Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Every once in a while, a team's heart is broken. They play well the entire game before a series of poor decisions toward the end of it cost them the win. Tonight, the Charlotte Bobcats lost to the Portland Trailblazers in overtime, 118-112.
And then, I was assigned this game. Wow.
The first half was awesome. The Bobcats could do no wrong. Kemba Walker scored 17 points, dished out 5 assists, and had 2 steals. Gerald Henderson played his first game in a month, and looked solid in limited minutes. Oh, and Byron Mullens did this:
The second half was equally awesome. Ben Gordon hit 7 threes, several of them off-balance and heavily contested. Gordon also broke 10,000 points in his career with his seventh three. At one point, the Bobcats led by 18 points in the fourth quarter...but lost the lead when Luke Babbitt hit a couple of threes. Yes, the Bobcats were Babbitt'd.
In overtime, the Bobcats couldn't regain any of the momentum they found late in the third quarter, and were easily beaten by the Trailblazers.
Where did they go wrong?
Nowhere in particular. The Bobcats' defense was okay overall, allowing the Blazers to shoot 47% from the field and 34% from three. By comparison, the Bobcats shot 47% from the field and 48% from three.
Before looking at the statistics after the game, I assumed the Bobcats had shut star rookie Damian Lillard down. Sure, he shot 38% from the field, but he shot 14 freethrows. Lillard is undoubtedly a vicious scorer, but 14 freethrow attempts is too many. There wasn't much the Bobcats could do differently, as Lillard would drive the lane and straight into the Bobcats' bigs. He forced the issue, and ended up with 24 points on 16 shots.
The Bobcats should also be thankful that LaMarcus Aldridge is passive on offense. He rarely demands the ball, which is odd because his production suggests he should. His usage is up to 27.5% this season, only .5% higher than last year. This is surprising, considering the lack of depth the Blazers have and his consistency on offense. Had Aldridge seen a few more touches in the post, I don't think this game would have gone to overtime.
By the way, I think we need to have a talk about Byron Mullens, you guys.
Mullens is averaging 13 field-goal attempts per game. He's making 5. He's also averaging over 5 three-point attempts per game. He's making 1.5. This can't continue. Mullens' improvement on defense and inside is undeniable, but he ultimately hurts this team when he takes shots that he hasn't proven he can make consistently.
Tonight, Mullens took 14 shots and made 5. Come on. I want to like him so badly, because he has talent. He makes it hard.
If you watch the Bobcats' offensive sets, they rely on a series of hand-offs and passing around the three point line. When no scoring options become apparent, they reverse the ball and post up Mullens. Mullens shoots 43% in the post, according to MySynergySports.com.
And, if for whatever reason Mullens is not available, the team resorts to isolation plays. This would be fine if the Bobcats had any true play-makers, but alas, they do not. The Bobcats are shooting 41.5% on the season for a reason. Tonight, the Bobcats got lucky with Ben Gordon being incredibly hot. On most other days, at least half of his attempts would miss. Then, there would be no overtime. There would be a double-digit loss.
Hopefully, Gerald Henderson's return will balance the offense. He's not known as a passer, but his awareness on the offensive end will surely help the team in the future.
In conclusion, tonight's game was a heartbreaking loss. These games happen to all teams, and there's rarely anything you can take from them. With Henderson's return, and an ever-improving defense, the Bobcats should continue to get better. This is just a bump in the road.
|Final - 12.3.2012||1||2||3||4||OT 1||Total|
|Portland Trail Blazers||26||25||19||32||16||118|