On one hand, an NBA player hitting an open elbow jumper to re-take a fourth-quarter lead from a dog-tired team that had just gone to triple-overtime one day earlier isn't, like, a super huge highlight. On the other, when that NBA player plies his trade for a team that hadn't won in more than two weeks, had only won three times in 19 tries since the calendar flipped to 2013, and had previously notched just two wins over teams with wining records on the season, it's worth at least a little bit of love.
So take a bow, Ramon Sessions, and have some fun this Tuesday morning, Charlotte Bobcats fans:
Sessions' 18-footer splashed through with 25.7 seconds left, giving the Bobcats a 92-91 lead in a fourth quarter that was played entirely within a 10-point margin — the Boston Celtics' biggest lead was five, and so was Charlotte's — saw the lead change hands four times. After a Boston timeout, Doc Rivers got the ball into the hands of captain and (without Rajon Rondo) primary facilitator Paul Pierce, who's hit countless daggers in his career, including a game-sealing step-back triple just last Sunday.
In this case, though, while Pierce drew diminutive point guard Kemba Walker on a perimeter switch, the ball was headed toward Kevin Garnett, who'd popped free just inside the arc thanks to an outsized pick by Jason Terry, who slipped his high screen that put Walker on Pierce, then gotten free of Gerald Henderson, who stalled a second to watch Pierce with the ball before sinking back into the paint toward Terry, who was doing a fine job pass-blocking Charlotte center Bismack Biyombo.
But while Garnett has drained countless long 2-pointers in the past, he came up dry here (thanks in part, perhaps, to a late contest by Biyombo), leading to a big defensive rebound by Byron Mullens, a Boston foul and a pair of huge Walker free throws to push the lead to three. Boston had a pair of chances to tie on the ensuing possession, but another hard contest by Biyombo ran Pierce off the his initial attempt and forced an off-balance, off-the-dribble attempt, and Bradley's clean look at a corner 3 off the offensive rebound came up short. The result: A 94-91 Bobcats win, just their 12th in 51 tries this year, but a well-earned one.
Sessions finished with 19 points on 6 for 11 shooting in the win, with eight coming in the final quarter and none bigger than the final-minute jumper ... which was set up very nicely by Walker. The UConn product and 2011 lottery pick ragged noted bulldog defender Bradley up top before making a hard, early-in-the-shot-clock drive to the right, stopping on a dime and setting a slight brush screen that allowed a curling Sessions to come totally free; Bradley appeared to turn his ankle on the play, leaving no Boston defender within range of Sessions' in-rhythm jumper. Walker finished with 18 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in 36 minutes.
The real star of the evening, though, was Mullens — the 7-footer's been up and down a bit since returning a week ago after missing 19 games with a severely sprained left ankle, but he was huge against Boston, scoring a game-high 25 points, grabbing a career-high 18 rebounds and dishing four assists in nearly 43 minutes of work, taking advantage of a tired Celtics frontcourt to have perhaps his best game of the season.
"It's big time," Walker said of Mullens' effort, according to Steve Reed of The Associated Press. "We need that from him. We need that from Byron and he can do it. We know he can do it every night. He is very capable. When he has big games like that, you know, I think that gives us a much better chance."
After the game, Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap credited Mullens' strong game in part to having gotten to see the game from a different perspective while being sidelined for so long, in part to the shelving giving him fresh legs, and in part to coach and player reaching an understanding that Mullens can fire away from the perimeter (he went 4 for 5 from 3-point range on Monday) so long as he also gets his work done in the post and on the glass.
Mullens, though, had a different explanation, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:
Eighteen rebounds later, what got into Byron Mullens Monday?
“It’s the beard,” Mullens joked.
In their homes this morning, surely, the Dallas Mavericks are nodding in agreement.
Video via our friends at the National Basketball Association.