The Bobcats must learn to play the losing hand.
I hate to be the one to say "I told you so", but here we are 1-3 to start the season as predicted. A heartbreaking loss to the Heat at home started a 3 game losing streak involving the Magic at home, and a blow out loss to the Heat at the American Airlines Arena. We met with 2 really tough teams and I won't go over the top to start pointing fingers, but to me, there are two ways of playing a losing hand. The first one is to try to bluff it, take the bigger team by surprise and blow by with full throttle. The other hand is to fold while the stakes are low, try to read the opposing hand as much as you can and learn for the next hand. What dazzles me is how the Bobcats have played their hands so far. Especially in this last blow out loss to the heat.
With our young core group as i tried to explain in my last post,our guys need to keep their heads cool and play fundamental basketball. Paul Silas played the home game against the Heat, exactly as he should have. He bluffed from the start. No one expected this team to even compete against the Heat, and in the 1st half, our fundamental unselfish team basketball took the Heat by surprise. Unfortunately the Heat called the bluff in the 3rd quarter, and with three seconds to go in the 4th, down by one, we just didn't have the high card. Excellent game by the entire Bobcats team, included it's coaching staff obviously, and just a good tough loss against a superior team. What fans must know about this game, is that even if we almost managed to bluff this one to a W, the Heat took it right back once they called our bluff and they didn't even break a sweat. We cannot compete with the Heat yet, and I think you all know that especially after tonight.
Against Orlando it was all a different game. On paper our hand was better and odds were with us. I talked to other writers, fans and read NBA analysts thoughts on the game and we all agreed, this game we could win. I quote our main man here at BP Ziggy saying "If you can get Dwight Howard in foul trouble, the rest of the team is no better than the New Jersey Nets.". Other than Howard they have a roster full of 3pt shooters, so with that being known our game plan should be simple. Don't double Howard, but foul him hard and make him shoot free throws. Attack the rim at will and get Howard in foul trouble. We did the exact opposite. We gave up 36pts from 3pt land and Howard got 0 fouls. On the offensive end we started to look for jumpers and we ended up shooting 36% from the floor and had only four more free throw attempts than Howard alone. So what was the game plan? We never looked like winning, and our rookies didn't even get to se extended action. We sat with the winning hand and we folded on their bluffs over and over again. We tried to double Howard and the Magic shot 42% from 3pt land as a team, we gave up too much space on perimeter defense and we lost the game with nothing to look back at.
Last game at Miami. We all knew this one was out of reach. I gave the Bobcats next to no chance to steal this one. The bluff from last game was called, and bluffing this one was no option. So what is in Silas's mind going in to this one? I'm not sure, but lets look at his options and what actually happened. The dominant Heat took an early big lead and without changing much, through 3 quarters we got pounded in every way. We did not try to bluff again and focus on fundamental basketball, we did not really fold and experiment with lineups, try to run plays and get our rookies involved. So what was the deal really? We could have given Bismack and Kemba a starting chance. There is no way playing those two for 30+ minutes would have made the results any worse. I know a lot of our reserves got "good playing time", but it I am still not very satisfied, because our reserves was pretty much put out there after we had lost the game and they weren't really given the chance to make a difference. Instead we leave Miami with nothing really. The obvious loss and not much to learn from it except the losing the hopes of competing against contending teams. We did not do anything particularly good or showed improvement in any way, we just played bad the entire game. I know we saw Kemba and Bismack on the floor alot in the 4th. But playing your rookies in a 40pt losing game against other reserves and rookies in the final quarter doesn't give the much needed learning experience our young rookies desperately needs. I am definitely confused about what Silas and his crew got out of this game....
Going forward I would like to sense a more determined plan. I want to be assured we don't leave games empty handed. Would you honestly not rather have a couple of rookie highlights "Kemba on Wade", or "Bismack on LeBron" to take home. Just to smile a little? Anything to make you think that even with a loss we saw some progress or something to smile about. I know Silas give two squirts of O.J. about if I know the game plan or not. But in all honesty, we are going to have the losing hand a lot this year, and I want wins as well as growth, but I think its easier to start with one rather than the other. I think that in the situation we are in, we can't play an in-between game. We have to play like a rebuilding team, or play like a competitive team with ambitions to go deep in the playoffs, which we frankly don't have the talent to right now. No one asked me, but with this young talented squad my theory is; that if we take the rebuilding underdog path, keep preaching fundamental basketball to our players and give our rookies the needed experience, we will see positive results far sooner than we expected. The minds of these young players are not at ease, and making them focus on one goal at the time, might cash out a few W's.