Did you know there have been children born on or after November 24th that have never seen a post of mine on Rufus on Fire? I'm assuming people have told those two week old children that the last time I did, there were happier pictures on the home page. Well, they really can only show them pictures since they can't read yet. Anyway, here's to hoping that my return can right the ship some, and bring back those good early-season memories. You know, before they lost six of seven, and five in a row.
Let's take a peek and see who our Bobcats are playing tonight. *Begins looking down the schedule* Sometimes all it takes is playing the right opponent to change-- OH GOD! THEY PLAY THE SPURS! Ok, ok. This doesn't necessarily mean they have no chance, but they may have to work for it a little more.
Oh, it's the second night of a back-to-back, too? Welp. At least they're at home, right?
I watched young Timberwolves teams go against the Spurs for years, and there's something I've noticed: they don't play down to their opponent. They'll let the young team tire themselves out before systematically picking them apart, and finishing them off in time for their starters to watch the fourth quarter from the bench while making post-game dinner plans. Really, it's like the first time Batman fought Bane (Or any villain it seems like.) in The Dark Knight Rises. It's the same thing; San Antonio will let you land a couple punches that don't do too much damage before lifting you over their head, and breaking your back over their knee.
Games like these, even at home, are a great test for the young Bobcats. It's where you find out how strong-willed they are, and if they're still going to want to press the ball all the way up the court, push the ball in the open court, or exert the same energy they showed earlier in the season if they think they're still going to lose even if they don't. A lot of young and talented players aren't accustomed to losing, and it's always interesting to see how they will respond to it.
It's not as if the 'Cats should come into this game with their metaphorical tails between their legs, despite the losses. They've held their own against three out of the five (probable) playoff teams they've faced, and already had beaten Milwaukee (Another possible playoff team) earlier in the season. As a young team, they have to learn how to close games, and sometimes learning how not to close games counts as learning how to do that. But separating all of that from the stack of L's on the schedule isn't always easy.
So, they could come out thinking, "Oh, boy. The Spurs. Here we go again..." or they could look at tonight as an opportunity to steal a win against a veteran team that's also coming in on the second night to a back-to-back, as well. The choice is theirs to either, give up, or go down making the Spurs earn their 17th win of the season.
In order to do that, the Bobcats will have to play as a team that is wise beyond their years, so to speak. That means good shots, an attention to defense, and limiting turnovers to not give San Antonio extra chances. If the Bobcats can manage to capitalize on the opportunities they do get (The Spurs are 10th in Opp. Points Per Game),force some bad shots, and protect the ball (Duncan and Co. don't force that many turnovers; 20th in the NBA in opponent turnover percentage.), they stand a chance of forcing them to play the Bobcats' way, and hopefully forcing them into their bench. The latter point is important with Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard out, and having Danny Green (hamstring) and Patty Mills (ankle) questionable before Friday's game, although they did end up playing in the game.
Yes, it's probably a tall order to expect the Bobcats to overcome the Spurs at this point in their growth, but they've surprised us before. I still don't believe in moral victories, but tonight will give us a good read on where this team is in their development. If they come out strong, they're better for the losing streak. Yet, if they come out flat, the streak has probably gotten the best of them, and they may be further behind than we might have expected. However, that's the aspect of this game that intrigues the most.
(You can leave your comments or complaints in the space below, or you can tweet them to me: @DerekJamesNBA)
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Game Coverage: Spurs vs Bobcats coverage