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March 05, 2014

Charlotte Bobcats' Steve Clifford: LeBron's 61 wasn't MKG's and Tolliver's fault

Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford stuck up for his small forwards Wednesday morning, saying any criticism Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Tolliver are taking, based on LeBron James’ 61-point game, is unjustified.

            Clifford said at shootaround that MKG and Tolliver did precisely what was asked of them: Defend against James’s drives and passes first. But James had an incredible night from 3-point range (8-of-10) that couldn’t be anticipated or stopped.

“Consider the greatness of the player and the sequence of what happened,” Clifford said of James’ 22-of-33 shooting night. “He was in the pick-and-roll most of the time, which is where most of his baskets happened. As the ball was released, if you stopped (the video) and said, ‘Can we live with that shot?’ you’d realize MKG and Tolliver did a good job.

“If there’s somebody who could be blamed for that, then blame me. We did change our coverages somewhat (as the game transpired). You could have flat-out doubled him, but then they would have scored 150. (Kidd-Gilchrist and Tolliver) taking heat for that? No. That’s a coaching decision.”

Clifford has coached extensively against league MVP James from his days as an Orlando Magic assistant, including a playoff series. It’s always been Clifford’s view that James wants to be double-teamed because he’s so adept at finding open teammates.

“There are many aspects to his greatness,” Clifford said. “The first thing is his ability to get to the basket and finish. I believe, and you can look this up, something like 53 to 54 percent of his makes are at the rim. Going into our game he was 69 percent (shooting at the rim). That’s a thing not many other guys – maybe nobody else – can do; scoring that many of his points at the basket at that percentage. And that doesn’t count how many times he gets fouled.

“The second part is they have 3-point shooting all around him and their corner-3 shooting is through the roof. Because of his incredible passing ability, every time he comes off the pick-and-roll and you commit two guys, he looks first at the roll man for the dunk or then he hits the weak-side corner – which is the biggest part of their 3-point shooting.”

            Clifford added that for the season, James was shooting 34 percent from above the break (essentially the key area), so his 8-of-10 night from 3-point range couldn’t reasonably be expected.

“He’s a phenomenal player who had a phenomenal night,” Clifford concluded. “I just don’t want people saying it was the players’ fault. They actually did a good job.”

Posted by Observer Sports on March 5, 2014 at 12:35 PM | Permalink


This could only happen against the Bobcats. Smh

Posted by: Smitty | Mar 5, 2014 1:10:27 PM

i thought coach cliff was a defensive specialist?

but then again, the dude was hitting everything....Hornets are headed in the right direction.

Posted by: tony clifton | Mar 5, 2014 1:13:59 PM

I like Clifford. Way to get your players backs. This team is doing great, but 4 games in a row against the top 4 teams in the NBA is just nuts! Hopefully they come out of this stretch and string some wins together. Personally, I think they've played as well as could be expected...probably let one slip away at San Antonio.

Posted by: DaveT | Mar 5, 2014 1:38:03 PM

Coach needs to tell this to ESPN. According to them, it was just a case of playing the lowly Bobcats.

Posted by: eduardo | Mar 5, 2014 2:07:50 PM

When your SF's consists of a guy who can't shoot (MKG) and a guy who can't defend(Tolliver), you are handicapping the team at one end of the floor one way or another.

Posted by: Smitty | Mar 5, 2014 2:14:10 PM

MKG - best.draft.pick.ever

Posted by: Robert | Mar 5, 2014 2:26:04 PM

no mention what so ever of jefferson's lack of stepping out on the PnR.

anybody that watched the game saw MKG doing a bang up job, but getting screened on EVERY single basket by either bosh, oden, or anderson. they went RIGHT at jefferson and he did NOTHING to help his team defensively.

and nobody complains because he was near flawless offensively.

tolliver did his job too. they weren't getting burned one on one all night. dude was making OPEN shots. he was open because of the screens jefferson's man was setting all night.

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 5, 2014 2:57:45 PM

MKG needs a post game. He can develop one like Henderson did. Hell, they have Patrick Ewing coaching them.

Posted by: Pradigy Musicman | Mar 5, 2014 3:21:22 PM

There have been two 60+ point games in the NBA this year, both against the Boobs -- coincidence?

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Mar 5, 2014 3:26:59 PM

Gee, maybe we should've had Biyombo in there. LeBron would only have dropped 55 and the Cats would've scored 70.

Posted by: apauldds | Mar 5, 2014 4:01:08 PM

Clifford using stats to try to justify the Bobcats defense on LeBron don't make sense. It is simply. LeBron got hot and means you can't go by previous stats. You need so double team him and make him pass every time. Clifford did the same thing when Carmelo burned them. It was horrible coaching by Clifford.

Posted by: Jon | Mar 5, 2014 7:38:37 PM

MKG starts, but Tolliver gets the most minutes at small forward. I believe that if MKG wasn't picked 2nd in the draft, he would be in the NBDL.

Posted by: Jon | Mar 5, 2014 9:39:04 PM

I believe we took it to 'em tonight, gentlemen.

Posted by: Downtown Sports | Mar 5, 2014 10:08:06 PM

Signature win for this team. Cody looked liked he has some serious potential tonight.

Posted by: Mike T | Mar 5, 2014 10:21:05 PM

Al Jefferson may not be a great defender, BUT HE CAN SCORE POINTS!! Look at Roy Hibbert who made the all-star team. 10-15 years ago, Hibbert who is so slow would be a 3rd string backup. Jefferson abused him!! Cody is show his potential. Charlotte is competing every night and there is a thin line in the Eastern Conference between the
Heat/Pacers and the Bobcats.

Posted by: Jon | Mar 5, 2014 11:30:07 PM

"...and there is a thin line in the Eastern Conference between the
Heat/Pacers and the Bobcats."

Yeah, right, hit that pipe again.

Having said that...Steve Clifford needs to stand up and take a bow -- he knows how to prepare a team, night in and night out.

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Mar 6, 2014 1:38:05 AM

Well...they did just destroy one of their potential first round playoff opponents. Not bad.

Posted by: Dan | Mar 6, 2014 6:30:38 AM

Lol. This is a joke . Clifford defends Mkg and Tolliver but says nothing about who should have stepped up when screened . It was Jefferson bc it was his man screening . Look at tape . He played back as usual . One reason Utah didnt want him back was bc he was a terrible pick and roll defender . He's lazy w stone feet . He doesn't even try . It's disgraceful . The Uthah bloggers told us and now we see it . It will get worse in the playoffs where the pick and roll is used over 30 percent of the time . And guess who else will be put in the pick and roll ? Kemba .

Both played well last night . Jefferson passed to open teammates . Kemba got the ball timely to teammates in perfect Rhytm . Before last month , he rarely did that .

Posted by: Iron man | Mar 6, 2014 8:27:06 AM

The coach defends MKG and Tolliver. Then is supposed to rip Al publicly for his defense? The only thing dumber than you saying it, would be the coach actually doing it. Thank god he is a lot smarter than you.

Posted by: Mike T | Mar 6, 2014 8:35:55 AM

Cody is really coming on. Looking like a great pick for this team. I like the way the coach adjusted and gave him some minutes at the 5 last night. It's about time. He has a ways to go, but at 7 feet he can put it on the floor, pass it, run the court, shoot it a little and is becoming a better finisher. People are so reactionary. If a rookie doesn't come in and play right away or light it up from day one he is a bust. Let the kid develop. It has been fun to watch his confidence grow and the team win some games.

Posted by: Real | Mar 6, 2014 8:40:10 AM

It was good to see Kemba bounce back with a solid outing last night too. Biggest win of the season so far.

Posted by: apauldds | Mar 6, 2014 9:48:30 AM

This was a very impressive win, and the Bobcats looked great, both in offense and defense.
Defensively, it was again the great team work that makes them the 5th best defensive team in NBA (at 97.3 ppg allowed).

In offense, Big Al was dominant again (and he totally outplayed All Star Roy Hibbert), but he also got help. The shooters (especially CDR, Gary Neal and Tolliver) made this a 50% 3-point shooting game for the Cats.
It was good to see Kemba coming out of his slump, and Cody Zeller continuing his improved playing.

Coach Clifford and his guys made this a very exciting night for the Cats' fans.

Posted by: Sandy | Mar 6, 2014 10:01:38 AM

Apauldds, I just saw you comment, after posting mine. Quite similar mind-set...

Posted by: Sandy | Mar 6, 2014 10:04:09 AM

Mike T., check the Gordon column, interested in your response.

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Mar 6, 2014 12:09:39 PM

^^^I would estimate for 2% or less of the 58 million he made over the term of his last contract could have been enough to reach a buyout agreement. It's all relative, but that is a small price to pay for what could potentially be your last chance to ever participate in the playoffs.

How about that big win last night?

Posted by: Mike T | Mar 6, 2014 1:48:44 PM

So he should just walk away from over $1,000,000 with absolutely no gurantee of being picked up by a playoff contender? That would be an insane thing to do. And seriously, what team is going to hire Ben Gordon at this point given all the trouble he's been in here? Do you think he will even play in the NBA again next year? Well, on the flipside, tonight I did hear Boris Diaw is shooting 55% from the field this year so....

It was a great win last night. Odd things happen when other teams are facing the Boobs. If I remember correctly in Q1 the Pacersscored 8 points, shot 20% (4 of 20) and didn't even shoot a free throw....weird.

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Mar 7, 2014 1:04:52 AM

Why do people think that a playoff team would want Ben Gordon when he can't even get playing time with the Bobcats that were in desperate need of outside shooters? This year his field goal percentage in limited minutes is 34% and 28% from 3 point range... Why would you want him playing limited minutes in the playoffs shooting less than 40%? Nastar as far as Boris Diaw, it was never that he couldn't play, it was just that he didn't want to play. Maybe he just didn't like the Bobcats!

Posted by: MJ | Mar 7, 2014 10:09:35 AM

I don't think anyone said a playoff team would want him. The question was whether he should negotiate a buyout to have the opportunity to play on a playoff team. Personally, I would have forgone 1 million of of the 58 million I made over the last 5 years for that chance. No matter how slim. Especially if it was possibly the last chance. Gordon obviously looked at it differently. Not surprised.

Posted by: Mike T | Mar 7, 2014 12:36:31 PM

"No matter how slim."

That makes you the moron, not Gordon.

I believeGordon has a smart agent who had done his homework and knew there was 0% chance Air Ben got a look from a playoff team so they told Air Chukker to stick his "buyout"where the sun don't shine.

Posted by: NASTAR99 | Mar 9, 2014 12:01:59 AM

they were actively negotiating and no deal came about....thus letting the imposed deadline pass.

i just appreciate the fact that they DIDN'T let him go elsewhere. i mean it's one thing if you aren't in the playoffs, but it's just contradictory if you pay a guy 13 million to go play for one of the other 15 teams left.

it's not even about competitive advantage.....it's about principal. you don't pay guys to play for the opponents and you don't let draft picks go without compensation. we've done both far too often over the years.

Posted by: charlottean | Mar 10, 2014 4:07:02 AM

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