2. The first quarter had to be one of the best quarters the Bobcats have played this year, as the Bobcats stormed out to a 28-18 lead. The preseason projected starting five (Felton, Richardson, Wallace, May, Okafor) played extended minutes together in the quarter and looked good. Richardson was strong in his first game back after missing the last seven due to a balky knee, Okafor was swallowing up rebounds, and even Sean May was functional.
Amidst all the sturm und drang (admittedly, a fair amount from yours truly), it’s easy to forget that we’ve been without two of our starting five for large swaths of the early season.
3. That said, it was the small lineup of Augustin, Felton, Richardson, Wallace and Okafor that played well down the stretch. They started the fourth quarter down four, but used timely three-point shooting and good defense to force a tie at the end of regulation. Early in the overtime period, Raymond and DJ hit back-to-back threes to push the lead to 106-99. Between the double constraints of their go-to guy (Granger) having five fouls and having to play catchup, the Pacers never seriously threatened again.
4. It’s unfair that I’ve gone this far without lauding Raymond Felton specifically. Ray-Ray was an absolute beast tonight, tying his career high with 31 points (11-21 FG, 3-6 3PT, 6-7 FT), 3 rebounds, 7 assists and only 1 turnover in 48 minutes. With just seconds left in regulation, Raymond made an aggressive move and hit a tough shot in the lane to send the game into overtime. We harp on Raymond’s knack for missing these kinds of shots all the time, so let’s also recognize when he gets the job done. Clutch play.
5. Richardson showed surprisingly little rust in netting 21 points in 42 minutes. He had two dunks in the first half (first on a breakaway, second on an alley-oop from Raymond), but clearly wasn’t as explosive as he can be when totally healthy. He banged knees with a Pacer in the second half, came up gimpy and went to the bench for some ice. He soon returned, only to take a spill and come up gimpy again. This time he stayed in the game and didn’t seem to show any ill effects – let’s hope it stays that way.
6. Okafor was solid, with 20 rebounds (9 offensive) and 14 points on 6-9 FG. Gerald Wallace had an intersting night: he couldn’t get it going from the field (2-10) but kept drawing fouls and making his free throws count (12-14) for 16 points. Toss in 11 rebounds and 5 steals as well.
7. Now would be a good time to mention that the Bobcats as a team did a great job of being aggressive and forcing fouls. They shot 32-41 from the line (compared to the Pacers 17-22).
8. Besides all the free points, those fouls provided additional help in that Danny Granger accumulated five of them. Granger had a great game, with a season high 35 points (6-9 3PT). But most of that was in the first three quarters, as Granger was eventually thrown off his rhythm due to the foul trouble. He had just four points in the fourth quarter and none in the overtime period.
9. Next game is a big one: hosting the World Champion Celtics Saturday night at 7:00. I upgraded my regular seats to Club Seats for this one (flossy, flossy), hoping to see the Cats avenge last year’s heartbreaking “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” loss to the Cs at the Cable Box.
The Celtics appear to be hitting on all cylinders, winning their last seven in a row and blowing out the 76ers tonight. Hope it’s a good one.