Behind Al Horford's 26 points and 13 rebounds, the Atlanta Hawks and its band of savvy veterans were too much for the young Charlotte Bobcats.
There is no shame in the way the Bobcats lost to the Hawks Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena. The team played hard, but Atlanta was able to shine a light on Charlotte's deficiencies and walk away with its seventh win of the season.
The Bobcats were never able to get over the hump in this one. A prime example of how this game went would be the last four minutes of the third quarter. Jeff Teague had just put the Hawks up by 15 and it looked as if they might pull away and cruise to an easy victory. Instead Charlotte made a furious rally that started with a Kemba Walker and-one that was followed up by 3-pointers from Ramon Sessions and Jeffery Taylor. Sessions added another bucket get the 'Cats to within four, 76-72.
After the two teams traded baskets, the Hawks had the ball with five seconds to go. Zaza Pachulia got the ball on Atlanta's side of half court and he lumbered past the entire defense and finished at the rim for an easy two. That play pretty much summed up the game for the 'Cats. A nice run would be put to rest by a mental lapse. Whether it be letting Pachulia go damn near coast-to-coast with five seconds remaining in the quarter when the team had a foul to give, or leaving Kyle Korver (16 points) wide open behind the arc--the Bobcats simply didn't have it tonight.
Charlotte's inability to get anything going in the post put a ton of strain on Sessions and Walker to create. It often led to the Bobcats running up against the shot clock and taking a long jumper. Byron Mullens' development as a post player may be the most crucial aspect to the team's success this season. When he is converting in the post the offense is incredibly more fluid than when he's not.
Atlanta shot 11-of-22 from beyond the arc and this wasn't Shannon Brown pulling up and knocking down everything. The Hawks were able to generate good looks and nail down the shots. Thanks to Teague, Korver and DeShawn Stevenson Atlanta's starters went 10-for-16 from deep. On a night when Charlotte would only shoot 37.3 percent from the field that was too much to overcome.
The only reason the Bobcats were able to stay within reach of the Hawks was their ability to get to the free throw line. Charlotte took 12 more attempts than Atlanta and made 15 more at the line. The Bobcats turned the Hawks over 21 times to just 13, too. Yet Atlanta was able to clamp down on defense much of the night and force Charlotte to try and win by making lower percentage shots.
Despite the loss there were still positives to come from the game with the biggest being Taylor's play. In 36 minutes of action he scored 16 points with 12 of those coming from behind the 3-point line. The second round pick showed off his ability to defend against DeMar DeRozan last time out and against the Hawks he showed off his offensive chops. When Gerald Henderson gets back it will send Taylor back to the bench, which will bolster a thin second unit.
Easily the worst performance of the game came from Ben Gordon. Gordon came into the game struggling with his shot and it got worse on Friday. In 16 minutes he hoisted up eight shots only making one. Over his past four games he is shooting just 32 percent and averaging 8.8 points per game. If he doesn't pick it up soon he's going to have a hard time getting on the court when Henderson gets back. Going into the season Gordon was firmly entrenched behind Henderson, but with what Taylor has shown as a rookie he has earned the right to more minutes.
The 'Cats are back in action against Washington on the road Saturday night. These two teams met 11 days ago in a game Charlotte won 92-76.
Other thoughts, notes and ramblings
--Charlotte now faces three road games in a row (Washington, Oklahoma City, Atlanta). This will be a good barometer of what to expect the rest of the season for the Bobcats. Their only road win in three tries was over the injury plagued Timberwolves, a game they almost coughed away before Kemba hit a game winner.
--Hakim Warrick has been held scoreless three straight games, although he's only seen a total of 19 minutes in those contests. Against Atlanta, Warrick saw only three minutes and missed his only shot attempt. The Bobcats miss Tyrus Thomas' mid-range game off the bench.
--Kemba seemed a bit tentative at times tonight. There were points in the game I felt he passed up a shot or an opportunity to take it to the basket.
--Bismack Biyombo is frustrating as hell to watch at times. Yes, he can block shots but he needs to be smarter about what balls he goes after. There were at least three times tonight he had goaltending called on him. It's not just the goaltending calls either that are frustrating. There has been plenty of instances this season where he contests a shots he shouldn't and it leaves one less player to box out and rebound.