There are throwback jerseys. This felt like a throwback game. It’s as if the Charlotte Bobcats had been transported to a different time – 2011.
Think about it. The Bobcats were playing at Time Warner Cable Arena and they were playing the Phoenix Suns. The Suns had played two road games and lost them to Orlando by 21 and Miami by 25.
But here the Suns were, suddenly unstoppable, moving to an easy 16-point lead with 5 minutes, 4 seconds left in the third quarter.
And then the home team came back. Give the Bobcats this: with starter Gerald Henderson in a suit rather than a uniform because of a sprained left foot, they went after the visitors. Relying on an undersized lineup, relentless energy and the outside shooting of 7-foot Byron Mullens, they caught the Suns and tied the score in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t let go of the game,” says Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap.
But they couldn’t get the lead. As the game wound down, Phoenix was as good as it needed to be and won 117-110.
The Suns won because of the fourth-quarter performance of guard Shannon Brown. You probably remember him as a Bobcat. No, you probably don’t. He made a guest appearance in 2008-09.
What I remember most about Brown is a one-on-one game he played at training camp against Michael Jordan, who now owns the Bobcats. I remember that Jordan won. I remember that Brown didn’t like some of the calls. I think Brown committed 15 fouls.
Maybe Jordan won too easily. The Bobcats traded Adam Morrison to the Lakers, and to make the salaries match threw Brown in.
Brown threw in 18 points Wednesday – in the fourth quarter. He took six 3-pointers and made them all.
His homecoming wasn’t as publicized as former Carolina Panthers coach John Fox’s will be when he returns to Bank of America Stadium with the Denver Broncos on Sunday. But Fox will have to be brilliant to be as effective.
Brown’s work was required because the Bobcats went on a 39-25 third-quarter, early fourth-quarter tear. Fans loved it. The guards took turns attacking. Ramon Sessions went to the basket with abandon, and as a result shot 14 free throws. He scored 17 points and led both teams with nine assists.
Kemba Walker played street ball, going one-on-one, one-on-two and one-on-Phoenix. He added eight assists and scored 17.
Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed all four field goal attempts in the first half. He made four of six in the second. He had eight rebounds and blocked three shots. He also played solid defense against Michael Beasley, who at 6-10 is three inches taller.
You don’t want to hear this, perhaps, because you’re ready to boo the guy before he gets off the bench, or maybe out of his car.
But Charlotte forward Tyrus Thomas was all over the court, on the floor looking for steals, above the basket looking for blocks. His numbers weren’t pretty: 10 points, two rebounds and two blocks.
But when Thomas, who is 6-10, is effective, he’s everywhere. Last season, he was either on the bench or should have been.
If this had been last season, the Bobcats would not have had the talent to challenge what could be a decent Phoenix team.
There will be games such as Wednesday’s in which Charlotte’s liabilities are exploited. The Bobcats go small and the opponent goes to the boards. Phoenix grabbed 22 offensive rebounds to Charlotte’s 15 and 50 rebounds to Charlotte’s 39.
Yet despite the loss, the Bobcats hung in and came back. What they had, they gave, at least in the second half.