After starting the season 7-7 and showing signs of competence, the Charlotte Bobcats proceeded to follow it up by going 8-17 over its last 25 games. The 17th loss of that stretch came at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves in embarrassing fashion by a score of 119-92.
There are bad losses in the NBA and then there are the losses like the Bobcats had tonight. This was exactly the type of effort, or lack of effort, you had hoped the Bobcats had put behind them. This was something you would have expected from the seven-win team from two years ago or the Mike Dunlap-led Bobcats. But not this year's squad.
The game started with the Wolves riding the hot hand of Kevin Martin who finished with 10 points in the first quarter. Kevin Love grabbed nine boards, but the Bobcats resembled an NBA team in the first 12 minutes before unraveling over the next 36. Each team shot the ball well and the quarter wrapped up with Charlotte trailing Minnesota 29-28. It looked like we were in for a high scoring competitive affair.
Instead, we were treated to the Bobcats turning in one of their worst defensive performances of the season in which the Wolves did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. The offense struggled with ball movement, which led to a lot of isolation plays late in the shot clock that more often than not ended with wild shot attempts.
On the other end we saw the Wolves move the ball with a cohesiveness that led to plenty of easy baskets in the paint and wide open threes. As bad as the defense was, you have to give Minnesota credit for knocking down the shots. This was a team coming off a bad loss to Phoenix that led to locker room tension. The Bobcats coming to town was a good therapy session for this team who got to take out their frustrations of plenty of late game collapses on an overmatched team.
When looking at individual performances in this one the sore thumb that sticks out is Al Jefferson's play. He finished with eight points and seven boards, but his defensive effort was laughable. Nikola Pekovic is a center who uses brute force to get buckets. He's not flashy or exceptionally quick, so you would think that Jefferson could have at least held his own. That was not the case as Pekovic poured in 26 points, most of which occurred with Big Al matched up on him, in just 27 minutes. Love gets the majority of credit in Minnesota, but it was his partner in crime on the front line who stole the show.
The game got out of hand in the second quarter. Minnesota converted seven 3-point plays in the quarter to pull away from Charlotte. It was the Wolves' bench who shifted this one in favor of the home team and created distance between the two teams. Heading into the half the Bobcats were down 20 and had given up 68 points, which is completely unacceptable for a team that prides itself on defense and simply isn't good enough offensively to overcome poor defensive efforts.
The second half saw the Wolves hold a lead as large as 39. Once the Bobcats essentially flew the white flag they started to bring the deficit down into less embarrassing territory thanks to Anthony Tolliver who finished 5-of-5 from beyond the arc and with 21 points. This one was all but wrapped up in the first half for the Wolves. They put it on cruise control for the third quarter and when it was obvious a comeback was not going to happen the game was turned over to bench players. They even let Ben Gordon play!
It was an ugly game across the board for the Bobcats. One that makes you question where this team is going the rest of the season. Playoffs are still very much in play, but this game could be a glimpse of what would happen if Charlotte did make the postseason.
The Bobcats have a quick turnaround and will have a chance for some redemption tomorrow night against Chicago.