(Photo Courtesy of Chuck Burton – AP)
If three of your “core” players go 11-42 from the field on any given night, your team probably had a very rough night. That’s exactly what happened to the Bobcats. Al Jefferson (4-10 FG, 10 points, 11 rebounds), Gerald Henderson (3-14 FG, 12 points), and Kemba Walker (4-18 FG, 10 points, 5 turnovers) all combined to the terrible collective shooting, establishing a very sloppy foundation with which the Magic could walk out of Charlotte with a victory, and In short, that’s a very useful microcosm for this game. Sloppiness.
The first half was very slow, as nobody was really able to score. The Cats were able to keep very small leads throughout, but a Glen Davis corner 3, buzzer-beater (you read that correctly) gave the Magic a 43-42 lead at halftime. The shot gave the Magic enough confidence to establish a playing style in the second half, as they were able to drive the lane very well. A 6-0 run to start the second half seemed like a huge momentum changer, but the Cats were able to tie the game up at 51 midway through the third.
From there, the rest of the game was honestly quite dreadful for the Cats. Tons of missed shots, poor rebounding, and passive defense were all prevalent in the fourth, and once the Magic took a 79-73 lead with 5 minutes left, the game was all but over.
It’s a shame that the Cats gave this game away. The Magic were on a pretty bad 6-game losing streak, and Victor Oladipo is still struggling to learn how to play PG, so this game should have been a very easy win for the Cats at home. A large part of the Cats early success this season has been their tenacity on defense—not allowing opponents to get many transition opportunities. However, there wasn’t much defense being played tonight. While they forced 15 Magic turnovers, the Cats were out rebounded 52-41, giving Orlando plenty of second-chance opportunities.
The only silver lining that you can take away from this one is the progression in Cody Zeller’s game. All too often, he looks more like a deer in headlights than he does an NBA player. Tonight, he went 5-7 from the field for 10 points, all in 15 minutes of action. Throw in a block and a steal, and you’ve got a very productive 15 minutes from a rookie. It’d be great to see Zeller play like this more consistently, as his offensive skill-set would be a great addition to this team. He can become a reliable scorer, but he just doesn’t seem to have the ever-glowing confidence to become one just yet. While I assume that over time, it will come, it’s frustrating to watch him be hesitant on the court so frequently. I think that by the all-star break, we can expect Cody to finish in double-figures on most nights, but that’s still a ways away.
All in all, it was a sloppy night for the Bobcats. Even for the worst shooting team in the league, going 37% from the field is a formula for disaster. The team still struggles to gain any type of spacing advantage due to their awful 3pt shooting, and mid-range shots are about all our offense consists of at the moment. On an off night like this, all you can do is hope the other team messes up. And if you’re Orlando, that’s exactly what happened.
The Cats now fall to 10-12 on the season, which is good for 5th place in a very, very ugly eastern conference. It will be interesting to see just how the conference plays out, considering there are only 3 teams at/above .500.