If you follow the Bobcats fairly closely, you know as well as I that the Bobcats under Paul Silas have struggled in the third quarter lately. This was no more evident than in yesterday’s game where the Bobcats turned a 16 point lead in the third quarter into a two-point deficit. Also impressive, the Bobcats failed to score a single point in about six minutes during the third while the Timberwolves went on a 11-0 run. The quintessential Bobcats collapse was on. How can this happen every game? What is going on with the team in the third quarter? Can anything be done?
So, last night I decided to grab some comfort food, sit down with my Tivo and make my way through the third quarter often watching in slow-motion. Let’s go through the defensive problems first:
- Rebounding – For whatever reason, the Kwame Brown rebounding monster that left the court after the first half did not return after the break. After walloping Kevin Love and all of the Timberwolves on the boards in the first half en route to 12 (!) rebounds, he only grabbed 2 rebounds in the second half. I think that Minny’s centers just came out in the second half with more focus and energy and decided to take control of the glass. Also, our depth at the center is laughably bad, even when they’re all healthy. In the third quarter, the Timberwolves had four offensive rebounds (11 total on the night) while the Bobcats had two (out of 16 total). Whatever it takes, this team needs to come out with more focus on rebounding in the third when teams make their adjustments.
- Allowing too much space and losing track of assignments – These are both “lack of focus” problems. As for the former, too often I saw Beasley given the room to knock down mid-range jump shots. Remember, holding someone to mid-range jumpers is only effective when those shots are well-contested – and against Beasley, who has a fantastic offensive skill set, this might not even be enough. Losing track of one’s defensive assignment didn’t happen as often, but it did occur enough that I had to make note of it. This most notably occurred when Kevin Love set a pick for Jonny Flynn near the end of the quarter. Flynn steered away form the pick and for some reason, both Livingston and Diaw drew to Flynn, leaving Love wide open for a three.
- Study opponents – I understand this isn’t exactly “defense” but there were some major lapses in preparation that came to fruition for the T-Wolves in the third. It’s no secret that Kevin Love has the range to hit from behind the arc, but for some reason the Bobcats let him go 2-3 from deep in the third quarter. Giving Beasley enough space to comfortably get up mid-range jump shots is unacceptable. Whether it’s the players’ faults for not executing or the staff’s for not drilling it in enough, this needs to get fixed. Know your opponent.
Oh God. Now to the problems on offense.
- No one could knock down a shot – It’s that simple. And although simple, this is a serious problem. Against teams that play tough interior defense, the Bobcats will struggle because they are composed mostly of slashers. Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw are great to stretch opposing defenses but when your main two shooters (Augustin and Jackson) are just off or injured, you’re going to have major problems. Luckily for us, Augustin found his shot in the fourth and Tyrus kept us in the game as well. But in the third, with Jackson out, D.J. was finding himself missing on many shot attempts – most of them wide open.
- Poor shot selection – I’ll just talk about some specific points here. From what I saw, D.J. lost confidence in his shot, especially in the third quarter. When Diaw took to posting up in the third, he often drew D.J.’s defender which leaves Augustin nearly wide open. And yet, on one specific occasion I saw D.J. pass up the open three to dribble-drive and pull up 9 feet away for a floater. It was way short. Tyrus Thomas, though excellent on the night, still had his usual problem where he gets the ball along the baseline, gets trapped on a double-team, is forced to pick up his dribble and instead of passing out, he tries a fade-away jump shot that never lands.
But can these problems be corrected?
To a degree, yes. Most of these problems are fairly easy to fix. Force the players to concentrate on boxing out and rebounding. Solve the easy, energy-related problems. As for the inability to make shots, this isn’t as easily fixed. The Bobcats are mainly comprised of slashers and not shooters. And the shooters we do have aren’t extremely talented so when a couple of our best snipers are either injured or are just missing their shots, there is no backup plan. You just have to hope that the Basketball Gods are smiling upon you and that they will bless you with Eduardo Najera treys and Dominic McGuire baseline jumpers. That’s what should really worry us about these recent troubles. It’s a problem that goes far deeper than just gameplan; it’s a problem of roster talent.
- Cardboard Gerald
You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald, @BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.