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Bobcats Narrowly Defeat Team Coached By “Boardwalk Empire” Character

“If Ramon Sessions continues to play as he has this first month he’ll end up the best free-agent signing in Bobcats history,” noted The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell, clearly forgetting about Othella Harrington and Dontell Jefferson.  Still, Sessions has been pretty good.  His 3-pointer on Monday night to tie the game late against the Milwaukee Bucks was my second-favorite trey in the last year, if for nothing else than Byron Mullens raising his hand up in triumph as—not after—Sessions took the shot (FYI: my #1 favorite was the Kevin Durant one against the Lakers in last season’s playoffs.  Check it out again here and tell me it doesn’t remind you EXACTLY of Indiana Jones nonchalantly gunning down the swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark.)  Sessions also sank two free throws in the final seconds to put the Bobcats up by two possessions.

In general, great things happen when the basketball court is in Sessions.  He was +6 in last night’s game, and he’s 4th overall on the team for the season in plus-minus with a +3.2.   His 19.75 PER is third on the team, and he’s holding individual opponents to a PER of 10.6 to 14.5, depending on whether he’s playing the 1 or the 2.  In fact, I take it back: he may actually be better than Othella Harrington.

And speaking of opponents, Sessions’ backcourt antagonists last night, Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, put on a show of their own.  Neither has ever met a shot he didn’t immediately make love to, and Monday was no exception, as they accounted for nearly half of the team’s shots.  Ellis in particular, with 31 points on 28 shots, made for some fascinating, exasperating viewing.  For better or for worse, the Bobcats just refused to double-team him, adopting a similar policy that the US has taken toward Syria: leave it alone and hope that it eventually burns itself out.  For most of the game, this appeared to be a terrible move, especially when the Bucks had stretched their lead to 11 points with 7:26 left in the game.  But the Bobcats called timeout and outscored Milwaukee 23-8 the rest of the way.

In a sport in which fitting in with the team concept is critical, Ellis has the chemistry of Walter White.  He and Jennings’ ball strangulation is impeding the progress of some younger players who could be put to better use.  Though he only played 12 minutes and took 2 shots, Tobias Harris’s brief cameo appearances were flat-out scary.  And John Henson’s game is like his widow’s peak: burgeoning and well-rounded.  But it’s tough to tell how anything really works under the Ellis-Jennings oligopoly.  And if anything, Ellis probably walked away from the game thinking that he should have shot more.  On one of the more comical plays you’ll ever see, with Milwaukee down 2 and a minute to play, Ellis dished the rock off to Samuel Dalembert on a pick-and-roll, who shocked everyone by pulling up for a 15-footer and shocked no one by missing it badly.  “No disrespect to Charlotte,” said Dalembert afterward, who then proceeded to disrespect Charlotte, “but those are games that we should be winning.”  No disrespect to Dalembert, but there’s a reason he couldn’t make the Canadian Olympic team.

But enough about the Bucks; let’s wrap up with our guys.  There was more good stuff to take away from this game than a Trick or Treat bag full of cocaine.  For instance, this was the first time Charlotte defeated a team that wasn’t missing at least one of its best players.  It was also the first time that Swedish rookie Jeffery Taylor did anything other than make me wonder if coach Dunlap has been misreading Taylor’s IKEA instructions.  The other starters were all solid and 40 points in the paint against this Milwaukee defense is nothing to sneeze at.  The Cats only shot 27% on 3’s, but they also only shot 11 of them, so bravo for knowing when to hold’em and when to fold’em.  Relatedly, Byron Mullens may have had one of his best overall games, shooting 7-14, hitting all four of his free throws (the team went an impressive 27-30 overall on freebies).  Mullens also put in 40 minutes of work at the 4 and seemed to get stronger as the game went on, which is key, because there was some news regarding Tyrus Thomas.  The bad news is that Thomas tore a calf muscle; the good news is that he’ll be out for two months!  That’s right, no staring in horror at hopeless long-range 2-pointers floating and rotating disgustingly like zombie heads in fish bowls for at least 60 days!

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