Fifty-two points in the paint? In a single game? Without center Al Jefferson? This cant be the Charlotte Bobcats.
It was on Wednesday night, and all that scoring in the lane was worth a 95-91 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. Credit point guard Kemba Walker (31 points on 12-of-20 shooting), who relentlessly drove to the rim.
The Nets, a surprising 3-8 this season, played without starting center Brook Lopez. Point guard Deron Williams left the game in the first half with a sprained ankle and big man Kevin Garnett was ineffectual (five fouls in 21 minutes).
The lane was open all night, in part because of the way the Nets chose to defend.
They play up a little bit. Their four-man (power forward) comes up on the screen, Walker said. We were being aggressive there were a lot of open lanes and we just took them.
Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, whose team improved to 6-6, added perspective on Wednesdays strategy.
They got up into us (defensively). They were really forward on us, so you drive it on them, Clifford said. When theyre up in the passing lanes, when a team denies, the best thing to do is drive the ball.
That differential the Bobcats scored 52 points in the paint, the Nets 34 was the game on a night when the Bobcats didnt shoot well from the foul line (18 of 30) and got sloppy with the ball down the stretch (two Ramon Sessions turnovers against the trap that helped cut a 16-point lead to two with 12 seconds left).
Walker settled it with two free throws with six seconds left. This might have been his best game of the season after a rough run. He shot poorly over the seven games played since injuring his left shoulder in a road victory over the New York Knicks Nov. 5.
Hes been banged up. The other night in Chicago he played with sore ribs, Clifford said. I thought you could tell right away that he was on the attack tonight. He wont sit (Walker has never missed a game as a Bobcat). He wants to play through things. So hes been less than 100 percent.
Walker wouldnt accept the Ive been hurt out.
No, not at all. I was just off, Walker said when asked if the injuries have hindered him. Everybody is banged up at this point in the season.
The Bobcats started out 7-5 last season, then lost 18 straight games. Then-coach Mike Dunlap said he didnt trust the early record and certainly thats how it played out in a 21-61 season.
Clifford and Walker suggest the progress is more real this time around.
Were defending and rebounding. We have yet to play any sustained time with our best offensive player, Clifford said, referring to Jefferson (right ankle). Were playing young guys, so theres a lot of room for improvement.
Or as Walker put it, Were capable of a lot. Were being more consistent and Al will help us a lot because he draws so much attention.
BOBCATS 95, NETS 91
Percentages: FG .478, FT .720. Three-Point Goals: 9-19, .474 (Anderson 4-6, Johnson 4-9, Pierce 1-3, Blatche 0-1). Team Rebounds: 10. Team Turnovers: 18 (17 PTS). Blocked Shots: 5 (Garnett 3, Livingston, Pierce). Turnovers: 17 (Livingston 5, Pierce 3, Blatche 2, Garnett 2, Plumlee 2, Williams 2, Johnson). Steals: 6 (Pierce 2, Anderson, Blatche, Livingston, Terry). Technical Fouls: Defensive three second, 1:33 first; Livingston, 4:00 third.
Percentages: FG .444, FT .600. Three-Point Goals: 5-13, .385 (Walker 4-7, Henderson 1-2, Kidd-Gilchrist 0-1, McRoberts 0-1, Sessions 0-2). Team Rebounds: 12. Team Turnovers: 15 (23 PTS). Blocked Shots: 4 (McRoberts 2, Adrien, Walker). Turnovers: 15 (Kidd-Gilchrist 5, Sessions 3, Walker 2, Zeller 2, Henderson, McRoberts, J.Taylor). Steals: 7 (Henderson 2, Zeller 2, McRoberts, J.Taylor, Walker). Technical Fouls: McRoberts, 4:32 third.
Att.13,843 (19,077). T2:19.
OfficialsScott Foster, Eddie F. Rush, Scott Wall.
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