(Courtesy of Jonathan Daniel – Getty Images)
I love any picture of Boozer getting blocked…and I'm a McRoberts fan. - TSP Andrew
Last night, my roommate and I decided to play a ridiculous NBA 2K13 game. We decided to create a team that was only made up of LeBron James, and to make it even more ridiculous, we made every LeBron a 99 overall as well as 7’4’’. We then both played as the same team of mega-LeBrons. The ensuing result was a game that went into 3OT, with neither team getting much of a lead as each team of mega-LeBrons fought to keep the game alive. Even though the Bobcats don’t have LeBron, or 15 of them, I found one similarity between my 2K Franken-team and our Cats: both teams will keep fighting and just not go away quietly.
This is a Bobcats team that’s only 2 seasons removed from the immaculate 7-59 record, and a year ago, they lost to the Bulls at home 75-105. Seriously. The same Bulls team that ended the Heat’s 30-game win streak last year also crushed our team by 30. And that was without Derrick Rose. So getting a shot at Chicago early on in the season was a great way to measure the improvements and changes that this team has made since that terrible game in February 2013.
Thankfully, this Bobcats team is much better than Mike Dunlap’s squad of last year. Losing to a Derrick Rose Chicago team by 5, on the road, is an incredible moral victory. Considering the mold and philosophy that Steve Clifford has chosen to lead this team with, there was no better coach in the league that embodies a very similar style than Tom Thibodeau. Thib’s Bulls excel at the things Clifford wants his team to do: defense, rebounding, and more defense. You have to give credit to Coach Clifford for completely changing the mindset of this team, and for getting the most out of his players every night (so far).
This game was a great defensive battle between two like-minded coaches, and it’s great that the Cats can hold a player of Derrick Rose’s caliber to 12 points on 4-13 shooting. The Cats also forced 16 turnovers, thanks in part to their much improved transition defense. When you have athletic and stout wings like Jeff Taylor and MKG, you can make it very difficult for a team to run a comfortable offense. Throw in a very quick and very savvy Kemba Walker, and you’ve got a backcourt full of hard-working, defensive go-getters. These three alone are good for their fair share of steals and fast-breaks every night.
Our frontcourt, however, is a completely different story. While most people knew coming into the season that a rotating frontcourt of Biz, McRoberts, Al Jefferson (whom sat out to rest his ankle, again—giving me some very mixed feelings about his impact on this team, but I’ll save that for a later date and post), and Cody Zeller, would have more than its fair share of defensive woes. Chicago fully exploited that. Carlos Boozer finished with a double-double; 12 points and 17 rebounds. 17. That’s more than our entire “starting” frontcourt of McRoberts (6), Biz (4), and Zeller (6) combined. If there was a way to keep Chicago off the boards, it wasn’t coming from our bigs at all. While I do love the improvements Biz has made over the summer by doing more in a lesser role, there are going to be some nights where a skilled big-man (or multiple) is going to have his way with Biz. He still has a lot to learn defensively until he becomes a true basket-protector. His weak-side help is great, and his instincts are very good. But when it comes to straight 1-on-1, he has a ways to go.
Overall, this was a great defensive game, and the Cats just weren’t giving up. Jeff Taylor became the sparkplug for this team, as he picked up the scoring load (20 points off 9-18 shooting) to help Gerald Henderson (16 points off 5-15 shooting) lead the team. The Bulls were able to contain Kemba and MKG, and their rebounding advantage was too much for our Cats to handle.