Score: 103-89 Atlanta Hawks
Charlotte Bobcats record: 21-20
Offensive Efficiency: 103.5
Defensive Efficiency: 119.8
Meritorious Players: Gerald Wallace – 25 points on 8-12 from the floor, 8-13 from the free throw line, plus 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block – but, also, 3 turnovers. At half-time, Gerald and Marvin Williams had nearly identical stat lines: 12 points, 3 assists, and 4 rebounds for Gerald to 3 for Marvin. It was Steve Martin's and Dell Curry's matchup of the night – too bad Gerald's winning did not carry over.
Ugly game to watch – the Bobcats were a step slow throughout – even before Raymond Felton rolled his ankle and had to sit for the final 3 quarters. For the game, the Bobcats gave up 6 And-1s (the Hawks made all 6 of the freebies – are you paying attention, Cats?) – seemingly pointing to slow, lazy defense – too slow to get in front of a man, too lazy to even foul properly. And there was some of that – Jamal Crawford gets on hot streaks, sure, but hitting 5 of 8 three pointers for him tonight was in large part due to open looks – the Bobcats were trapping in the half-court and that is a consequence. But it was not just the defense that was creating the open looks for the Hawks – it was the offense.
In just 86 possessions, the Bobcats turned the ball over 17 – that is 19.8% of their possessions, one in five for all intents and purposes. But it was not Atlanta creating havoc – they had just 6 steals. This year in the NBA, 53.2% of turnovers are steals – but it was just over 33% tonight for the Bobcats. The turnovers break down like this:
3 bad passes into the stands
2 offensive fouls
2 lost balls out of bounds
1 3-second call
Yes, defense creates turnovers in ways other than steals, but twice tonight the Bobcats dribbled the ball off their heal as they went between their legs (Ronald Murray and Gerald Wallace, if memory serves me correctly).
Back to my point about the Bobcats defense being victimized by their offense: On Atlanta's 6 steals, they scored on 5 of those possessions, with one play being one of their and-ones, so 11 points on those 6 chances. Take those numbers out of the Bobcats defensive numbers, and they start to look better a little better anyway: 92 points on 80 possessions, for an efficiency of 115.0.
Ok – so even if the Bobcats got to play with special rules where the opponent is not allowed to score on steals, they still got lit up. Aside from the easy points the Bobcats gave up by way of And-1s, what else went wrong? Well, they did allow the Hawks to grab a full third of the available offensive rebounds, 12 offensive boards to 24 defensive for the Cats. The Bobcats are still 6th in the league in defensive rebound rate – and the Hawks are 7th in offensive rebound rate. The size and athleticism of their front court was tough for the Bobcats to match: Boris Diaw and Nazr Mohammed are not the athletic equals of Josh Smith and Al Horford, and it showed in their combined 9 offensive rebounds. Those 12 offensive rebounds added up to…exactly 2 points for the Hawks. I just went through the play by play and confirmed it – the Hawks had more turnovers result after offensive rebounds than points, 3 to 2. Weird – I do not even know what to make of that, so I am going to move on.
The Hawks night came down to this: Hot shooting in the first quarter – Atlanta made 11 straight field goal attempts from the 7:45 mark until 54 seconds remained in the quarter. The streak included 5 jumpers and expanded their lead from 10-7 to 31-15. After the Bobcats made their run in the 2nd, the Hawks started getting to the line and taking advantage of their size/strength advantage as Al Horford and Josh Smith finished with 23 and 14 respectively on 17 and 10 field goals attempts. Flip Murray getting the worst of the matchup with his successor did not help things – 14 of his points came in the 4th quarter when the game was kind of already decided but also kind of not. Yes, the Bobcats made a semi-run in the 4th, but they never even got within 10.
Last couple of thoughts and I am done: Boris Diaw had a nice first quarter with 5 assists and 2 offensive rebounds – and then disappeared, finishing with 0 points on 0 of 5 from the floor, with 5 rebounds and those same 5 assists. Last season, Boris seemed to have a little extra edge to him when he played Atlanta and Phoenix – but based on tonight and the other night against Phoenix, he got over it. As for Raymond's injury – the Bobcats will struggle without him – but maybe able to manage. For the year, they are playing just over even without him on the floor, at an efficiency of +0.1 (compared to +3.8 with him on the floor). The Bobcats guard depth should be able to cushion a brief absence, with Ronald Murray, D.J. Augustin, and Stephen Jackson if necessary able to play a few minutes there. D.J. did little with the extra time tonight, 8 points and 0 assists in 23 minutes, but he showed some much last year that his struggles this year have not been enough to make me give up on him. Perhaps a little more responsibility will be what he needs to break out of his funk. But I'd rather Raymond was healthy – he fits in with this team very well, because he does not have to score or distribute as much this season and the slightly lessened role has helped him improve a good deal. And his defense continues to be stellar. I never expected to say this at the start of the season – but that is what Raymond has been able to do this year.
The Bobcats come back home tomorrow night to face the Magic – and then they head on the road for real, with 6 straight outside the comfy confines of Time Warner Cable Arena. Time to see what they are really made of – the recent run has been nice, but staying at or above .500 after this trip will start to convince even the most ardent naysayers.