Pace: 86 possessions (ultra-slow)
Offensive Efficiency: 125.5 points/100 possessions (off the charts)
Defensive Efficiency: 104.6 points allowed/100 possessions (good/fair)
The C’s might not play a finer half of offense than the first half they played tonight. To put up 62 points in one half while playing at a plodding pace—that’s great on its own. To do it against the team that came into the game leading the league in defensive efficiency? Wow. As the C’s picked apart the Bobcats, I found myself thinking back to how helpless the C’s offense looked at times against Orlando and shaking my head at how different a team could look in two separate games.
So why did the C’s offense function so well tonight? Two reasons:
1) The big men (especially Perk) dominated the interior. The Beast played one of his best games ever (21 points on 9-of-10 shooting, 12 boards, 3 blocks in 30 minutes). We’ll get to that later.
2) The C’s had their transition game working early. That sounds weird given the game’s slow pace, but the C’s transition offense isn’t really a Showtime fast-break offense that produces 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s. It’s more of a semi-transition game, a hybrid somewhere between a fast break and normal half court offense. The C’s get the ball up court fast enough to catch the defense off guard but not fast enough to get lay-ups and dunks. It’s the second option that kills in these possessions, and there might not be a more efficient offense in the league when the C’s get it going.
Take Ray Allen’s first three (the first of five—so much for that shooting slump) with 9:21 left in the 1st quarter. Rajon Rondo jog-dribbled the ball up after a Bobcats miss, and all five Bobcats appeared to be safely back on defense—except for the fact that KG was a step ahead of Tyson Chandler near the foul line as Rondo crossed half court. Rondo lobbed the ball into KG, who gathered it about 10 feet from the hoop as Chandler sprinted to get into position on the block. Option #1 (a KG lay-in) was closed off. But KG wasn’t even thinking of option #1. He noticed Stephen Jackson cheating of Ray Allen as Ray jogged to the left corner, and he touched a pass out to Ray for the easy three. Splash.
Go back and watch the tape. The C’s got more than a half-dozen easy baskets (or shooting fouls) in their semi-transition offense, much of it the result of KG running the floor.
Take the next possession: Rondo jog-dribbled over midcourt along the left sideline, saw that KG was already set up (ahead of everyone else) on the left block, accelerated and used KG’s body as a screen to drive along the baseline. Ray Allen noticed this and cut to the right corner as his guy (Jax again) went to help on Rondo. Another easy pass, another easy three with 17 on the shot clock.
Want more? Check 5:36 in the 1st quarter, when KG (the first guy down the floor) got inside on Chandler, received a perfect Rondo lob and laid the ball in with 18 on the shot clock.
Even the big fella (Perk) benefited on one of the game’s nicest plays: With about 4:00 to go in the 2nd quarter, Rondo again jog-dribbled (I’m making this a word!) over midcourt along the left side, then suddenly accelerated and drove baseline around a Pierce screen. Tyson Chandler dove down to help off of Perk, who was standing about 18 feet from the hoop at the right elbow. Perk cut to the rim, Rondo fed him the ball about 10 feet from the hoop and Perk flew in for the lay-in—and converted it despite a swipe on the arm and a shove to chest from Chandler.
Time left on the shot clock? 18 seconds. This play is also a tribute to Perk’s improved quickness and mobility. I’m not sure he would have been able to finish it last season.
If basketball were always so easy. (More, after the jump).
Part of you wonders why the C’s can’t get the semi-transition game going as easily against, say, Orlando. And then you remember that a) good teams don’t miss as often as the Bobcats did during a 13-of-42 (31 percent) first half; and b) the Magic have a big guy who runs the floor and is athletic enough to help, recover and close off the lane. (And he smiles a lot!)
The Bobcats don’t, and the C’s absolutely owned the interior tonight. KG and Perk combined for 25 points and 14 boards in the first half—and, equally important, nine free throw attempts. KG has now attempted 20 free throws in his last four games after having attempted just 27 in the team’s first 14 games. This is a good sign.
The second half lacked the intensity of the first half, which is understandable. The Bobcats got into the paint much more often on screen/rolls, earned a whopping 18 foul shots and hit 19-of-37 (51 percent) from the floor after halftime. Eh. The game was over at the half.
Let’s go bullets the rest of the way:
• The C’s defense did an excellent job in the first half of limiting the Bobcats to long two-point jumpers. The Chandler-Felton screen/roll produced just a few good looks in the paint, as the C’s had Felton’s guy (Rondo) go over the Chandler screen as Chandler’s guy (Perk or KG) slid over to cut off Felton’s penetration just above the foul line. Felton was 2-of-7 in the first half.
• Ray: 27 points on 9 shots. Wow. Do not doubt Ray Allen’s shooting prowess.
• Stephen Jackson, despite an apparent match-up advantage against Ray Allen, was 3-of-10 in the first half, mostly on long-range jump shots. The C’s big man did a great job helping on Jackson in the paint before Jackson was ready for it.
• KG absolutely smothered Boris Diaw in the post. Diaw had some success taking the C’s bigs out to the perimeter (he knocked down two three-pointers), but he couldn’t manage anything in the paint. KG fronted Diaw a few times at the elbow, denying him the ball—and also making it difficult for him to run out and set a high screen for Felton—and knocking the Bobcats offense out of whack. Great stuff.
• Four of Sheed’s seven field goal attempts were from the post area tonight. That is progress.
• Rondo jump shot watch: He made a great looking jumper off of a curl with the shot clock running down—basically, he had to shoot, and it looked great. He stepped into the shot, rose high and his form was solid. Fingers crossed, people.
• Sheed Technical Watch: He picked up #8 tonight, meaning he’s halfway to a suspension. Good times! And this time, he was arguing a call that didn’t even go against him. The refs whistled Marquis Daniels for a foul after the Grand Marquis got tangled up with Tyson Chandler while fighting through a Chandler screen. Sheed disagreed with the call.
Yes, the refs have a quick trigger finger with Sheed. But it’s Sheed’s responsibility to adjust and at least make an effort to keep his mouth shut. I realize the chances of this happening are about the same as Mila Kunis reading this blog and falling in love with me. Derek Richardson (the ref who T’d Sheed up) gave Sheed a solid 15 seconds to yap before finally saying to himself, “Hey, I guess the dude is just going to keep going, so I have to T him up.”
You could see the T coming at least 10 seconds in advance. Sheed: Pipe down!
One bonus: Sheed yelled “Ball don’t lie!” three more times tonight, including after after Flip Murray missed the technical foul shot. So, yes, John Krolik, you apparently can use “Ball don’t lie!” after a technical foul.
• One negative: The Bobcats rebounded 14 of their 44 misses–32 percent. That’s too many. The C’s rebounding has been shaky in the early going—at least compared to the past two seasons—so this is worth monitoring. I did count at least three Charlotte offensive boards that came on long and fluky rebounds, so I’m not overly concerned.
• Paul Pierce is becoming one of the elite transition defenders in basketball. He’s excellent staying beside the ball-handler and jumping simultaneously up and backwards as the ball-handler rises for the lay-up attempt. He is able to challenge the shot (by jumping up) without fouling (because he’s also moving backwards in the air).
Tonight, he stopped a Bobcats fast-break (and prevented a lay-in) by taking a tough charge on Gerald Wallace just below the foul line. Great stuff from the Captain. Watch him the next time he’s the last line of a defense on a fast break. You’ll be impressed.
• Lester Hudson got a nice garbage time swat on D.J. Augustin, who, I might note, is much quieter this year after calling the C’s “bullies” who would back down from a challenge last season. Three points and one assist for D.J. in 15 minutes of playing time. Nice to see you, D.J.!
• Let’s end with Perk, who scored one his career highlights with 3:31 to go, when he got the ball on the left block against Nazr Mohammed and decided to face up and take Nazy off the dribble. Perk dribbled the ball through his legs before faking a bounce toward the paint, crossing over to the baseline and tossing in an up-and-under.
Again: I don’t think he could have pulled this off last season.
The Beast has arrived. And the C’s are 14-4.
Thursday: The Spurs. That’ll be fun.