Recap: Bobcats lose to Mavericks, 126-99

Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE

The Charlotte Bobcats lost in an unimpressive effort against the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night. Still, there were some positives and things to be learned about the type of coach Mike Dunlap is.

If I told you only one Bobcat had a positive plus/minus rating tonight, who would you think it was?

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Okay, smart-pants. You're right, it was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (+7).

From the moment this game started, it felt out of reach. Any time the Bobcats got close, you knew it wouldn't last. Even when the Bobcats led (!!!), you knew it wouldn't last. It didn't feel like the Bobcats had a shot at winning at any point in the game.

Where do we begin?

When Mike Dunlap announced that he had chosen his starters based on their statistical defensive ability, I knew he was either a genius or a lunatic. Regardless, it was a breath of fresh air that starkly contrasted Paul Silas' "because I feel like it" mentality. Against the Pacers, Dunlap's decision looked great. The Bobcats were forcing turnovers, getting in transition, and forcing the issue. Against the Mavericks, however, a little bit of lunacy in Mike Dunlap became apparent.

The Bobcats, by my rough and not-to-be-taken-as-an-official-percentage estimate, played zone about 60% of the time in the first half. The best defensive teams might show zone five percent of the time, if that. Zone doesn't work in the NBA the same way it does in college. Why? Because in the NBA, everyone can shoot. Everyone. Playing zone in the NBA has little value unless played against specific line-ups or to throw an opponent off for a possession or two. You will get lit up otherwise.

And that's pretty much what happened.

Nearly a third of the Mavericks' field-goal attempts were three-pointers, and they converted them at a blistering rate 64%. Even stranger is that the Mavericks shot worse from two, but at an equally impressive rate 60%!

Zone can be played very effectively in the NBA, but players must understand how crucial their reaction time is for it to work at all. Allowing O.J. Mayo (a good shooter, to be fair) to shoot 7-of-10 from deep is as much Dunlap's fault for playing zone as it is the players' for not recognizing and addressing the issue.

The zone wasn't all bad, though. It did allow the Bobcats to force 22 turnovers, which is a great number...but they led to a measly 12 fastbreak points. This team is designed to run. The first thing Dunlap spoke about when he got a look at the Bobcats was the team's conditioning. It needed to improve, because he wanted them to run.

Unfortunately, the Bobcats were seldom able to convert on the break. There were some fluke misses, like a 35-year-old Vince Carter swatting what looked like an easy layup from Kemba Walker into the second row. Overall, the Bobcats look disorganized in transition. They don't run any lanes; they all run directly toward the basket. This leads to a tough shot for the player with the ball or a sloppy pass. It's hard to distinguish if this is a player issue or a problem with Dunlap's philosophy, but it has to be fixed.

In the halfcourt, the Bobcats shot a cool 42%. When I saw this number after the game, I was surprised. It felt a lot worse. Thankfully, Ramon Sessions (8-for-13 for 22 points) was able to create offense when the team struggled. He's something the Bobcats didn't really have last year: a player capable of creating his own shot consistently and efficiently. I expect Walker to do this within the next year or two (like he did against Indiana), but for now, Sessions' presence is extremely valuable.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...

The Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Review!

MKG had a terrific all-around game, and continues to stuff the stat sheet. His jumper looked its normal wonky, although he did hit a nice one in rhythm in the third. He had three dunks, including an and-1 that I'm surprised he even got above the rim for. Five steals...five rebounds...a block...what can't this kid do?

But one thing really stood out for me tonight: his aggressiveness on offense. Sure, 13 points may not seem like a lot, but if you look at how he got them, it's quite impressive. Six points were dunks, two came from a jump-shot, and the remaining five? The free-throw line. Until he becomes a respectable shooter, Kidd-Gilchrist will need to get to the line to score more than 10-15 points per game. Tonight indicated that he's willing to draw contact, often blindly, and trust the referees to make a call. This is a skill very few players come into the league with, and one I'm extremely excited to see Kidd-Gilchrist already has.

All in all, a very solid game from MKG.

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