The constant agenda for the Charlotte Bobcats under coach Mike Dunlap has been defense first. It wasnt first Friday.
It can be better, Dunlap said of the defense that gave up 56 points in the lane during a 104-98 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
For stretches of this one, the Bobcats looked like last season, when it was common for them to give up 50 or more points in the paint. Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday had a career high with 15 assists because he so effectively penetrated into the lane. That made it easy for Evan Turner (25 points), Thaddeus Young (15) and Lavoy Allen (10) to score at or near the rim.
The Bobcats had a stretch early this season when they gave up more than 100 nightly. After a loss in New Orleans four games into the season they broke that pattern, holding teams down to win five of six.
After that loss to the Hornets, Bobcats guard Ben Gordon said this team had to tighten up defensively. Gordon made a similar point Friday.
Anytime you trade baskets with a good team, its likely to bite you in the butt, said Gordon (19 points). You cant give up that many easy baskets and think youre going to win.
While the Bobcats, who have lost three straight, play five of their next six at home, that schedule is filled with tough opponents, including the New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.
They hurt us inside, Gordon said. The schedule is picking up. Were playing better teams. So weve got to pick it up defensively.
Despite the defensive difficulties, the Bobcats (7-8) managed to make up a 10-point deficit and tie the game at 81-81 with just under 10 minutes left. Center Bismack Biyombo, not known as a scorer, provided eight of his 14 points in that final period. And backup point guard Ramon Sessions scored all eight of his points that quarter.
But they were outdone late by ex-Bobcat Jason Richardson. Three teams after the deal that moved Richardson from Charlotte to Phoenix, he scored 14 of his 22 points down the stretch to hold off the Bobcats. Richardsons 3-pointer with 1 minute, 11 seconds left made it a seven-point lead, essentially settling this one.
But the question lingered Friday: Was Charlottes soft interior defense a one-game slip or the start of a new trend?
We need to keep adjusting, Biyombo said. Were getting better at that. At the start of the season we were worse. I think we do a pretty good job.