Outside of having elite talent, execution is probably the top thing that separates good teams from the bad ones. Of course, great talent will have an eye for detail and polished execution, which further separates the top teams from merely good teams, but that's something we'll come across another day. For right now, the Bobcats cemented the gap between them and the Pistons in a mildly competitive 18-point victory by executing their gameplan on both sides of the ball much better than Detroit.
Charlotte once again seemed to have found a groove on offense to start the game with an early 8-2 and later 18-9 lead. The Bobcats were not without mistakes, but the Pistons seemed happy to make more. Al Jefferson switched things up a bit and kickstarted his offense strictly from the midrange with a few jump shots over Andre Drummond. Cody Zeller even got revenge on Greg Monroe with a block and added in a few buckets and strong plays to boot.
But mostly the Bobcats found success due to terrific ball movement stemming from recognizing Detroit's defensive holes that resulted from poor rotations. This, below, however was just a stupendous pass from McRoberts. Henderson has just curled around Jefferson's screen and cuts towards the hoop when McRoberts somehow swings the pass around Monroe's left leg to find Henderson for the layup.
Josh McRoberts and Kemba Walker probed the perimeter defense and found that the Pistons did not particularly care for closing out on jump shooters and took advantage.
The Bobcats maintained a slight lead throughout the second quarter, though the offense stalled a bit. Detroit's bench backcourt -- Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum, specifically -- scored well. Kemba Walker, who had a dynamite passing game, played all but about four minutes of the first half, including a lot of time in the two-guard set with Ramon Sessions. Charlotte went into the break up 53-47.
And then they came out of the break with a 17-3 run. Al Jefferson went to work with his back to the basket and got a bucket in the post to start the quarter and followed with a jump shot. On the next possession he drew multiple defenders towards the basket before kicking out to Walker for a three. The Bobcats' offense once again deftly moved the ball around the floor to get everyone involved as their defense gave Detroit fits.
The fourth quarter was mostly just a matter of waiting for the buzzer, the way Charlotte was playing on offense and defense and, conversely, the way Detroit was. The Motor City's finest couldn't string together enough quality defense and offense to build a solid run to pull themselves into the Bobcats' rearview mirror and eventually garbage time ensued (yay Pargo!).
Two days ago, the Bobcats held a slim 1/2 game lead in the standings over the Pistons. In back-to-back games, the Bobcats have handled Detroit fairly easily to extend this to a 2.5 game lead.
To say Charlotte worked the Pistons "easily" is not an exaggeration. Sure, Detroit brought their deficit within spitting distance on an occasion or two, but nothing that put the Bobcats' lead or momentum in significant peril of being overcome.
In essence, the Bobcats illuminated how very flawed the Pistons are in construction and simply in how well they play.
No, Charlotte did not perfectly rain fireballs down upon Detroit. But a combination of their disciplined defense and the Pistons' lack of discipline gave them plenty of room with which to work and swallow their own minor mistakes.
The Pistons' perimeter defense is probably just that bad, but the Bobcats' manner of moving the ball from side-to-side, as well as inside and out made them difficult to defend. Al Jefferson is the rock they can just about always go to these days, but when they can push the pill around, their offense clicks all the more.
And defensively, the Bobcats did very well clogging the paint, closing out on jump shots, rotating and letting the Pistons fight for bad shots. Bismack Biyombo swatted five shots and the team racked up 11 total.
On the opposite side of things, Detroit did not execute well whatsoever. Their offensive spacing is a daggone mess, as you can see in a particularly egregious example below in which Greg Monroe makes the heady decision to drive towards the middle of the paint where all five Bobcats are thanks to three of his teammates cutting to the hoop simultaneously.
Everyone is trying to cut at once or try to crash the boards when mostly it's just helping opponents challenge interior and midrange shots. Their transition offense at times does not fill the lanes correctly, leading to tough shots. Greg Monroe's pick and roll defense is slower than tectonic plates and he often is extremely poorly positioned. And oh lord, Josh Smith, your three-pointers aren't helping them.
Fueled by Jefferson's 29 points and Kemba's 24 points and career-best 16 assists, Charlotte closely executed a solid game plan and put more ground between them and the Pistons in the playoff race.