Though the Bobcats were eliminated from the playoff chase last week, this final run of games should be interesting to see how the young players play without pressure. Tonight we saw Kwame looking (dare I say it...) dominant in the paint, Gerald Henderson hitting from deep and Augustin dishing.
The bad thing is that despite a hot start, the Bobcats got completely handled by the Pistons in the second half. So that stunk. Detroit made the Bobcats look foolish on defense and prevailed by 11.
The Bobcats are the second worst scoring team in the NBA. So what do they do to begin the game? Only score 40 points in the first 12 minutes. Yes, I’m not kidding. The Bobcats tied a franchise record for made field goals in a quarter with 17. They shot 77.3% from the field and made all four of their shots from behind the arc. Boris Diaw led the way, hitting six of seven shots in the first stanza, including 3-3 from downtown. He also added a pair of rebounds, three assists and didn’t turn the ball over once. Dante Cunningham and Kwame Brown combined for 9-9 shooting from the field for 19 points as well. And D.J. Augustin was dishing the ball out at an amazing rate, with 9 assists in the quarter and zero turnovers. The team was boxing out and rebounding well and playing adequate defense. Boris was aggressive and the team was just on point. I wish I could attribute it solely to the Bobcats, but the Pistons’ ineptitude on defense was the key here. In other news, Henderson struggled with his shooting early, but hit a three, which is pretty rare for him. Other than that, the quarter was about as perfect as you could ask for Bobcats fans. The Bobcats ended the first leading 40-25.
The second quarter began as a stark contrast to the first quarter. The Bobcats went cold and the Pistons subbed in their instant offense guys (Gordon, Villanueva) and went on a hot streak, pulling within three points. The Bobcats bench just couldn’t hang with them so Silas had to sub in Augustin and Kwame to stop the bleeding. It worked decently well, as the Bobcats recovered. Gerald Henderson finished the half strong with a putback dunk off of a missed Augustin layup and on the other end, he blocked a jumpshot to help force a turnover to end the half. The Bobcats led 59-50.
To put it simply, the wheels just came off in the third period. The offense was sloppy, with poor passing, bobbling passes, poor shot selection, you name it. Part of it can definitely be attributed to Detroit’s defense tightening up in the paint. But even worse than the stalling offense was the defense. The Bobcats just looked lost out there. The Pistons were dicing up the paint with crisp passing and then they transition that into good outside shooting. The Charlotte lead disappeared and turned into an eight-point deficit. Defenders were being taken off the ball easily and Detroit could find easy jumpers nearly at will. Luckily, the Bobcats managed to find themselves before Detroit ran away with it. Diaw was strong, driving his point total to 20 with seven assists and six rebounds. But this was Kwame’s game. He continued to look really impressive on offense but still couldn’t hit free throws to save his life. However, I’ll be okay with that when he’s 9-10 from the field. Bobcats were down by six after three.
But the Bobcats couldn’t put the wheels back on. Detroit completely shut off the paint for the final 12 minutes, leaving Kwame Brown helpless. The Cats were forced to look elsewhere and found Augustin and Henderson, but that was it. To make matters worse, they absolutely could not get stops on defense. A theme throughout the game, the Bobcats fouled lazily, giving the Pistons plenty of and-one opportunities. Combine this all together with the Bobcats inability to find open players on offense and you ultimately get the 11 point loss. But for at least a little while we got some fun basketball from Kwame’s terrific play in the post, Augustin’s wheelin’ and dealin’, Henderson’s athletic play and showing some decent range, and Diaw being aggressive and putting some nice moves on display. A disappointing and shrug-worthy loss, yes, but also a little bit encouraging.