Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap sent a message Saturday: If players don’t live up to standards, particularly on defense, they risk their starting spots and minutes.
The San Antonio Spurs sent a message, too: that they’re more skilled, experienced, deep and cagey. The Spurs hit a team-record 19 3-pointers to beat the Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena 132-102.
Before a game in Washington two weeks ago, Dunlap said he didn’t trust his team’s 6-5 start. It now sounds prophetic. They’re on a seven-game losing streak, longest in the NBA. Included in that streak is a 45-point loss at Oklahoma City, Saturday’s 30-point fall and Friday’s 15-point loss in Milwaukee, when the Bobcats trailed by 26.
Dunlap tried to shake things up by starting big men Gana Diop and Bismack Biyombo in place of Byron Mullens and Brendan Haywood. It made no difference – when the opposing team shoots 19 of 34 from 3-point range, you’re cooked.
“They pass the ball so very well,” said Bobcats captain Gerald Henderson. “That puts a lot of pressure on you to play defense every second.
“It starts with their penetration. If you can’t contain that penetration, they’re very hard to defend….They play a very structured offense; everyone knows where to drive and where to shoot. They’re going to get their open shots. For them, it comes down to defense and making shots.”
Did they ever. Former North Carolina player Danny Green made seven of nine 3-point attempts. Manu Ginobili made three of five. The Spurs ran away in a 38-23 third quarter that left the Bobcats dazed and confused.
Kemba Walker scored 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting, but the Bobcats weren’t trading baskets Saturday.
Dunlap indicated San Antonio’s 3s were more the symptom than the problem. The Spurs scored 60 points in the lane in beating the Houston Rockets Friday. That’s pretty threatening to a Bobcats team that’s shaky protecting the rim.
So the Bobcats double-teamed a lot in the lane. The Spurs diagnosed and exploited that with excellent perimeter passing. Thirty-eight of San Antonio’s 50 baskets came off assists.
So the lineup changes Dunlap employed were a reminder not to take anything for granted.
“It’s a signal chairs are live,” Dunlap said. “I still have communication with everyone on this team. I’m very stoic about it.
“If people practice hard and are good people to their teammates, they’ll get their chance.”