The Charlotte Bobcats may have lost their Friday night game to the Oklahoma City Thunder 89-85, but they put up an admirable effort that pushed their shorthanded opponent to the brink.
The Thunder came into the game almost immediately after announcing that their star point guard, Russell Westbrook, will be out until after the all star break due to swelling in his knee that required arthroscopic knee surgery.
Their loss was the Bobcats opportunity.
Kemba Walker made it a tough night for Oklahoma City’s back up point guard Reggie Jackson, scoring 18 points and dishing out seven assists. He consistently drove the lane on Jackson, looking for easy layups. It was a great sign to see how well Walker has improved in taking contact in the lane and adjusting to put up tough shots.
There was a stretch in the late third quarter were he had three or four drives down the lane in a row; he missed every shot, but the speed and ability to take contact he showed against Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison demonstrated how much he’s expanded his offensive game. In his first two seasons, he would almost always settle for a contested step back jumper or a floater down the lane, now he’s lowering his head and getting points the harder but more efficient way.
The Bobcats trailed the Thunder for most of the game, but kept it close. They tied the game early in fourth quarter, 62-62, after an 18ft jumper from Ben Gordon, but couldn’t take the lead.
After a bit of a scoring slump and a few unbelievable shots by Kevin Durant the thunder had an 86-78 lead with 1:32 left on the clock and what seemed like the win, but the Bobcats didn’t quit.
A clutch three by Anthony Tolliver and two quick layups by Walker had the Cats down 86-85 with 14 seconds left. After a missed free throw by Reggie Jackson, the Cats had the ball and an opportunity to snatch the game away, but Josh McRoberts missed an open three from the top of the lane in the waning moments.
The game ended with another desperation shot by Walker as the clock expired after the Thunders made it a four point game on a quick foul. Even in what looked like a good effort by many fans, head coach oach Steve Clifford was not pleased with the way his Bobcats preformed.
“I didn’t like our defense,” said Clifford following the game. “Our attention to detail was not good at all. Our effort on the glass was not really what it needs to be.”
Clifford knows his team better than anyone and is absolutely right, but in the back of his mind he must at least feel good about the fact that his team is growing into a respectable squad under his tutelage; keeping one of the best scoring teams in the NBA to under 90 points is not a bad night for team with a first year head coach who is without his starting and back up small forward.