Despite the Bobcats dropping their 3rd straight game to a mediocre team, I want to say they have gotten better. How?
When you look at the end of last year, the standard operating procedure was to show up, quickly take a knockout punch right on the chin, and promptly go away for the next 2 hours.
This team however, does not go away. It hangs around. It goes on mini-runs. One player (and only one, we’ll get to this later) gets hot and carries the team until they are right on the cusp of tying the game or even taking the lead, and then everything falls apart. That’s improvement, I suppose.
Much like Wednesday game vs. Phoenix, the Bobcats generally looked like garbage for the entire game, but somehow managed to do just enough to avoid the knockout punch. Most of this came on the back of Ben Gordon, who set a Bobcats record off the bench with 34 points on 14-21 scoring. Of course it wasn’t quite enough, as they lost by 7 again.
The biggest problem the Bobcats are suffering from this season is consistent defense. Coaches in the NBA have access to film and in general are not completely stupid, which has led to teams quickly learning how to break down the Bobcats traps & zones. And the way you break down a zone is by penetrating and moving the ball from side to side, often leading to open 3s. And that’s what has happened. Against Dallas, Vince Carter went 4-8 and OJ Mayo went 7-10. Against Phoenix, Goran Dragic went 3-6 and Shannon Brown went 6-8. Tonight, Ryan Anderson went 5-10. This inability to stop the 3 has been a significant thorn in the Bobcats’ side.
Another indicator of this is the number of assisted baskets – Dallas had 31 assists (63% of made baskets), and both Phoenix and New Orleans had 29 (67%). That’s a pretty high number.
Offensively, it was ugly, as it always is, but buoyed by one guy just completely going off. Kemba exploded against Indiana, Sessions and Mullens had really nice games against Dallas and Phoenix respectively, and Gordon was practically unstoppable tonight. The biggest problem is that there’s nobody in the post who is remotely threatening. Teams double any penetration with impunity, practically daring the Bobcats to feed the ball to Biyombo / Haywood / Diop. The other big men (Mullens, Thomas) are too in love with their jumper to be bothered to wander into the paint. Yes, it’s great when you get Mully to go 6-10 from 3, but there’s too many 0-6, 2-8, and 1-5 performances to make it a good idea long term. The team would benefit immensely if Mullens would stop shooting 3′s and go down into the mid post. He’s got a really nice turnaround jumper and decent enough hook that he could really become a weapon if he’d focus on it. Unfortunately…
Barring a significant trade, none of these things are going to change. The team is what it is. Brace yourself for a lot of 7 to 10 point losses. At least it’s not 15-20 point losses like last season.