Well, the word for the week is regression, as in regression to the mean. The Bobcats started the week at a remarkable 7-5, having equalled last seasons’ win total in just 22 days. But the impressive start was on a shaky foundation for a couple of important reasons. One, the Cats had consistently been the beneficiaries on good fortune (OK, luck) in close games. And two, the Bobcats had played the weakest schedule in the league. Both luck in close games and strength of schedule tend to even out as the games pile up; hence the Cats were due to see their record come back down to earth.
So regress they did, dropping all three games this week against three likely playoff teams to fall to 7-8. After getting blown out in Oklahoma City on Monday night, the Cats rebounded with better efforts in Atlanta and at home against the 76ers. They hung around in the fourth quarter in both games, but didn’t get any of the breaks that had been going their way in the first few weeks of the season.
Three Thoughts on the Week
#1 – Finally Got To See Ben Gordon Do Ben Gordon Stuff
Gordon has had a choppy start to the season. After a 34-point outburst against New Orleans early on, he missed a couple of games. Then, since coming back he had a couple really quiet games. But the past two have been pretty great. Against Atlanta Wednesday night Gordon caught fire with 20 points on 5-7 3pt in the fourth quarter and almost singlehandedly kept the Bobcats within striking distance. He had a similar, though less impressive, stint in the second quarter Friday night against the 76ers, with 11 points on 3-3 3pt.
Gordon’s on the downside of his career, so spurts like this will happen less frequently than we would like on this otherwise offensively limited Bobcats squad, but when he does catch fire it’s fun to watch.
#2 – Again, We Are Loving Jeff Taylor
Sorry for the repetition, as ASChin covered this in last week’s recap, but holy moly Jeff Taylor is looking like a steal. His on-ball defense is as advertised, featuring an impressive combination of size, strength and quickness. He’s fouling quite a bit, but I would expect that to improve over time as he goes around the league a few times, learning the tendencies of his opponents and the officials.
And his offense has been a nice bonus. We knew he had a stellar senior year shooting the three at Vanderbilt, but there was concern that it may have been a little flukey, and whether it would translate out to the NBA line. No worries, as Taylor’s hitting threes at a 40% clip, good for top 50 in the league overall and the second best among rookies (behind Kyle Singler).
Having someone on a second-round contract that can be a legitimate part of your rotation is a huge plus for any team, and something that hasn’t happened for the Bobcats until now (Bernard Robinson, Kyle Weaver anyone?).
TV play-by-play man Steve Martin referenced a moment from the little documentary on the Bobcats 2012 draft that has been showing that I’ve also recalled when watching Taylor. In the Bobcats war room on draft day, they show Rich Cho taking a call from from another GM proposing a trade for the #31 pick. You don’t quite get to hear all of the details, but what you do hear is Cho quickly reject the idea. He’s polite enough, but there’s definitely a bit of “don’t be ridiculous” in his tone. Cho knew he could get a player there, and he did.
# 3 – Signs Of Growth From Biz?
We all knew that Bismack Biyombo was a major project, particularly on the offensive end. But there were times last season when he had such trouble doing basic things like catching and finishing in traffic that it became fair to wonder if he’d ever be able to play in crunch time in the league. Fast forward to this year and I’m much less concerned.
Don’t get me wrong, Biyombo still has the occasional cringeworthy possession, but there have been more nice moments mixed in. Plays that make you think “OK, he can do this.” In the Philadelphia game in particular, the 76ers were religiously, almost embarrassingly, helping off of Biyombo. (This can make you unplayable in crunch time.) But credit to the Bobcats and Biyombo; they realized it and made the 76ers pay en route to a season high 14 points on 5-6 FG.
On one play a driving Gordon drew Biyombo’s man in addition to his own. Biyombo slid to the perfect spot and Gordon whipped a pass to him. This was the kind of pass that Biyombo routinely fumbles away, but this time he caught it and went straight up for the dunk.
In another moment from the same game, Evan Turner was mismatched on Biyombo in the post. Yeah, Turner’s a wing, but he’s 6’7″ 220lb. What’s important is that Biz confidently, purposefully, fluidly, and easily scored with a simple spin into a lefty lay-in.
The project appears to be coming along just fine.