Slow starts. Leaky defense. A propensity for giving up offensive rebounds.
There are patterns to the Charlotte Bobcats recent struggles that go beyond the rat-tat-tat of an 11-game losing streak. The above flaws trumped a career-high 32 points from Kemba Walker on Saturday, as the Orlando Magic beat them 107-98 at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Playing the 10-13 Magic at home could have been this teams oasis before a brutal four-games-in-five nights trip to the Western Conference starting Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers. Instead, they could be looking at a losing streak of 15 or more before they right themselves.
The Magic might not be a playoff contender, but Orlando took advantage of the same flaws the Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder did: the Bobcats gave up 54 percent shooting, including a ghastly 60 points scored in the lane, the Bobcats fell behind 29-21 in the first quarter, and they gave up 11 offensive rebounds.
Walkers layup with 41/2 minutes left gave the Bobcats a one-point lead. Then Charlotte gave up eight straight points.
We got a little mixed up with our (defensive) schemes, and they capitalized, said Walker, who made 11 of 20 shots, got to the foul line nine times and added seven assists.
This might have been Walkers best game as a pro. Coach Mike Dunlap called him, a champion who is ever-evolving as a leader and a point guard.
True that, but Walker was anything but comforted by his own numbers.
I really dont care about that stuff, Walker said. I want to win.
For that to start happening regularly again, the defense and rebounding have to shore up quickly. Veteran Ramon Sessions was asked whats changed so much since the Bobcats 7-5 start.
The NBA is all about adjustments, Sessions said. The more they scout us, the more theyre adjusting.
Dunlap, a defensive zealot, knows this wont cut it no matter how well the Bobcats play offensively.
Were late on our rotations, Dunlap said. Weve got to be earlier, and that is a trust issue.
Dribble-penetration, particularly by Magic guard Jameer Nelson (16 points, six assist) blew up the 7-16 Bobcats, who seem to play every game these days with a significant first-quarter deficit.
Its all on us, Walker concluded. We have too many slow starts. (The second half) is how weve got to be from the pick-up.