As if the Charlotte Bobcats didn’t already have enough challenges, now coach Mike Dunlap has to practice triage with point guard Kemba Walker’s minutes.
This is the after-effect of backup Ramon Sessions’ sprained knee, which could keep him out a month. Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dunlap sat down Walker in the third quarter and never brought him back for the fourth quarter of a 116-94 loss.
With a road game Saturday in Washington, playing Walker any more than the 31 he logged would have been counter-productive. For now they’re getting by with shooting guard Reggie Williams as the backup point.
Not that “getting by” describes the 13-49 Bobcats. This was their ninth loss in a row and six of those were by 20 or more points. This one fell apart at the outset of the second quarter, when the Bobcats missed their first 10 shots.
They led by a point at the end of the first. They trailed by 19 six minutes into the second.
“In the second quarter, I looked up and it was 18; I didn’t even know how they got there,” said Bobcats shooting guard Gerald Henderson, who scored 21 points.
The Bobcats shot 10-of-40 in the second half Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets. Friday’s second quarter wasn’t quite that bad, but it was rough: 7-of-21 from the field. Walker was 0-of-4 that quarter, and finished the game with 11 points, four assists and five rebounds.
No matter how the Bobcats shot, the margin for error was going to be small against the Western Conference champion Thunder. That team beat the Bobcats by 45 points earlier this season, the worst beating in Bobcats history.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks likes the defensive leaning in his second unit, and that was the group in the game when the Bobcats went into what Dunlap called an offensive “desert” in the second quarter.
Not that scoring was the Bobcats’ only problem Friday. The Thunder shot 57 percent from the field and had six scorers in double figures.
“You’ve got to get some stops against that team,” said Henderson. “You’re not going to just outscore them.”
Dunlap’s immediate problem is managing Walker’s minutes. Before the game, Dunlap reminded Walker of that 2011 Big East Tournament, when he carried Connecticut night-after-night to the title.
But that was college.
“We’ll play him as many minutes as we can,” Dunlap said.