Tonight we get a rare late-season visit from an Eastern Conference team. The Bobcats, Michael Jordan's latest experiment in designer G.M.-ing, have had a mixed season. On the one hand they weren't all that great to begin with, so their 27-45 record isn't exactly lament-worthy. On the other hand they haven't been riding Emeka Okafor and Gerald Wallace all these years, and they didn't add Jason Richardson in a draft-day lottery-pick trade, to carry a .375 winning percentage. The `Cats carry a fair amount of familiar-name talent in their starting lineup between those three and point guard Raymond Felton. The production from that group isn't bad either:
Richardson--21 pts, 5 rebs
Wallace--20 pts, 6 rebs
Felton--14 pts, 7 assts
Okafor--13 pts, 11 rebs
The problem is for most of the year they've needed 100 points to win because outside of Okafor nobody is much better than average defensively on this team and several Bobcats are downright bad. They're 26th in the league in field goal percentage allowed, they don't block shots well, and they don't force any more turnovers than they commit.
The problem the Bobcats pose for us is they're one of those Blitzkrieg athletic teams. All four of their main guys can just ride roughshod over our polite style of basketball. That's exactly what happened when we met in November. Wallace had 27 break-away points, Okafor had 12 rebounds, Felton 10 assists. Basically they did whatever they wanted...mostly ramming their offense down our throats while we stood around trying to remember the words to "These are the Daves I know, I know".
On the other hand the Bobcats can be solved. The easiest way is to take away one or two of the legs to their stool. If you can limit Richardson and Wallace's easy break-aways, keep Okafor off the boards, or convince Raymond Felton that he needs to score all of their points you have the Bobcats over a barrel. Their spare-tire bench does not exactly inspire awe so getting one wheel wobbling goes a long ways towards stopping the car.
The Bobcats are a little like Russian Roulette. Most times you're going to be OK. It's just that one time you catch them wrong that's trouble. They're coming off wins against the L*kers and Sonics so let's hope their mojo has run dry.
What I'd Like To See
- Just get back in transition. This is going to solve 50% of your problems.
- Pick one of their wings to exploit on defense. Try to get him into foul trouble. Make him run around a lot. Then watch him like a hawk on the other end. Get the ball out of his hands, double him, rough him up when he runs past screens.
- Be aware than their team is populated with sub-par percentage shooters and very sub-par foul shooters. You can play around a little bit with your coverage, shading off some of their lesser scorers and just hacking them if they get free inside. Use that advantage to concentrate on the main guys! This team can score 100, but it can also score 75.
- This team will let you get shots if you work for them. You don't need to take the first one available. You don't want to hurry up the game too much. Just play smart, share the ball, and make them play honest defense.
- If Lamarcus has a harder time scoring in this game our wings--starting and bench--need to take up the slack. I'm looking at you Travis, Martell, and Jarrett.
- Beware Earl Boykins.