I feel like a lot of the Bobcats losses occur for similar reasons: The defense performs adequately, but the offense cannot keep up with the game, and the team's poor shooting performance takes them out of games that should be close. The good news is that this is an easily identified (and fixable) flaw that could be solved through offseason acquisitions and the draft. The bad news is that this isn't going to help the Bobcats very much this year.
The 50 first-half points might throw you off, as tonight's game was not a good offensive game for the Bobcats, who finished with a 37.2 field goal percentage, and made only four of 21 attempts from three. Al Jefferson struggled in the first half, scoring only seven points and appearing flustered with the strong defensive play of Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. In the second half, Gerald Henderson struggled following up a productive two-way performance in the first half with a total of zero field goals made after halftime.
It's not as if the offensive inaccuracy was their burden alone, though. While Josh McRoberts shot 5-for-10 and Kemba Walker scored 22 points on 19 field goal attempts (though he missed more shots than he made), the bench had a big problem with scoring. Luke Ridnour again added nothing offensively, shooting 0-for-3 from the floor and generating no assists. Ridnour entered the game shooting 34 percent from the floor and 15.8 percent from three since joining the Bobcats, and considering that shooting is the one skill he still has, he has been no less than a disaster since taking over the backup point guard role from Ramon Sessions. This is normally where Gary Neal hits a couple threes to help the scoring of the second unit, but he shot 0-for-8 from the floor tonight, which speaks for itself.
More lack of productivity from normally effective bench players came from Chris Douglas-Roberts, who made only two of his six shots and struggled on defense against players like Jordan Hamilton and James Harden, who torched the Bobcats with 31 points on 11-for-19 shooting. I can't blame Douglas-Roberts too much for his inability to prevent Harden from scoring, as he would have put up a lot of points no matter who was guarding him, which was evident when you look at the strong defensive play of Henderson tonight. It seemed like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the only player who could frustrate Harden, but MKG was mostly busy on Chandler Parsons, who made only three of his eleven shots.
Because of that, I wouldn't have been disappointed if Kidd-Gilchrist had seen a few more minutes tonight. Even with his offensive limitations, it seems as if the Bobcats are always better with him on the floor than with him off it. Perhaps the reason they have to play their way back into some of these games is because they didn't have Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor enough to hold the other team's offense for very long. An ineffective Douglas-Roberts saw 26 minutes tonight to Kidd-Gilchrist's 24, yet it seems as if the margin could have been smaller had Kidd-Gilchrist picked up a few more minutes.
I'm also curious as to what's happened to Anthony Tolliver. With the Bobcats are in desperate need of outside shooting and playing against a team that provided big matchup issues on defense, this seemed like a game tailor-made for Tolliver, who's played in only two of the last five games (and one of those was garbage time at the end of the blowout victory against the Trailblazers). I figure Steve Clifford knows more than me -- perhaps he's nursing an injury that would limit his effectiveness, who knows -- but I would have liked to see what he could bring to this game, given his level of success with the outside shot this year.
In more positive news, Cody Zeller again played great off the bench, scoring 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting, and grabbing four rebounds, three offensive, in his fourteen minutes. He didn't look fully comfortable on defense at some points, but that might have more to do with him having to shoulder a little more of the load on defense with Bismack Biyombo receiving only six minutes tonight. It was great to see him succeed offensively when the second unit so badly needed it, and this is one of the more optimistic results of tonight's game. The other is that the Bobcats actually played pretty terribly against one of the best six (or so) teams in the league, and yet they were never too far away from tying the game.
(Ed. Except for the end, I guess - Ben)