December 04, 2013

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has his flaws, but losing him is a big blow to defense

DALLAS – This was a big hit. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a broken hand, and for all his offensive limitations, he’s pretty important to why the Charlotte Bobcats were bobbing along around .500.

That fracture, along the ring finger of MKG’s left hand, figures to sideline him for weeks. Yeah, I heard the jokes – that it wasn’t Michael’s shooting hand because he doesn’t have one – but defense is the Bobcats’ thing these days and he’s arguably their best defender.

Over the past month, when you asked first-year coach Steve Clifford why this team has been so good, so quickly, on defense, here’s the reply: That wing players Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor and Gerald Henderson can all guard without needing much help. Clifford says the Bobcats don’t have an elite rim-protector (which might imply his misgivings about Bismack Biyombo) so they need serious perimeter defense.

The Bobcats are really good defensively – 11 games in a row of holding opponents under 100 points. The dirty little secret in that is they must be that good defensively. They’re sure not going to outscore many teams shooting 41 percent and averaging 89.2 points.

So what happens from here? Jeff Taylor is obviously the new starter, but it’s ironic that he didn’t play a single minute in the second half, even with MKG out. Anthony Tolliver (long, smart, 3-point range, but…) played 26 minutes overall and 17 in the second half.

Tolliver works at small forward only when the opposing team has a bigger, slower 3 (Shawn Marion Tuesday). So on those nights when an opponent goes small (most backup small forwards are basically shooting guards), you’ll logically see Henderson shifting over to the 3 and Ramon Sessions or Ben Gordon picking up minutes at shooting guard.

But the defense took a hit Tuesday, and that was really the one thing that got you excited about the Bobcats’ first month.

Some other thoughts:

-- Gordon played 13 minutes Tuesday: 2-of-8 from the field for four points. I respect that Gordon has been shelved for so long that rust was inevitable. But since Clifford offered him minutes, he’s 4-of-16. He isn’t a defender or a ball-mover. He’s got to make shots.

-- Rookie Cody Zeller had some decent moments guarding Dirk Nowitzki, not being overpowered physically and contesting jump shots. But in 18 minutes he made one of five shots from the field. Remember when Zeller was out-athleting everyone at summer league? There’s a reason November doesn’t resemble July in the NBA.

-- Ramon Sessions was bad Tuesday: 1-of-9 from the field, and got to the foul line only four times in 21 minutes. He had two turnovers. But if you read my Twitter feed, you’d think he was the worst basketball player in NBA history.

-- The Bobcats should have won one of these two road games. They were very frustrated by how poorly they managed that lead in Miami, but they did pretty much the same thing in Dallas.


Posted by Observer Sports on December 4, 2013 at 01:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)