CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Two perennial playoff teams came to Charlotte this weekend. Both left the Bobcats with double-digit losses. But what the Bobcats saw was two differing models of the blueprint to the foundation they’re trying to lay.
The version they saw Saturday night in a 113-99 loss to the Nuggets is built on everything the Bobcats have done wrong over the last couple of years – draft day steals like Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried mixed in with undervalued veteran free-agent pickups like Andre Miller and Corey Brewer.
That mixture has turned into one of the league’s most unselfish groups – third in the NBA – which plays a speed and offensive efficiency few can replicate, shooting 53 percent Saturday night, including 66 points in the paint and 25 fast-break points.
It’s the type of fan-friendly basketball that results in more lobs than a softball game and litters post-game television highlights. It’s a style that fits seamlessly with the Nuggets parts – a breakneck-speed point guard and an abundance of athletic wings and big guys filling the wings. Exactly the type of basketball the Bobcats have tried to play this season – ranking sixth in fast-break points – but haven’t been able to replicate from an efficiency perspective.
Lawson is the straw that stirs the drink for the Nuggets, seeming to have the ability to get anywhere he wants on the floor while never appearing out of control. With a similar stature and open-court burst, it’s the type of model Kemba Walker is working to become.
And as Lawson has always done in the state of North Carolina, he wreaked havoc on the team not wearing light blue.
“Well, I think it’s more than (the Nuggets’ passing), it’s the combination of the dribble drive,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. “Lawson is the quickest in there. He’s kind of like a young (Steve) Nash. He doesn’t quite have the handle that Nash had when he was young, but he has superior quickness to Nash. He puts the ball exactly where he wants with the dribble, then he finishes or he pitches it. He’s a very unselfish scorer, in my opinion.”
The Bobcats actually did the best controlling Lawson, who had 20, of anyone in the last six games, a stretch in which he’s averaging 26 points and eight assists.
“I figure that when I start being aggressive and getting into the lane, things happen for me, from scoring to getting assists,” Lawson said. “It just makes my team go, so that’s what I’m going to try to do for the rest of the year.”
Saturday night, he led a balanced attack in which six guys scored in double figures.
The version may have differed, but it’s the same type of balance the Bobcats saw Friday night in a 30-point loss to the Bulls. The Bulls, though are built differently, capitalizing on defense and top-10 draft picks that have played above or at their billing. The type of makeup built to last even when your superstar has been out the entire season.
Regardless of the way the Bobcats choose to attempt to get what the Nuggets and Bulls have and they want, it’s going to be the young guys and the draft picks going forward that determine their success.
“Whether it’s (Michael) Kidd-Gilchrist, (Jeffery) Taylor, Bismack (Biyombo) and (Byron) Mullens, the young guys don’t understand that this is a drop-and-go league. You got to front up,” Dunlap said. “If you want to be a guy that’s counted on and be a mainstay in an organization, you’ve got to be consistent. The young guys are figuring that out.”
There have been flashes all season long of what they could become. There were more Saturday night with Walker posting his fourth straight game of 20-plus with 24 points. And the steal of the 2012 second round, Taylor, posted a career high with 18.
“The coaches have been telling me all year to be more aggressive, and it’s just kind of clicking a little bit,” Taylor said.
It’s not only the aggressiveness that fueled Taylor’s big night, but also a recrudescence to what made him successful in the first place with 14 of his 18 points coming inside 15 feet and the other 4 coming from the charity stripe.
“I was a dribble-drive player before I could shoot, then I could shoot, so I got away from the dribble drive,” Taylor said. “I’ve just been trying to find a balance of being able to knock down 3s and then when people close out hard either I’m able to get to the rim and either finish or get fouled.”