The Bobcats had as good a chance to get a win tonight as any night really. Sure, the Boston Celtics were in town but they were without lineup stalwarts and franchise stars Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce. But they still had one more star left to go and he turned out to be enough. Rajon Rondo lead a short-handed Celtics club to a 94-82 victory over the host Bobcats. The loss was Charlotte’s 16th straight.
Charlotte does not match up well against most of the teams in the league as evidenced by its 7-51 record entering tonight’s game. The Bobcats are not as talented as pretty much any team they face and therefore are often at a considerable disadvantage before the ball even goes in the air. This is not to say the Bobcats can’t, and even don’t, win games but rather when this does happen it comes against a team that is typically relatively close to the same skill level.
Normally that would not be the case when facing a team like the Celtics but without three of its biggest cogs Charlotte was essentially matching up against Boston’s second team. But, on a team as well coached and experienced as Boston, even those players who do not start have confidence and have often been in big games before. Throw in a floor general like Rondo and that gap in skill level once again becomes apparent.
Rondo makes everything so much easier for his teammates; he carved up the Charlotte interior defense to the tune of 16 assists (if his 20 points weren't enough for you). Many of those assists came on back door cuts when Charlotte defenders forgot the "man" part of seeing man and ball at all times.
Head coach Paul Silas spoke after the game that seeing your man on defense was something his team has been working on but just didn’t do it very well tonight. It wasn’t only the big men from Boston benefitting from easy baskets in the lane, no Rondo seemed to find just about every Celtic position at least once for an easy dunk or layup.
Boston tallied 50 points in the paint to Charlotte’s 34.
Silas agreed the game plan going into tonight’s game against Boston on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back was to run and put pressure on the remaining players. For their efforts the Bobcats had a grand total of 10 fast break points, Boston had 12.
It wasn’t as if the Bobcats weren’t trying to run as much as it looked as if EVERY Bobcat was trying to run. Breaks lead by Tyrus Thomas and Derrick Brown never materialized into any points, and the other options weren’t much better. (I'm not sure what Thomas is to this team right now. No one could have predicted this drastic off a drop off in his play. For the sake of all involved you would hope he can get back whatever it is he's missing from a few years ago. You can see his frustration and it's hard to think any one Bobcat has had a tougher season.) Even when Charlotte got to the rim Boston backup big man Greg Stiemsma was less than accommodating blocking six shots to go along with eight points.
Gerald Henderson played pretty well, leading the way for Charlotte with 22 points but needing 19 shots to get them. Silas mentioned he’s basically Charlotte’s only post up option, and that forces Charlotte to play a very perimeter oriented game. The rest of Charlotte’s perimeter play was not great. Rondo completely overshadowed both D.J. Augustin and Kemba Walker, the two only managed 10 points and 13 assists combined.
Boston destroyed pretty much every Bobcat on the pick and roll tonight.
The bright spot continues to be Brown who played another nice game scoring 15 points to go along with seven boards. He and D.J. White (13 points) were the only Bobcats to join Henderson in double figures. Bismack Biyombo (nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks) had a rough night holding the ball. This is nothing new really, but tonight was particularly frustrating for him. He still doesn’t look completely comfortable getting into scoring position, but an off-season of work should help immensely.
Byron Mullens (six points and three rebounds) came off the bench tonight. If weak side blocks added up to a solid defensive player Mullens would be fine, but they don’t. Mullens’ gift is on the offensive end but fans can hope that maybe an off-season working on defensive principles will help this young big man too. If he can be more reliable on defense it will certainly give the coaching staff more confidence to have him on the floor.
Brandon Bass is good, and he played very well for Boston as did Avery Bradley (22 points each). Those guys get confidence from playing on a good team, with a great point guard. So it shouldn’t be a shock that Charlotte lost to a short-handed Boston team tonight. Silas sounds almost resigned to the fact that his guys are trying hard; they just don’t have enough to beat solid teams with legit NBA players. And he’s probably right. The Bobcats played fine. But to beat even a team without three of its best players they still need to play one of their better games, and the Bobcats simply didn’t.