How do you blow an 18-point lead in the last five minutes of an NBA game?
The Bobcats showed us all how Monday night, losing a 97-79 lead in regulation in the final five minutes and ultimately losing, 118-112 in overtime.
In those last five minutes, the Bobcats kept jacking up difficult shots and couldn’t get a single rebound. They never got to the foul line, while Portland did a lot by driving the ball, slowing the game down and then grabbing offensive rebounds on its (rare) misses.
It was remarkable, really, to see the Bobcats fritter it away in person. They did so much good work. Byron Mullens slammed home the most spectacular dunk of his NBA career – a vicious one-hander from the free-throw line to posterize LaMarcus Aldridge. If you saw it, you won’t soon forget it. Ben Gordon had a rare four-point play as part of his 29 points. Walker scored more points in the first half (17) than his season average (16.3).
And still, the Bobcats messed it up.
The defeat also means that the unfettered feel-good era of these 2012-13 Bobcats is over. It lasted a month, which was enough time for the Bobcats to win as many games as they did all of last season.
But now reality has intruded. Once 7-5, the Bobcats are now 7-9 with two more likely home losses on tap for this week (the New York Knicks and San Antonio) unless they start playing a lot better.
That 7-9 mark is still far better than 7-59 – their mark from a season ago that set a new NBA standard for futility. The Bobcats could lose 49 more games in a row and still not get there.
But even with all the new players in the rotation, these Bobcats aren’t a .500 team. They are destined to slip further below that line of demarcation as the season progresses. They are a young team that is all over the place, closing games like a champ on one night and giving up huge leads the next. Eighteen points in five minutes? That’s a hard lead to lose even if you were trying to lose it, and the Bobcats weren’t. But they also weren’t the same team – almost complacent until the last couple of minutes, when they got jittery.
“We got sort of calm once we got the big lead,” guard Ramon Sessions said, “instead of attacking like we did to get the lead in the first place.”
Kemba Walker said Portland “out-toughed” the Bobcats late, which sounds about right. Aldridge (25 points, 13 rebounds) was dominant on the glass, and the Bobcats were as fragile as glass, and in the end they got handed one of those losses that is going to sting for quite awhile.