October 24, 2006
This is the way the Bobcats and their fans envision things heading into Opening Night against Indiana at 7 p.m. on November 1 at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
Charlotte came away with its first victory of the preseason – 101-89 over the Pacers at the Colonial Center in Columbia, South Carolina – on Tuesday, using its inside-outside game to perfection in the third quarter.
Sean May (game-high 20 points), Emeka Okafor (15) and Othella Harrington (12) keyed the Bobcats efforts inside, combining to score 46.5 percent of Charlotte’s total. Rookie Adam Morrison chipped in 16 more while connecting on 5-14 shots from the field and going a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line.
Trailing 43-40 to start the second half, the Bobcats came out of the locker room intent on attacking the paint against the likes of Jermaine O’Neal and Al Harrington and found tremendous success.
“Every game, (Bobcats General Manager & Head Coach Bernie Bickerstaff) has preached inside-out first,” May said. “We want to get the bigs out on the floor running, get them the ball and get them their touches. It’s something we worked on all week. We had three really good days of practice, and I think it showed out there tonight. We were all getting low and able to convert.”
Charlotte went inside on its first seven possessions, pounding the ball inside to Okafor for six points, seeing Brevin Knight convert twice at the free throw line after getting fouled while driving inside, and getting a three-point play in the paint from Harrington as it cut Indiana’s lead to 51-50.
The work of the Bobcats big men inside opened things up on the perimeter for Morrison, who drained a 19-footer on Charlotte’s next trip down the floor to give them their first lead of the frame 52-51 with 5:49 remaining.
The teams traded the lead or tied the game nine times over the next four minutes before the Bobcats closed the quarter on a 6-0 run by continuing to pound the ball inside. May worked his way to the line and converted four free throws, while Jake Voskuhl made a late layup to give Charlotte the five-point cushion, 68-63, heading into the final 12 minutes of play.
The Bobcats finished the stanza shooting 9-13 from the field (.692), including 7-10 (.700) from inside of 18 feet and 2-3 (.667) from beyond that distance on two Morrison jumpers. Their only miss came on Raymond Felton’s desperation heave from half court at the end of the quarter.
With both teams resting their starters for the majority of the fourth quarter, the Bobcats reserves got the best of the Pacers, outscoring them 33-26 on the way to the win.
Danny Granger led five Indiana players in double digits with 16 points, followed by O’Neal (15 points, 11 rebounds), Stephen Jackson (14 points), Maceo Baston (12 points) and Harrington (10 points).
Charlotte’s defense kept it in the game against the Pacers high-octane offense in the first half, forcing 15 Indiana turnovers, but was unable to convert them into points, only managing four points after the immediate changes of possession.
Some of the Bobcats struggles through the first two frames could have stemmed from their deviation from the plan to get the ball inside. Charlotte shot 17-44 (.386) in the first half, connecting on 13-26 shots (.500) from inside 18 feet, while hitting on just 4-18 (.222) from further out.
Fortunately, the Bobcats were able to go back to what Bickerstaff has been drilling inside them all preseason and come away with their first win.
These two teams will meet again soon on Opening Night and all of Charlotte and the Bobcats themselves will be hoping to see more of the same. For now, it’s on to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where the Bobcats will tip off at 8 p.m. on Thursday against Milwaukee at the Resch Center.