Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap described his teams 102-98 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks as smash-mouth basketball.
What does that look like? Its 7-foot Byron Mullens playing like hes actually 7-feet. Its point guard Ramon Sessions driving relentlessly in the fourth quarter to generate six free throws. Its Michael Kidd-Gilchrist grabbing five fourth-quarter rebounds.
The Bobcats are 5-4 and thats all about winning the close ones. Theyre 4-0 this season in games decided by four points or less. They look nothing like the team that went 7-59 last season.
Were fighters. We play hard regardless of the situation, said point guard Kemba Walker, who finished with 19 points, four assists and three steals. Every time someone drives on us, we collapse on him.
The Bucks led by 11 in the fourth quarter, only to be outscored 25-17 that period. The Bobcats made 16 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter, including two by Sessions with 4.2 seconds left to ice the game.
Sessions (23 points) was a free-agent signing over the summer, and hes been tremendous. Asked what Sessions provides, Walker said: Leadership, experience and tempo. Hes the one who really runs the show. He slows the game down when it gets too fast.
Sessions hit a 3-pointer with 2 1/2 minutes left to tie the game at 96-96. The Bobcats never trailed again. The assist on that Sessions three was from Mullens, who finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Asked about that pass, Mullens broke into a huge grin.
I think thats the first time I ever got double-teamed in the NBA, he said. .
Theres a reason he wasnt double-teamed in the past: Hed settle for jump shots, rather than use his height in the post. Mullens worked almost exclusively in either the post or with the mid-range jump shot Monday, making seven of 14 shots from the field.
Its working and helping out my outside game, Mullens said. Im finally realizing what my best moves are down there.
He better remember those moves because his teammates and coaches intend to keep him in the post. They love the effect.
Its huge, Walker said. Byron is such a good player, especially in the post. We need to get it to him there. And we will.
At 5-4, the Bobcats are already two victories away from their total for last season. It took them 36 games last season to reach victory No. 5.
I know weve had a lot of close games and won most of them, Dunlap said. Thats a good sign for a young team.