While wins have been difficult to accumulate for Charlotte this season, back-to-back victories have been even harder to come by, which is why the Bobcats’ 107-101 triumph over the Toronto Raptors at the Time Warner Cable Arena Wednesday night was a diamond in the rough.
After suffering for just under four months, the Bobcats won their second game in a row for the first time since November 21 when they also beat the Raptors on their home court, 98-97. Wednesday’s game, however, provided a few less grey hairs for Cats fans. Charlotte was able to hold off repeated Toronto runs in the fourth quarter, and Byron Mullens was able to sink four free-throws in the final 11 seconds to seal the victory. For a while, though, it seemed as though Charlotte was planning on giving the game to Toronto.
The Raptors pulled the score to within one, 94-93, with only 3:18 left to go in the contest after a pair of Jonas Valanciunas free-throws. Charlotte abruptly turned the ball over on the following possession, giving Toronto a perfect opportunity to seize momentum and the lead with just less than three minutes to play. Yet a stingy defensive series by the Cats resulting in a steal by Mullens allowed Charlotte to regroup before quickly expanding their lead back to six.
While Mullens and Ben Gordon closed the game out at the free-throw line for Charlotte, the two were far from the only contributors on the Bobcats roster tonight. Six Cats players scored in double digits, led by Mullens with 25 off the bench.
While the man who replaced Mullens in the starting lineup didn’t score as much, it was Josh McRoberts’ play on both ends of the floor (12 points, 12 rebounds) that allowed Charlotte to clean up so well on the defensive glass and get out into transition, much to Gerald Henderson’s pleasure; Hendo repeatedly drove the lane during transition plays and found himself with easy layups and dunks. He finished the game with a stat line of 21 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks.
Not to be outdone by his fellow backcourt starter, Kemba Walker also contributed greatly with a near triple-double of 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists (as well as 4 steals) before fouling out with just under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Yet while Walker wasn’t on the court to end the game, he was one of the primary reasons the Cats got into the game in the first place. While Charlotte was down big early in the first quarter, Walker could be seen on the court pushing the tempo and trying to make something happen, and make something happen he did. Every time Toronto seemed poised to run away with the game, Walker made some sort of play to keep Charlotte in the game long enough before the shots started falling for the Bobcats. He finished the quarter with 8 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and 3 steals, pulling the Cats to within four, 26-22.
Charlotte took its first lead of the game at the 8:40 mark in the second quarter on a pair of Henderson free-throws, and consistently outplayed Toronto for the rest of the half. The Cats went into the break with a five point lead that took Toronto much of the third quarter to chip away at. Yet Charlotte was ready for them, pushing the lead back out to nine points early in the fourth quarter before the Raptors made their final run of the game.
With the win, the Cats split the season series with the Raptors, as both teams won each of the games they hosted throughout the season. The Raptors have also been held winless in their last five trips to Charlotte.
Charlotte will look to make it three wins in a row on Saturday as the Pistons come to Time Warner Cable Arena, and while it wouldn’t be the first three-game winning streak of the season, it would be just as nice.