including the game-winning free throws with 37 seconds remaining.
The Bobcats have earned wins in their last two games however, showing the ability to close games (as they did against the Warriors earlier in the month). On Dec. 17, they catapulted to an 18-point lead over the Kings in the second quarter, although Sacramento marched back to cut it to a two-point game in the fourth behind DeMarcus Cousins. The Bobcats staved off that come-back effort and sealed it late, as Kemba Walker scored 24 points for a second-straight game.
That leads us to the emotional roller coaster of a game in Toronto! It was one of the wildest games that I can remember in team history. Charlotte turned it over into double digits in the opening half, which is uncharacteristic of them, and that led to a 16-point Raptors lead in the third quarter. That’s when Coach Clifford turned to Anthony Tolliver, who hadn’t played in the opening half. Tolliver played 13 minutes, scored 10 points, added four rebounds, and the Bobcats soared to a lead, quieting the crowd in Toronto.
The Bobcats outscored the Raptors by 17 points in the 13 minutes that Tolliver was on the floor. As you know by now, the game would be sent to overtime, where Kemba Walker beat the buzzer by draining a turn-around 18-footer from the left side off of a Josh McRoberts inbound pass. It was one of the wildest games that the team has played, as Walker has now scored 24 points or more in three-straight games.
Having closed the last two games, the Bobcats are turning the corner in achieving late game victories, and are still positioned rather well for a playoff berth as we conclude the 1/3 mark of the season in Detroit.
Lauer Blog Archive:
12/12/13: VIDEO: Catching Up with Stephen Silas
12/5/13: VIDEO: Catching Up with Southerland
11/21/13: VIDEO: Catching Up with Adrien
11/14/13: Jefferson Returning to Form
11/7/13: Unsung Heroes Helping Early Success
11/1/13: Ready for Home Opener
10/2/13: Bench Will Be a Difference Maker
10/1/13: Jefferson Will Make an Impact