Much to the surprise of most people who watch the NBA, the Charlotte Bobcats have been one of the better defensive teams in the league over the course of the 2013-14 season. Through their first 49 games of the year, the Bobcats have allowed just 101.3 points per 100 possessions to their opponents on average, the seventh best rate in the NBA thus far.
However, the Bobcats have seen their defense start to slip over the last month. Since the start of January, the Bobcats have allowed 107 points per 100 possessions to opponents, ranking 23rd in the league over that time. Their defensive decline didn’t stop on Saturday against the Phoenix Suns.
The Bobcats struggled to get their offense going against Phoenix until the final quarter when they were already down handily. It was their defense that put them in that hole in the first place, though. Charlotte allowed the Suns to shoot 48.8 percent from the floor on the night and a respectable 7-21 from three. The Bobcats couldn’t limit the Suns’ good looks on their way to a 105-95 loss that was hardly that close.
Charlotte is still holding on to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference right now, but their defense has to get back to playing effectively. Getting Kemba Walker back in the lineup and Jannero Pargo—the Bobcats are allowing 128 points per 100 possessions with Pargo on the floor this year—out of the rotation will help, but they also need to re-evaluate themselves and play the style that gives them the best chance at winning.
In the same span of time that their defense has declined, the Bobcats have also been playing at a noticeably faster pace. For a team with the offensive limitations of Charlotte and a team that derives its success through defense, that’s not a promising change. That’s an indication that the Bobcats are trying to score more rather than trying to hold their opponents in check.
Even coming into the year, we knew that Charlotte was going to be a fringe playoff team in the East. With the way they’re currently playing, particularly on defense, they are dangerously toeing the line for a postseason berth. If they want to lock themselves in as a playoff team, getting back to playing quality defense is the first step.