The Bobcats rode a career high 31 points from DJ Augustin and 3 clutch buckets by Gerald Henderson to a 100-97 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night at the Cable Box. However, news that Tyrus Thomas has suffered a meniscus tear and will be out for 8 weeks certainly casts a pall over the warm glow of victory.
News filtered out before gametime that Tyrus had woken up from a post-shootaround/pre-game nap with a balky left knee and wouldn’t play. Then during the game, news broke that an MRI had shown a lateral meniscus tear. Thomas will presumably have arthroscopic surgery in the coming days; the early estimate is that he’ll be out for 8 weeks. It’s unclear when or how the injury occurred.
This is a big blow for several reasons. First, even though Thomas’s raw stats aren’t all that impressive (21 minutes per game, 11 points/6 rebounds), advanced statistics show that he’s arguably the Bobcats most efficient player (Hollinger’s PER has him at a team-high 19.7). Second, though Thomas doesn’t start, he almost always finishes games and has proven to be a clutch player, especially on the defensive end. Third, with Gana Diop already gone for the season, this makes the Bobcats precariously thin in the middle. Boris is going to have to play some 5, and Gerald Wallace and Dom McGuire are going to have to pitch in at the 4.
Back to the game. DJ came out red hot, hitting three three-pointers in the opening minutes, then repeatedly getting to the hole for layups. He finished the first half with 25 points on 10-11 shooting. Isn’t Jrue Holiday supposed to be a really good defender? In the second half, the Sixers adjusted by trapping DJ, who was only able to add 6 more points to his tally. Nonetheless, a masterful performance and career high for DJ, with 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 8 assists/3 turnovers to boot.
As you might guess, this one was pretty close the whole way. The Cats led by 8 a couple of times, including as late as with 8:30 left in the fourth, but couldn’t put it away. Without Tyrus Thomas, the Cats were going with a small crunchtime lineup of DJ/Henderson/Jack/Wallace/Diaw. With around 4 minutes left, Thaddeus Young took advantage with two straight buckets off offensive rebounds to put the Sixers up one.
From there, Gerald Henderson emerged as the unlikely hero. Henderson had already hit a jumper from the right elbow off a simple curl play earlier in the quarter. Down one, 1:40 left, the Cats run the same curl play for Henderson, who hits. Sixers miss, then Henderson hits again from the right elbow, this time after dribbling around a Diaw screen. Cats up 94-91, under a minute left.
Henderson almost blows it on the ensuing Sixers possession by fouling Igoudala on a three attempt, but Igoudala only hit two of the three free throws to pull the Sixers within one. The Bobcats stayed with the hot hand on the following possession, feeding Henderson on the right wing again on the same curl play — and he hit again to push the lead back out to three and effectively end the game.
The comfort level and confidence that Henderson had in the fourth quarter was really nice to see. Especially because it looks like that, whenever feasible, the Bobcats will likely go with a small lineup including Henderson in the fourth quarter while they’re without Tyrus Thomas.
- Best game from Nazr Mohammed in awhile: 15 points on 7-12 FG and 7 rebounds. Obviously it would be nice if Nazr can step it up over the next few weeks.
- Stephen Jackson’s shooting slump continues: 5-16 FG and 0-3 3 PT. Quiet game from Gerald Wallace also: 6 points, 3 rebounds. (/////Dr. E drums fingers on desk, looks around, wonders if anyone is thinking what he’s thinking.)
- Bobcats are 17-24 — good for 7th place in the East currently.
- Next game is Saturday night, at home, against the Hawks, 7 PM ET tip.