The Charlotte Bobcats' game against the San Antonio Spurs felt a lot like last year's games, and was reminiscent of the their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder just two weeks prior. Thankfully, it wasn't nearly as bad. Reminiscent, though.
Rita Mae Brown once wrote, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
If that quote reminds you of the Bobcats, you're not alone.
If you pay close enough attention to games, you'll notice that Mike Dunlap has a tendency to play zone when it isn't necessary and often when it's not a good idea. Tonight, for example, Dunlap had his team playing zone six minutes into the game. Before the Bobcats started playing zone, the Spurs were 4-10 from the field. On the Spurs' first possession against the zone, Danny Green hit a wide-open three. On their second possession against the zone, Tony Parker hit a wide-open three. On their third possession against the zone, Parker hit a wide-open 20-foot jump shot.
The Bobcats played zone for nearly half of the first quarter and sporadically throughout the game.
The Bobcats played zone against one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league.
The Bobcats played zone against a team that just so happens to lead the league in total assists per game.
The Bobcats played zone against the Spurs, and the Spurs set a new franchise record for most three-pointers made in a game and tallied THIRTY-EIGHT assists.
I'd like to ask a question.
The Spurs finished the game shooting 55.9% from three and 55.3% from two. They thrive against opponents that rely heavily on help defense. The Bobcats, under Mike Dunlap, rely very heavily on help defense.
So why did they play zone? Anyone know? I don't.
Dunlap is a great defensive mind and holds his players accountable for their mistakes. I've always respected him for those things, but it's become difficult for me to continue to respect a man that might be insane. I like Dunlap. There aren't many coaches like him in the league. Both his offense and defense would do extremely well in the NCAA because they're just that — a college offense and defense.
The Bobcats play a ton of zone compared to most teams. Great against college offenses, usually terrible against NBA offenses. We've been through this before. But let's talk a bit about their offense.
The Bobcats offense was originally designed to play against a zone defense. It is based on passing around the three-point line to find the open man and shift the defense. That would be great and all...if NBA teams played zone. Kemba Walker will pass the ball to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who will pass it to Jeffrey Taylor, who will pass it to Byron Mullens, who will pass it back to Taylor, who will pass it back to Kidd-Gilchrist, and so on and so on. Eventually, one of these players will think the defense has shifted enough to allow them to get to the basket. Sure, that player might have a window to the basket, but that player will not get to the basket because it's easy for man-to-man defenses to rotate a big to stop the drive.
And when your team isn't filled with great passers, this leads to blocked shot attempts and turnovers.
The Bobcats lead the league in blocked shot attempts at 8.5 per game, if you didn't know. They're also fourth-last in field-goal percentage at 42.2%. The Spurs, a team with no real shot-blockers, blocked five shots tonight. For reference, the Milwaukee Bucks lead the league in blocks per game with 7.7, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are last in blocks per game with 2.7.
In terms of shooting the ball, the Bobcats didn't fare too badly. They shot a respectable 46.8% from the field, and 40% from three. By their standards, both of these percentages are terrific. Sure, Byron Mullens attempted his season average of five threes (five too many, if you ask me) and made only one, and Ramon Sessions was a lacklustre 4-12 from the field, but overall, the Bobcats shot the ball pretty well.
So why did they lose by 30 points? Defense.
How does a team lose a game in which three of its four leading scorers shoot 51.6% from the field? Defense.
I can't put all of the blame on Dunlap for this game. It's undeniable that his defensive schemes are not ideal for an NBA team, but the players deserve a lot of the blame as well.
At the same time, I have to give them credit. They limited the Spurs to 4-10 shooting before Dunlap called for the zone. Kemba Walker played brilliantly (23 points, 9-18 from the field, 2-3 from three, one turnover in 31 minutes). So did Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (8 points, 4-7 from the field, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks).
It's just so sad to see these great performances go to waste.
Something needs to change. Dunlap (believe it or not) made the correct decision in starting Diop at center tonight. The Bobcats' defense (again, believe it or not) is best with Diop in the line-up, and this is evident in the ever unreliable +/- stat, which Diop led the team in tonight (-1). But Diop only played nine minutes. Why?
You can't expect to win games if you stick to the same losing formula. There's no doubt that the Bobcats' hot start to the season was a fluke, but they're nowhere near as bad as they've shown over the last two weeks. This team isn't a contender. It's not a playoff team either. But they're not terrible. They shouldn't be losing games like this. This isn't the 2011-2012 season.
I'm going to forget this game, and I suggest you do too. The Spurs are a great team. They have the second best record in the league. However, the Bobcats should not be losing to any team, even the Spurs, by 30 points.
I've said it a million times: this season is about growth and change. The Bobcats have remained stagnant and stubborn. Let's hope they find solutions to their problems.
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