Larry Brown knew all summer he was taking on a team that was young.
Not this young.
“There are things I didn't expect to have to talk about so much,” Brown said Tuesday of the Charlotte Bobcats' mental breakdowns in an 88-80 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Time Warner Cable Arena. “But we've just got to explain better. That's what coaching is.”
If so, then the practice-court work will commence on the subject of exploiting the other team's defensive switches.
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The Bobcats (2-5) played as if they didn't know it was within the rules to exchange defensive assignments. No matter who ended up guarding whom – a Denver big man defending a point guard or a Denver shooting guard in the post against a center – the Bobcats looked baffled offensively in the second half.
Here's how baffled: They shot 34 percent, while launching 15 3-pointers after halftime. They totaled just eight free-throw attempts in the second half, a clear sign of settling for the first jump shot that presented itself.
And they did all that against a Nuggets team never known for shutting opponents down, particularly now that center Marcus Camby is a Los Angeles Clipper.
“We transformed from an offensive team to a defensive team,” Nuggets coach George Karl said wryly.
The Bobcats did plenty to facilitate that transformation, looking generally clueless as to how to get the ball inside. The starting center and power forward, Emeka Okafor and Jared Dudley, combined for 4-of-12 shooting and several of Dudley's attempts were outside the lane.
“It was just handing off, handing off, 3-point attempt – that's not good basketball,” Dudley said of the team's default approach. “We've got to go down low more to Emeka and me. By not getting (the ball) any to the 4 or 5 (positions), we never hurt them.”
The Nuggets (4-3) knew just how to hurt the Bobcats, with forward Carmelo Anthony scoring 18 of his 25 points in the second half. That ate up what was left of a 10-point first-half lead and sent Brown's students back to the classroom, on a two-game losing streak.
“We took 27 3s – that's the story right there,” Brown said. “They switched everything and we couldn't score on their point guards.
“I've never been with a team so hard to figure out: Shoot the ball? Drive the ball? Post the ball?”
Based on Tuesday, it will be a while before the confusion abates.