The Bobcats played the second half of a back-to-back on the first leg of a west coast swing tonight against the Phoenix Suns and it turned out as awful as you might expect. Before we jump to any conclusions, let's just examine the possible reasons for the debacle that was the Bobcats' 13th consecutive loss, tonight's 121-104 whimper-inducing contest against the Suns.
Charlotte was coming off another gut punch of a loss, this time to the Lakers of Los Angeles and you couldn't fault the young guys for feeling the effects. When Gerald Henderson's left-handed layup slipped seductively out of the cylinder and secured the squandering of an 18-point third quarter lead, it guaranteed no one in Bobcats
orange blue would get to sleep with ease last night.
So that couldn't have helped matters.
The back-to-back itself is nothing easy even for the most veteran of teams, which the Bobcats certainly are not. So you're always cautious when forecasting how a young team will bounce back from a tough loss on the road like that.
But this question was posed to me on twitter during the game tonight, I believe it was a reply to my tweet that read "The Suns have scored 64 effing points in the first half" but I can't be sure. I was asked what one word would be used to describe the Bobcats' struggles during this losing streak. Of course many words come to mind but most of them are made up and none of them are printable, so I settled for "rotations."
If there is one image that seems to be burned on to whatever screen I may be watching when the Bobcats play basketball, it's that of a Bobcat defender rotating late (if at all) towards a pretty wide open shooter behind the arc as the ball reaches it's apex and descends towards the hoop. Charlotte's defense, sometimes zone, sometimes man, sometimes something really cool we don't even know about seems to all the time lend itself to leaving guys comfortably open for jumpers.
It's been pointed out that Charlotte's particular style of defense lends itself to such late rotations and resulting open shooters. That may be the case; it doesn't make it any less painful to watch. And while style could be to blame some of the time, execution has to take its fair share of responsibility as well.
Entering tonight, Charlotte was giving up almost 104 points per game, atrocious enough for 30th in the NBA. Their defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) according to BasketballReference.com is 29th, opponents have made more threes against the Bobcats than against any other team in the league and they rank 26th in the league in opponents three point percentage. There are 30 teams in the NBA. Gotta tighten up!
You get the picture; the Bobcats are not making things very difficult for their opponents. Is all of this because of rotations? No. But he asked for one word, what do you want from me?
The longer but unfortunately more accurate answer to that question is probably that this is just who the Bobcats are right now. They are much better than last year but have hit a rough patch, one filled with teams at full strength, and teams that are better than the ones they faced during the first part of the season.
But the defense and stuff isn't helping.
Phoenix shot 60.7% (60.7%!!) from three and made 17 total triples. Seventeen threes tonight, that's not going to help that 30th ranking a whole lot. It also didn't help that the Bobcats played super sluggish and without much energy at all.
They actually played a good offensive game. Shooting 60% themselves from three (6 of 10) and almost 50% from the field scoring those 104 points. But when your opponent is seriously threatening 100 at the end of the third quarter it just doesn't help that much.
Pretty much everyone who was anyone had a big game for the Suns, and even some people who aren't anyone. There was a stretch in the first half when P.J Tucker and Sebastian Telfair were abusing the Bobcats inside and out. The only Phoenix starter to not score in double figures was Marcin Gortat but Jared Dudley (20), Luis Scola (12), Shannon Brown (26) and Goran Dragic (21) picked up his slack.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker were both 9-14 from the field scoring 27 and 25 points respectively. MKG was the particular/only bright spot registering 12 boards to go along with those points becoming only the second player after LeBron James to register 25/12 twice before age 20. He was scoring very well tonight which was fun to watch. Byron Mullens added 13 points and nine boards, while Ben Gordon chipped in 15 off the bench.
The Bobcats did win the battle of the boards 42-33 but when you're making six of every 10 shots you throw up, there aren't a lot of rebounds to grab.
Except for portions of the first and fourth it was an uninspired effort from the Bobcats. This one quickly got away from them after a decent first quarter. It would have been nice to see Charlotte avenge a loss to Phoenix from a few weeks ago, but all the back-to-back and road and not great defense stuff was way too much to overcome. Charlotte won the fourth quarter, scoring 36 points, but the damage had been done.