Let's start with a fun fact.
Prior to tonight, the lineup that closed the game (Walker, Sessions, Gordon, Warrick, and Haywood) had never played together this season.
Let that sink in.
There are reasons for that, you know. First, you have four players with high usage rates, so expect a lot of isolation plays and bad looks. Second, you have three players 6'3" or shorter, so defense will be an adventure and offense perimeter-oriented. Third, you have Hakim Warrick, who is...not good.
From the 6-minute mark in fourth quarter, here's what Hakim Warrick did:
6:02 - missed 2-foot layup (Bobcats down 4)
4:53 - fouled, makes one of two free-throws (Bobcats tied)
1:22 - turns the ball over (Bobcats tied)
1:19 - called for defensive goal-tending (Bobcats down 2)
1:05 - misses a terrible turnaround jumper from 7' (Bobcats down 2)
So yeah, it's safe to say Warrick kept a winnable game out of reach.
In crunch time, the Bobcats are shooting 33.9% this season. Tonight, they shot 28.6% in crunch time. Talk about execution!
I don't want to rant about the Bobcats' reluctance to move the ball again, so I'll keep it short. The Bobcats had 20 assists tonight, one above their season average, which is still good for last in the NBA.
I will say this, however. With about 8:20 left in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats had what I consider to be their best possession this year. At least five passes were made, and there was a ton of off-ball movement. Sure, the possession ended with Warrick taking a terrible jump-hook, and eventually an inadvertent tip-in by the Kings' James Johnson, but it was beautiful to watch. In the halfcourt, the Bobcats should be passing a lot, and with purpose.
Some more positives? Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions were terrific tonight. Walker didn't shoot well, but the shots he took were great looks. Sessions made some terrific passes that teammates couldn't convert, including a gorgeous no-look bounce-pass to a cutting Brendan Haywood. I've noticed that Sessions and Haywood have developed good chemistry as of late. It's quite a treat to see on a team with little to no chemistry. Hopefully, it's contagious.
Bismack Biyombo started over Haywood tonight, and was really, really bad. He played nearly 19 minutes and finished with zero points, three rebounds, a turnover, and four fouls. He's become difficult to watch these days. He used to have stretches where you thought he could be a monstrous defender and finisher. Now, these stretches are rare in comparison to all of his "HEY WHAT ARE YOU DOING NO NO NO COME ON BIZ WHY" plays. Biz is still considerably raw, and it would be foolish to expect any consistency out of him for another few years. Still, his play lately is concerning.
Another unexpected development? Despite playing pretty well and avoiding foul trouble, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist saw less than 18 minutes tonight. I'm not sure why, but Jeff Adrien ate his minutes. Adrien was decent overall, but should not be played over MKG for any reason. Adrien's a stopgap. MKG's the future.
Kidd-Gilchrist is the team's best perimeter defender, best hustle player, best finisher, and he's third on the team in free-throws this season. Let the kid play, Dunlap. He'll make some mistakes, but let him play.
Speaking of free-throws...
The Bobcats uncharacteristically got to the line 38 times against the Kings. However, they only converted 26 of them, or 68.4%. Seriously. The Bobcats could have won this game if they made a few more free-throws. Maybe blaming Warrick isn't right.
Wait, what am I saying? Warrick is not good.
The Bobcats don't have a single big man who is efficient on offense outside of Brendan Haywood. Efficiency aside, Haywood's not a good offensive player. I sincerely hope that when Byron Mullens returns, he develops some semblance of offensive awareness. The Bobcats desperately need a big man who can score well to balance their perimeter-oriented attack.
Too often tonight did the Kings sag five to ten feet from their assignments, baiting them to shoot. Because the Bobcats are by no means a good shooting team, they drove despite being open on the perimeter. And that's the problem with their offense. They take turns isolating because no one can shoot consistently, and no one outside of Ben Gordon will fire up an open three without hesitation.
I'm rambling a bit, I know.
There's little to take from this game. We know Dunlap makes questionable personnel decisions. We know the Bobcats' offense is poop. We know the Bobcats' defense is poop. Even with those problems, the Bobcats had a legitimate chance of winning tonight. And they blew it.
I hope Cho addresses the team's needs before the trade deadline.
On to the next one, guys.