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Bobcats drop close game to Nets, lose 104-99

In a game that was back-and-forth for most of the fourth quarter, the Bobcats had some unsuccessful offensive possessions late and the Nets came away with a close home win.

The Bobcats and Nets split the first two games they played this year with the home team winning each contest. Tonight's game did not change that pattern. The Bobcats kept the game close for much of the night, but found their offense lacking down the stretch while the Nets, despite good defense from the Bobcats, were able to hit their shots anyway.

I had my causes for pessimism during this game, as I was hoping the Bobcats could gain on the Nets in the standings in hopes of avoiding the Heat or Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, but all in all, this game was much more a positive than a negative for the Bobcats. I'll get to the negatives, but first I want to point out what led me to continue my optimism for this team.

  • Bench Offense: To say the least, I am often worried about the Bobcats' bench units, especially in terms of scoring, as Gary Neal is often the only player in the second unit who can be relied on to create his own shot. Tonight, the Bobcats' bench scored 46 points, nearly equalling the starters' efforts in considerably less playing time. They were pretty efficient too, with both Neal and Chris Douglas-Roberts making five of nine field goal attempts, and both shooting 3-6 from three. Cody Zeller chipped in a 5-9 shooting line too, and though he still took one bad shot from about half a foot inside the 3-point line, seven of his attempts were in the paint and the other shot outside the lane was a baseline jumper that he knocked down. Overall, the Nets have a pretty good bench unit, and I had my concerns about this particular matchup before the game, but the Bobcats fairly handily won the bench game tonight.
  • Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo: Although I'm not sure how well these two complement each other as a frontcourt, I do want to single them out. I've noted Zeller's improvement several times throughout the last few months, and I'm not sure I can understate it right now, as I think he'll end up being one of the best players from the 2013 Draft. Tonight, in addition to his scoring, he pulled down four offensive rebounds due to high-motor play (maybe he's learning from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who I've often credited for playing a similar style), and played fairly strong defense with his two blocks. Biyombo, on the other hand, is not going to stand out offensively. However, he grabbed six rebounds in 11 minutes and played terrific defense. His impact comes almost entirely from his ability to prevent other guys from scoring, and he does that very well.
  • Ball Movement: While the Bobcats' perimeter play was weak for large portions of the game (most easily seen in Kemba Walker's 2-8 shooting line), their ball movement was once again an area where the Bobcats found a lot of success. Walker finished with seven assists, Josh McRoberts with six, and Douglas-Roberts, Al Jefferson, and Gerald Henderson each finished with three. The Bobcats finished with 27 assists on the night, a number that any team would be happy with.

Despite this, though, this game was still a loss, and there were a few glaring issues. One was the Bobcats' perimeter shooting. Walker and Henderson combined to shoot 8-21, and Luke Ridnour continues to make me miss Ramon Sessions more and more as not only does his shot look inconsistent, but he doesn't offer much in the way of defense either. The Bobcats only attempted 12 free throws on the night, probably because their offense wasn't particularly aggressive with drives or cuts to the basket. In contrast, the Nets got to the line 35 times. There are things the Bobcats will need to work on to maximize their success for the rest of the season, but a close loss to the Nets in Brooklyn is not the end of the world -- even if it is a minor setback in the standings.