The thing that won the Charlotte Bobcats two in a row was the best ball movement maybe in franchise history; they had a combined 53 assists in victories over Washington and Toronto.
So perhaps the thing that kept them from winning three in a row Saturday was renouncing the pass. The Bobcats had zero assists in the fourth quarter of a 92-91 loss to the Detroit Pistons at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Lots had to occur for them to blow a lead as large as 10. They let Pistons power forward Charlie Villanueva camp along the 3-point line, where he made 3 of 5 fourth-quarter attempts. Then Kemba Walker (25 points) and Josh McRoberts both missed the rim on the game’s last possession.
But this game might have stayed in the 16-53 Bobcats’ control if they’d stuck with the patient ball-movement they exhibited earlier in the week.
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“Fifteen points in the fourth quarter,” coach Mike Dunlap said of his anemic offense down the stretch. “We got away from the pass, which has been really good to us.”
They had big success with their jump shots in the second and third quarters, and seemed to become dependent on high-risk shots. The best thing about Josh McRoberts’ addition at power forward has been his ability in the high post to swing the ball from strong side to weak side for high-percentage scoring opportunities.
McRoberts was limited Saturday when he suffered a left shoulder strain early in the game. He played some in the second half, but it was clear the smooth ball movement of recent memory settled back Saturday.
Villanueva, an unorthodox power forward, matched the Bobcats’ fourth-quarter scoring all by himself, with 15 points on 6 of 9 attempts. Villanueva had the winning basket on a layup with 15 seconds left. But most of his best work was outside the 3-point arc. The Bobcats never seemed to get out on him enough to disrupt his shot.
“In transition, you want to get everyone back to the paint … especially big men migrate back to the paint,” said Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson. “That instinct is good, but maybe then they don’t get back” to where Villanueva is trailing the break.
That’s a shame because the Bobcats did plenty right Saturday. Center Bismack Biyombo (12 points, 10 rebounds) did a great job of defending Detroit’s Greg Monroe (six points on 2-for-11 shooting). They just couldn’t close the deal.
“It’s tough to lose like that,” Henderson said, “because tonight we played well enough to win.”