In their coverage of the latest grim Bobcats loss to the Orlando Magic, the Observer pointed out that slow starts have been a problem, as has defensive rebounding. It’s true: the Bobcats are second-to-last in average 1st quarter scoring margin (-4.5). And their defensive rebounding rate, which I’ve documented with the regularity of a gallon a Metamucil, remains buried so far in the cellar of the league that Abu Nazir keeps a sleeping bag there. As of right now, both of those stats are actually worse than they were last year, which should send more shivers down your spine than noticing that Jamie Patrice Thomas is on your guest list.
On the AP side, meanwhile, the recap focused on the Bobcats’ inability to control the paint or close out close games. The former is also true; the Bobcats surrendered 60 points at the rim to the Magic. As a team, they allow the most attempts at the rim and the 4th-most makes. As for their failure to close out close games, it only seems like that lately. The Bobcats still carry a .750 winning percentage in close games, thanks to their 7-5 start to the season (which will someday be known as the “November Miracle”). And based on their record in close games and a middling strength of schedule, ESPN tells us that their expected record should only be 5-18. So there’s some good news, I guess…Happy Holidays, everyone!
Like Brendan Haywood on a drive to the hoop, I’m slowly making a point, which is that the Bobcats are pretty terrible everywhere, in all facets of the game. This is not subjective, by the way; they have the 3rd-worst efficiency differential so they are statistically inferior in generally any category you want to poke your head in. So in individual discussions of games—even the same game—there’s a grab bag of poop that people can pick and choose from and highlight. As rancid as it was, I was actually somewhat appreciative of the Bobcats’ performance against Orlando, because for once it seemed like they kept an opponent from hitting 15 3-pointers. If the price of that variety was watching Nicola Vucevic (who’s like a white Bismack Biyombo with offense and who really is in his early 20s) go for 13-13, so be it.
The other positive from this game was that coach Dunlap replaced Jeff Taylor with Gerald Henderson. It was definitely time. At the start of the season, Taylor kicked in the door waving his 44 jersey. He shot 44% from the field in November and relegated Henderson to the bench even after his ankle healed. But since November Taylor’s FG% has dropped 10 pointes and his PER has sunk like a urinal cake, going all the way down to 9.5. Henderson, meanwhile, is all the way up to a 16.7 PER, which would be his best season ever. He hasn’t been as effective defensively, but he’s less likely to take a bad shot than he is to comb his hair. So good move, coach; your next trip is to turn around Thomas, Haywood, Mullens, Biyombo, or the federal budget stalemate—whichever looks easiest.
And please do it fast, because the Bobcats are merrily on their yuletide way to topping their 23-game losing streak last year, and this game was probably the last realistic chance in a while to stop it. The Magic were one of our Magnificent 7 last year, and the team is a mishmash of mid-round rookies, journeymen, and veteran minimums. Instead, the Bobcats rarely led and lost meekly. Going back to November 30th, they’ve had two quick away games and have gone 0-9; it’s the worst extended home stand since Atlanta in the Civil War. I’m pushing the panic button.
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