“The lesson learned here is we can’t come out flat as a tack and give up those kind of points early,” coach Mike Dunlap said last night, following an abominable home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. First of all, Dunlap was clearly referring to the head of a tack, which is flat and spherical, rather than the pin portion, which is sharp and dangerous. Still, this seems like a clumsy use of a metaphor, because it’s that sharp edge that most people envision when they think about tacks. If you ever hear someone scream because they just stepped on a tack, your first thought isn’t, “Oh no, I bet the flatness of that tack was really painful!” In fact, let’s suppose that there were aliens who had no knowledge of our culture but had managed to intercept a single Hot 97 radio transmission of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” in which the phrase, “Aren’t you sharp as a tack?” is used. Those same aliens would be completely confused if they then had also managed to listen in on coach Dunlap’s interview last night. So let’s try to work on that, okay, coach? Try “flat as a 2-liter container of Diet Coke after it’s been left open for a week,” or “flat as a tire after it’s run over the Incredible Hulk’s heroin syringe,” or whatever pops in your head. It’s not that hard.
Anyway, the other embarrassing part of that quote is that this was not the first time the Bobcats have been given the “lesson” of starting out slow. The Bobcats have had this lesson enough to create an online Coursera syllabus. It’s also not clear why one would need a “lesson” about the dangers of letting a team score 62 points in the first half. In a game in which the object is to score more points than one’s opponent, and points are worth the same throughout the game, then limiting one’s opponents points at all times would seem fairly intuitive. In my college engineering courses, we never had a lesson on the importance of not building the Hoover Dam out of Gummi Bears. Okay, sorry, I’m just pissy right now.
About those 62 first-half points…they were surrendered to the league’s 2nd-worst offense (although they do run at a pretty accelerated pace). Among the collateral damage was a combined 37 points on 15-of-29 shooting from Tristan Thompson and CJ Miles. Miles is currently putting up 11 PPG with a PER of 12.8, while Thompson is putting up 9 points a game with a PER of 13.6 (see here for proof, or just trust me—believe me, nobody wishes I were making this up more than me). At one point, color commentator Dell Curry said that Thompson is “much like David Lee.” The only thing Thompson and Lee have in common is that neither has ever been in my kitchen; the Bobcats’ defense is just terrible, and all of this damage came to a team playing without likely All-Star Anderson Varejao.
Cleveland was playing with Kyrie Irving, however, who—appropriately attired in serial-killer mask—went on a bloody 4th quarter spree. After the Bobcats had erased an unsightly 18-point lead, Irving scored 16 of the Cavs’ final 18 points. Perhaps the most pitiful sight of the night was seeing Kemba Walker isolated on Irving; Walker looked so alone I thought he was going to start talking to a pet volleyball. Coach Dunlap wisely sicced Jeff Taylor on Irving for much of the fourth, but it didn’t matter because Irving was fully weaponized. He drained 3’s, he made 10-of-10 free throws, of course he had blow-by speed, and…well, I was about to say he scored from anywhere on the court, but look at this:
This is Irving’s shot chart from last night (courtesy of ESPN.com, O’s are scores, X’s are misses). Anything stick out to you? Perhaps this graphic will help (I apologize if it’s too jargon-y):
Ah well, far be it for me to question the competence of this team’s defensive coaching. I’m sure it’s as sharp as a manhole cover. The other thing to take into account is that the Bobcats were over the foul limit when Irving and the Irvettes got revving in the fourth, which limited Charlotte’s ability to play Kyrie aggressively. In fact, the Bobcats went over the limit with over 7 minutes to play in both the 3rd and 4th quarters. Would it be mean to point out here that Cleveland is currently just 18th in free throw attempts per play? It would? Okay, I won’t mention it then.
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