Well, that couldnt have gone any better.
The Charlotte Bobcats ended last years 23-game losing streak with a flourish on opening night Friday, upsetting the Indiana Pacers, 90-89, before a rowdy sellout crowd of 19,124.
Coach Mike Dunlap referred to it later as killing the elephant getting the losing streak off this teams back before it took hold of the season.
And for one night, anyway, the Bobcats looked like the contender to go deep into the playoffs that the Pacers actually are. They outplayed Indiana, particularly Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker (30 points). They ended the evening with exactly as many wins as the Carolina Panthers have, and the Panthers season is two months old.
The final shot was taken by D.J. Augustin, the former Bobcats starter who is now a backup for Indiana. Augustin had a wide-open 3-pointer from the right wing just before the final buzzer but left it just short. It was fitting, since he so rarely made that shot when he was with the Bobcats, either.
Walker had his career high by early in the third quarter his previous high had been 23 points during his rookie season. He was fearless and precocious Friday. Dunlap had said in the preseason he wanted Walker to get back to being the Walker he was at Connecticut, where he won the 2011 national championship. In this game, Walker got there.
And it had been a long time since Time Warner Cable Arena felt like it did Friday night. Concession stand lines were often 20-deep. Fans threaded carefully around each other in crowded concourses. The upper deck wasnt full, but it was closer than it has been for any game not involving the Miami Heat or L.A. Lakers for awhile.
I watched half of the game where I usually do, from press row. But I watched the other half from the stands mostly in the upper deck, where you could get a ticket for $10.
It was easier in the stands to feel the ache and, later, the joy.
Bobcats fans have been battered. Their team finished last season as a national joke, losing 23 games in a row to finish with the worst winning percentage (.106) in NBA history.
The fans included former wrestler Ric Flair, Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross and former Bobcats coach Paul Silas. Silas was the coach for that 7-59 season but no one seems to hold it against him. He was greeted warmly everywhere he went. A referee came up to hug him, for gosh sakes.
The Bobcats roared to a 12-3 lead in the first few minutes and forced the Pacers to call a quick timeout. But then Indianas Tyler Hansbrough got hot and the Pacers went ahead. With Walker and Henderson sharing most of the scoring load, the Bobcats stuck around but trailed by four at halftime.
They drew ahead thanks to Walker in a 35-point third quarter and led most of the rest of the way, clinching the win when Augustins shot clanked off the rim.
To make things better for Bobcat fans in attendance: In the third quarter, a fan playing a Bobcats version of Deal or No Deal won a contest that allowed everyone in the building to stop by and get a free ticket to Wednesday nights home game against Phoenix.
That brought a huge roar, of course, and was a clever idea to try and fill seats that were going to be left empty otherwise once the rush of opening night wore off. But that will take a little while, too, for those lucky enough to be in attendance.
A few other quick impressions:
• Ben Gordon is going to help right away. The sharpshooter knocked down several tough shots and on a team that is going to struggle all year, that is a key skill to have.
• Tyrus Thomas (1 for 9) continues to underachieve. How can the whole be so much less than the sum of the parts?
• Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist makes the Bobcats better on defense right away. His clean block of 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert was one of the games highlights. He only shot 1 for 7, though, and Dunlap didnt use him in crunch time although the coach later said MKG had a marvelous game.
• Dunlap wasnt ready to use his other rookie, Jeffery Taylor, yet. Taylor didnt play.
• Bismack Biyombo got a little time and was something of a defensive presence, but he still looks awfully raw.
• Ramon Sessions had a subpar first three quarters but came up big in the fourth. But ultimately, the night belonged to Walker and that poor dead elephant.