The Sacramento Kings defeated the Bobcats with ease on Sunday night, and the current saddest streak in sports continues. The Bobcats' 19th consecutive loss was mired with indecisive ball movement, poor lane and isolation defense, and general team confusion. The season's wear-and-tear appeared especially evident, as the Bobcats were fully unable to keep up with the Kings' size and speed in the paint. The game wasn't particularly close from the very beginning, and the deficit only grew with every passing minute and quarter. On a more positive note, Kemba Walker had 11 assists, and the Bobcats lost by less than 30. More thoughts on the game, Walker, and Bismack Biyombo can be found after the jump.
The Kings aren't a particularly good team, but that hasn't stopped the Bobcats from adding losses to bad teams throughout the season. The hard (and now irrefutable) truth is that the Bobcats are a historically bad team. Part of this futility can be attributed to a lockout season that makes adjustment difficult, and another part can be attributed to youth, but the losses largely rest with the pure deficit in talent that the Bobcats struggle against every game. It's hard to say who the Bobcats' best player is definitively (it's likely Gerald Henderson) because no player on the roster is meant to be any NBA team's best player, at least at this juncture in their careers. And so a blowout loss to the struggling Kings feels less disappointing and more routine, even unavoidable.
The best way to escape the monotony of such futility is to focus on something, however small, that stood out in a way that losses no longer do. In this sense, two facets of today's game rise to noticeability: a fine display of passing from Kemba Walker and the difference between Bismack Biyombo's game at power forward and at center.
All anyone can hope to see from a rookie NBA player is growing, gradual glimpses of improvement, and we're beginning to see that Kemba Walker is capable of being an average, if not special, distributor. Walker's 11 assists tonight to only two turnovers were the lone ball movement bright spots in a game filled with stunted offensive flow. He appeared at ease and comfortable, in synchronization with the offense and not outside of it. Scorers like Walker often have a tendency to unbridle the offense through breaks and openings that they seek to exploit individually, but he appeared far more concerned with exploiting these openings for the good of the offense than for himself. It wasn't an efficient scoring night (6-16 FG, 13 points) for Walker and his shot appeared out of rhythm, but he managed to overcome those shooting struggles by creating well for teammates. The Bobcats often struggle to find easy opportunities (on more than one occasion, Biyombo and Byron Mullens were missed when wide open), but Walker set himself apart well, despite the loss.
Bismack Biyombo (4-11 FG, eight points, six rebounds) has shown promise this season, and often acquitted himself as the strong help defender and blocker that many expected him to be. He's also led the Bobcats in rebounding and been passable on offense for stretches. But where Biyombo currently has defensive limitations is in isolation situations. Biyombo's not yet strong enough to keep from being backed down by bigger centers and players, as was the case with DeMarcus Cousins tonight (11-21 FG, 29 points). Biyombo didn't do a terrible job guarding Cousins, and it's an area where he'll likely improve as he gets stronger, but it remains his greatest defensive issue. Because of Biyombo's lack of size compared to many other NBA centers, Coach Paul Silas has attempted to play Biyombo at power forward more often in recent games.
While this makes sense in terms of Biyombo's size, he's often moved away from the basket while guarding power forwards. This can cut down on Biyombo's opportunities to help close to the basket, and often negatively affects his offensive positioning. He simply doesn't have the offensive game to be effective away from the basket, and his opportunities become increasingly limited in these situations. The diverse offensive game of Cousins has troubled players league-wide this season, but the combination of his size and outside positioning was particularly difficult for Biyombo to defeat with any regularity. There are positives and negatives to both playing Biyombo at the power forward and center, but it's my belief that he's currently able to have a bigger impact on the game while at center, where he's able to flourish in help defense and act as the dominant rebounder. Essentially, Biyombo is worse in isolation defense at center and better on offense.
Of course, how Biyombo is able to impact the game will change as he grows and as the Bobcats add players next to him (such as Anthony Davis), but for now, it's a positional question worth pondering.
- Tyrus Thomas (5-6 FG, ten points) played well in limited 12 minutes of time, so that was a nice surprise.
- Gerald Henderson (3-11 FG, nine points, three turnovers) was all over the place on offense tonight, and seemed unsure of what to do with the ball as he dribbled around the perimeter.
- Derrick Brown (5-8 FG, 13 points) had another solid scoring night. It's not easy to say which Bobcats are likely to remain on the team past this season, but Brown's proven himself worthy of consideration as a future role player.
- The Bobcats face the Wizards next game, in what will likely be their last real chance at earning an 8th win and avoiding the worst losing percentage in NBA history. (Their final two opponents are the Magic and the Knicks.)