This is how Gerald Henderson describes what he hears from coach Mike Dunlap these days:
“He wants me to shoot it every time. He wants me to think, ‘SCORE’ every time.”
It doesn’t always work out that way. Henderson is a reluctant ball hog. But Tuesday he was on a preposterous roll that led to a preposterous score: Charlotte Bobcats 100, Boston Celtics 74.
Suspend your disbelief; this really did happen for a Bobcats team on a 10-game losing streak and an NBA-worst 14-50 record.
This was Charlotte’s widest margin of victory since January of 2010, when the Bobcats beat the Miami Heat 104-65. Many contributed, but none came close to shooting guard Henderson, who finished with a career-high 35 points.
He made 11 of 19 shots from the field. He made 12 of 12 from the foul line. He made the Celtics double-team him fiercely in the fourth quarter, as the Bobcats’ lead spread to 28.
And he came out to an ovation with more than three minutes left. When Bobcats starters leave early this season, it’s seldom in celebration.
Dunlap asked Henderson over the summer to extend his shooting range, advocating that a reliable 3-ball would be a great complement to Henderson’s physical driving and post-up game. Henderson took only two 3s Tuesday (making one), but his mid-range jumper was so reliable the Celtics looked baffled about what to try to take away first.
“I really thought I shot better last season,” said Henderson, who is making 36 percent of his 3s. “But I’ve always had confidence in it.”
With point guard Kemba Walker having an off night (10 points on 4-of-11 shooting and four assists), Henderson simply took over the show.
“I try not to settle (for constant jump shots), but they kept going in,” Henderson said. “When they have to press up on you (to defend the jump shot) everyone knows that opens up the other stuff.”
The Celtics (34-29) played Tuesday without small forward Paul Pierce, who coach Doc Rivers chose to rest. It looked like All-Star center Kevin Garnett needed a night off, too. He made just two of 10 shots and grabbed two rebounds in 21 inconsequential minutes.
Credit Bobcats center Bismack Biyombo with plenty of rugged defense.
“He just kept pressing up on him, pushing him out, away (from the basket) on his catches,” said Dunlap, who acknowledged there was also a luck factor in Garnett missing his jump shots.
The other significant factor was a double-double (13 points, 10 rebound) by Josh McRoberts, making his second start as a Bobcat at small forward. With Byron Mullens suffering a lower-back strain, McRoberts played 31 minutes. He’s been particularly useful as a passer, helping to smooth the team’s ball-movement.
“He’s a tremendous passer – that’s his greatest strength,” Dunlap said. “He’s a three-tool player, which helps when some of our players are still developing a second tool.”