Who doesn’t enjoy playing fast-break basketball? It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s… dangerous if you’re the Charlotte Bobcats.
Coach Steve Clifford knew the Philadelphia 76ers would coax his team into going up-tempo. It was the pace the Sixers wanted in a first quarter that totaled a combined 69 points.
Then the Bobcats settled down, returning to the deliberate pace they must play to win. And win they did, 105-88 at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“They want you to play that way. That’s why they’re pressing; they want you to run,” Clifford described. “The way they play makes all the sense for their players – quickness and speed, attacking players.”
While the 9-11 Bobcats aren’t plodders, they’ve established they win on defense and a more deliberate approach to offense. Despite the early fireworks, they managed to maintain a streak of holding opponents under 100 points. It’s now at 13, matching the San Antonio Spurs for longest such streak in the NBA this season.
It was telling that the Bobcats gave up only 10 fast-break points to the 7-13 Sixers, who run at every opportunity. Transition defense is Clifford’s non-negotiable this season.
“Most teams that score a lot of fast-break points don’t win. (But) teams that don’t give up lots of fast-break points win,” Clifford said.
The pace of this game was a sort of guilty pleasure for some of the Bobcats. Jeff Taylor, now the starting small forward while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist recovers from a broken hand, matched a career high with 20 points.
After finishing 8-of-16 from the field and grabbing eight rebounds, Taylor acknowledged the pace Philadelphia tried to set suits him.
“I’m an athletic player, I get to the rim,” Taylor said. “These games are fun for me.”
This was a season-high in points for the Bobcats, who had reached 100 points only once previously (the road victory against the New York Knicks). Six Bobcats scored at least 10 points. Point guard Kemba Walker had his first double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 assists. Rookie forward Cody Zeller reached 10 points for the first time as a pro.
The Bobcats were narrowly outrebounded 50-48. A factor in that was the Bobcats losing backup center Bismack Biyombo to an ankle sprain in the first half. It’s yet to be determined whether he will be available for Monday’s home game against the Golden State Warriors.
Probably the biggest development Friday was how well Taylor responded to starting. He’d been in a slump where he’d failed to score in double figures in any of his previous eight games. He shot 15-of-44 from the field in that span.
“A lot of the same shots I made tonight just weren’t going in” before, Taylor said.
“Playing with Josh (McRoberts) and Al (Jefferson) – big guys who pass incredibly well – makes the game easy.”
BOBCATS 105, 76ERS 88
Percentages: FG .402, FT .615. Three-Point Goals: 6-27, .222 (Thompson 2-3, Hawes 2-5, Turner 2-6, Young 0-2, Brown 0-3, Anderson 0-4, Wroten 0-4). Team Rebounds: 12. Team Turnovers: 16 (15 PTS). Blocked Shots: 4 (Allen, Davies, Wroten, Young). Turnovers: 15 (Hawes 5, Davies 2, Thompson 2, Turner 2, Wroten 2, Young 2). Steals: 4 (Allen, Brown, Wroten, Young). Technical Fouls: Defensive three second, 11:31 fourth.
Percentages: FG .462, FT .680. Three-Point Goals: 4-21, .190 (Walker 2-4, Taylor 2-7, Sessions 0-1, Gordon 0-2, Henderson 0-3, McRoberts 0-4). Team Rebounds: 7. Team Turnovers: 9 (6 PTS). Blocked Shots: 7 (Jefferson 2, Adrien, Biyombo, Henderson, McRoberts, Taylor). Turnovers: 9 (Henderson 3, Sessions 3, Jefferson, Tolliver, Zeller). Steals: 9 (Walker 3, Henderson 2, McRoberts 2, Jefferson, Taylor). Technical Fouls: Defensive three second, 8:56 first.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell Twitter: @rick_bonnell