Bobcats' 18-game losing streak is history

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comDecember 31, 2012 

— New Year … new approach … a new player surprisingly effective in the rotation.

And finally for the Charlotte Bobcats, a new streak.

The 18-game losing streak is history, and this victory was no fluke. They thumped a Chicago Bulls team that had beaten them in their last five meetings, holding the home team to 35 percent shooting in a 91-81 victory at the United Center Monday.

This was a stunner to a sellout crowd of 21,986, and the sarcasm echoed throughout the stands. The same guy who screamed “Bobcats are a joke!” with seven minutes left ended the game by yelling at the Bulls, “How about try next time!”

It’s true the Bulls (16-13) looked listless through much of this game, but that wasn’t the only explanation. The Bobcats (8-23) played dramatically better defense, generally holding Chicago to one guarded shot and outrebounding the Bulls 52-49.

With his team losing those 18 games by a 13.3-point average, coach Mike Dunlap gave up on the offense he’d been running.

“I put the playbook in the freezer,” said Dunlap, who switched to a motion offense that is less predictable, more free-flowing.

Dunlap said his offense went static, and that sure wasn’t the case Monday: The Bobcats shot 47 percent from the field, 58 percent in the fourth quarter after the Bulls had come back to tie the game at 65-65. The only flaw offensively Monday was the foul shooting, a dreadful 21-of-38 (55 percent).

Happy as captain Gerald Henderson was with the offense, he said that wasn’t particularly the problem during the streak. They were giving up far too many easy baskets, and that resonated in the streak: Charlotte opponents averaged 107.8 points on 47.5 percent shooting.

“Our defense has been hurting us and it’s hard to run when you don’t play any defense,” said Henderson (16 points on 6-of-11 shooting).

“Everything has to be on a string for this defense to work.”

For the most part it was: The Bulls didn’t excel in the post (total 42 points in the paint) and what the Bobcats did to clog the middle didn’t hurt them along the perimeter (Chicago shot 4-of-16 from three-point range.)

The Bobcats breaking the streak Monday was extra significant because they were shorthanded. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick, missed the game after scratching his right cornea in Saturday’s loss to the New Orleans Hornets.

Fellow rookie Jeff Taylor started, which wasn’t a big concern, but Kidd-Gilchrist’s absence stressed Charlotte’s depth. Forward Jeff Adrien, a Development League call-up, played his most meaningful minutes of the season and came through.

Adrien had a career-high three blocks and tied a career high with nine rebounds in 23 minutes. He added a physical presence that the Bobcats needed versus a Chicago frontcourt of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng.

“Biz (Biyombo) started us off and I got in for some long ones,” said point guard Kemba Walker, who had eight rebounds, along with 18 points and six assists. “And Jeff? Well, he was just great on the boards.”

Monday was a relief all around that locker room. Five Bobcats scored 15 or more points and they managed to avoid 0-for-December.

“We knew we were better than this,” Henderson kept saying. “We started out 7-5. We never thought we’d see another 18-game losing streak.”

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