“There are no limitations on this team,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said, perhaps overstating his team’s abilities just a smidge. “They’re all committed and everybody hangs on to the rope.” The Bobcats, meanwhile, are hanging from a rope, having lost 8 in a row, most of them at home, most of them more convincingly than Daniel Day-Lewis as Abe Lincoln. Not even Michael Jordan’s presence on the bench could motivate the team last night; his advice might as well have been wearing cargo pants in a country club.
Stephen Curry owned the night, percolating up a 27-7-7. Curry was clearly motivated to play back in his home town and said that the best part was looking into the crowd and seeing his former coach Bob McKillop waving at him. That seems like an odd way to rank-order it when his father, wife, and newborn daughter were also right there in the front row, but perhaps Curry was dizzy from dribbling more circles around the Bobcats than aliens in a crop field. Curry was abetted by David Lee, perhaps the most maligned 18-and-11 guy ever, who seemingly couldn’t miss, as he went 10-of-14 and 4-4 from the foul line.
The Bobcats, on the other hand, very much could miss and did so often. They shot 37% from the field, including 8 air balls. One of those beauties included a hook shot from Brendan Haywood that could have powered a small wind turbine. I’m pretty sure it’s what caused coach Dunlap to yank Haywood after only 3 minutes of PT, which gave us the memorable combo of Gana Diop and Bismack Biyombo playing extended minutes together in the second quarter. With no Byron Mullens out there, this dynamic frontcourt duo had the firepower of a Bic lighter, and the Bobcats were soon down 21 well before halftime. Asked about his team’s inability to score afterward, coach Dunlap explained, “As you lose, the value of a shot sometimes appears to be ten, instead of two.” I’m actually not really sure what that statement even means. Did he mean something along the lines of, “the hoop gets smaller and smaller when you’re going through a slump”? It seems like there were several more serviceable clichés Dunlap could have used in that situation, but with all the losing maybe their value appeared to him to be 10 instead of 2.
Anyway, getting back to the traditional 2- and 3-point basketball scoring system, the Bobcats are failing on both sides of the ball. They have the 3rd worst efficiency differential in the league (26th offensive, 27th defensive). We all know what’s killing them on defense—their terrible defensive rebound rate gives opponents more opportunities to score than Channing Tatum on Bourbon Street—but aren’t they much better on offense?
No. I mean, yes. I mean, no they aren’t much better, and yes they are bad. (All stats that follow come courtesy of my boyfriends at hoopdata.com) In two key areas, the Bobcats are actually doing very, very well: they have the 5th best free-throw rate in the league, and (last night’s 18 lost fumbles aside) they have the 7th best turnover rate—Rick Bonnell harps on their raw turnover numbers, but he’s not accounting for the team’s 5th fastest pace in the league. But after that they’re a statistical shitstorm. Charlotte is 27th in assist rate and 26th in TS%. 3-pointers aren’t really affecting the Cats one way or the other, because they take and make an average amount of them. What’s killing our heroes is their inability to finish down low: they have the 5th most attempts at the rim but they’re 28th at hitting those shots. And that falls squarely on the shoulders of Sessions, Walker, and Gilchrist. As much as we love all three of them they need to be much more efficient at the rim—especially Walker and Sessions, who are only hitting about 50%. Either that or they need to pass out better, hence the terrible assist rate. To a lesser extent, they also need more from Haywood, Biyombo, and—as long as we keep waddling him out there—Diop down low. Each of them only averages about 2 attempts at the rim per game, while dudes like Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez get upwards of 6 and 7 attempts.
At LEAST they’ve stopped with the dreaded long-range 2-pointers. Last year we led the league in attempts from 16-23 feet; this year we’re a much saner 13th. Credit that to Corey Maggette’s departure and Tyrus Thomas’s defective calves. But things need to improve around the rim, and coach Dunlap is going to need to push more buttons than a fat kid at a soft serve until he finds something that works.
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