Two things that have defined the Charlotte Bobcats’ improvement this season: they don’t foul indiscriminately and they don’t commit a bunch of unforced turnovers.
In fact, the Bobcats average the fewest turnovers in the league (12.5 per game) and commit the fewest fouls (18.13 per game). That’s what made Wednesday’s 104-99 loss to the Brooklyn Nets seem so perplexing.
They committed twice as many turnovers (15-7), which the Nets converted into 21 points. And they sent the Nets to the foul line 35 times, compared to the 12 times the Bobcats took free throws.
The Bobcats can’t live with those margins. So it’s almost surprising they stayed in this game until the final minutes.
Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams put this one away with a pull-up 18-footer and two free throws in the last 37 seconds. Williams has been hellish for Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker to defend, once scoring 57 points against Charlotte.
But it was those uncharacteristic flaws – fouls and turnovers – that frustrated coach Steve Clifford after the game.
“A couple of unforced ones were big late,” Clifford said of the turnovers. “And for the most part, we’re very good at not fouling.
“We played well enough to win except for those things.”
This loss was the Bobcats’ second in a row, dropping them to 33-36. The Bobcats’ lead over the Atlanta Hawks for seventh place in the Eastern Conference has dwindled to a half-game and they are three games behind the sixth-place Washington Wizards.
Not that the standings are their immediate concern. The Bobcats have a tough upcoming schedule, facing the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and these Nets at home over the next week.
First on the agenda is correcting how they’ve strayed from what got them into the playoff race.
“I just think our focus went down throughout the whole game, but we still played well enough to win. We made too many mistakes we’re not supposed to make,” said Jefferson, who had 18 points, 12 rebounds and a team-high five turnovers.
Two of those were walks, which are not typical of Jefferson’s decisive footwork.
“The refs just kept calling travels on me,” Jefferson said. “I guess a couple of times I did travel when I asked other people, but I don’t think (the Nets) did anything too different on me.”
Actually, forcing turnovers has become the Nets’ knack since they went small, moving Paul Pierce to power forward. Since the start of 2014, they lead the NBA in opponent turnovers at 17.8 per game.
That put them in position to win their 10th in a row at Barclays Center. Williams was the closer, scoring 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter.
“His size is a big thing and his speed is still good,” Clifford said of former All-Star Williams. “Also you get into the fourth quarter, and he’s very good.”