CHARLOTTE, NC — Blowouts like Tuesday night’s 100-74 game have become par for the course in Charlotte over the last two seasons.
Nothing’s commonplace though about the Bobcats being on the victorious end of one of them as they were here against the Celtics.
Sure, Doc Rivers chose to rest Paul Pierce. Sure Rivers played his starters sparingly once the Bobcats grew a double-digit lead midway through the third. But when you’ve lost your last 10 games by an average of 21.5 though, there’s something to be said about a win. Any win, especially when that win is your biggest margin of victory in over 3 years and comes at the hands of the likely Playoff-bound Celtics.
“It feels great. We’ve had a tough season. The toughest thing is just coming in here everyday, practicing hard, going through shot around and it not really translating into wins and not really showing itself,” Gerald Henderson said. “So it feels great anytime we win.”
The questions came immediately though after almost as if Tuesday night’s game would live with an asterisk beside it. Should the Bobcats feel slighted that Rivers just so happened to choose resting Pierce on the night they play in Charlotte? Should the Bobcats feel disrespected that the Celtics didn’t bother to give an excuse other than Rivers just wanted to rest Pierce on a night when they weren’t coming off a back to back.
“That’s alright. That’s cool with us,” Ben Gordon said. “Hopefully he’ll rest again when we play them next time.”
Doubtful. They’ll play again in five days in Boston, but a betting man would think Pierce would be sure to be in the lineup after his squad was humiliated Tuesday night. Much of that humiliation came at the hands of Gerald Henderson, who seemingly did whatever he wanted to the Celtics smaller backcourt, notching a career-high 35 points on 11 of 19 shooting. Henderson got hot early, raining in 21 in the first half, and continuing his barrage in the second half, helping the Bobcats race away from the Celtics outscoring them by 23 in the second half.
“He’s been getting better over the last three weeks,” head coach Mike Dunlap said. “You can just sense it with him.”
You could sense something was different with the Bobcats offensively, too, besides Henderson’s continued evolution. The difference? The man involved in the seemingly most irrelevant trade of a zestless Trade Deadline: Josh McRoberts, who arrived in Charlotte for Hakim Warrick from Orlando and posted a double double with 13 points, 10 rebounds.
Although McRoberts is similar to Byron Mullens in the sense that he’s more of a face-up power forward, he’s added a craftiness and vision with the ball at the top of the key that the Bobcats didn’t possess previously in their big men. Tuesday night that allowed them to exploit the Celtics smaller guards with Henderson in the post, who Dunlap said “might be our best post-up player in many ways.”
“(McRoberts) facilitates from up top and it takes a lot of pressure off of Kemba, especially with Ramon (Sessions) out. He’s just a tremendous passer,” Dunlap said. “That’s his greatest strength but also he has moxie and smarts. He’s a basketball player.”
McRoberts even proved that “he’s a better athlete than he shows” as Dunlap put it when Ben Gordon tossed up an over-the-head alley oop that he flushed with one hand, igniting the crowd louder than any time in a month and resulting in a play sure to live on Bobcats’ hype videos for the foreseeable future.
Sitting in the locker room after, though, McRoberts didn’t particularly care how his particular stats lined up but rather which side of the record the outcome fell on.
“It’s more important that it was our first win since I got here, so it feels good to be back on the right side of things,” McRoberts said.
It’s not often that the Celtics leave Charlotte with a feeling that they need to right the ship. This time they can only leave Charlotte hoping that Tuesday night was a hapless aberration of a team missing its best offensive weapon.
As winners of five of their last six prior, Rivers believes that to be the case, thinking it was just the always-correctable energy excuse that made the Celtics look so helpless late in the shot clock offensively and allowed the Bobcats defense to have their lowest output of the season.
“It’s one game. I’m not going to overdo it,” Rivers said. “Our spirit was off. You also have to look at our team as a whole, we haven’t had a lot of nights like that. I’m not happy with the way the game went but overall I like our team.”