So far this season there have been two career-best 60+ point games in the NBA and both of those have come against the Charlotte Bobcats. Granted, this is not the Bobcats of yesteryear. In fact, in spite of games like these Bobcats still rank 7th in defensive efficiency and are on track to make the playoffs for the second time in franchise history. This year has been a welcome breath of fresh air in many respects. The Bobcats are no longer an automatic win on the schedule and are making teams work to try and beat them. This is a franchise that has for the past several seasons been defined largely by ineptitude and losing but finally seems to be turning it around, which is what makes these losses sting even worse.
Taking a sample of opinions on Twitter after LeBron’s outburst against the Bobcats on Monday the general sentiment was, “Yeah he scored 61 but it was against the Bobcats.” Even when some pointed out the Bobcats’ defensive rating for the season it was disregarded because Bobcats. Like anything in sports or life, the narrative often takes much longer to change than reality itself. For a team associated with losing like the Bobcats these losses only reinforce this image. People understandably won’t see that the Bobcats kept the game close enough so that LeBron had to stay in or that Al Jefferson had 38 points and 19 rebounds. All that people see is LeBron with 61 and the Bobcats losing.
No team likes to lose, especially professional athletes, and the attitude this season has been far removed from that. However, if the team wants to push past this label it can’t let games like this happen. Losing is one thing, but losing while letting players put up career highs is not going to help reinforce a good image. A good place the Bobcat’s may want to look at is 3-point defense.
Despite the high defensive ranking the Bobcats are 20th in opponent 3-point attempts per game and 26th in opponent field-goal percentage. This is due to the conservative defensive scheme that Clifford has installed this season which has the big men drop back. The personnel doesn’t favor an aggressive style, players like Al Jefferson and Josh McRoberts don’t really possess the athleticism to show and recover quickly enough. The Bobcats’ also don’t have the large wing defenders of other teams that can make contesting outside shots easier. As the Bobcats aim to make the playoffs this is one glaring issue that they will need to address as teams identify their opponents weaknesses and exploit them. The acquisition of Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal will hopefully shore up the poor 3-point shooting on the offensive end, so now it’s time to start fixing the problems on the other end.