Spurs vs. Bobcats Give and Go Preview

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It’s not long before the Spurs take off on the Rodeo Road Trip, the annual rite of passage that sees the team accelerate into the stretch run of the season. San Antonio usually does well on the long period away from the friendly confines of the AT&T Center, but it never hurts to bank some home wins just in case.

There’s a good chance the Spurs will chalk up another one in the W column tonight against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Cats currently have the worst record in the league despite jumping out to a decent start at the beginning of the season. They’re 2-8 in their last 10 games. To preview the game, Greg Pietras of ESPN TrueHoop Network site Queen City Hoops joined me to try and make this game seem more interesting than it’ll probably be.

Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: Let’s talk Spurs-Bobcats.

Gregory Pietras, Queen City Hoops: Sounds like a plan.

AM: Last time these two teams played, the Spurs had themselves a helluva game. How have the Bobcats been since then?

GP: Not great. I actually remember that weekend pretty well — I was at the Bobcats’ game against the Bucks that Friday, and they just got destroyed. Then they flew back home to play the Spurs on Saturday, and they just got dropkicked. There was still a lot of optimism about the 7-5 start at that point, but that was kind of a reality check.

AM: And what’s happened since?

GP: Well, after that loss they dropped 11 more in a row. They’ve only won four since then, mostly against struggling teams.

AM: What went wrong?

GP: I think a big part of it is that teams got a little more tape; teams realized they could shoot 3-pointers pretty easily against Mike Dunlap’s zone-heavy schemes, and the defense collapsed. It’s hard to win games when teams are shooting 39 percent from 3-point range.

AM: Can the changes Dunlap brought to the team create sustainable success or are they really going to struggle now that teams have figured them out?

GP: It’s up to him to adapt a bit, and he’s at least made some adjustments. I like Dunlap, and think he’s done a good job of giving guys time to develop, but I’m not sure if he’s the long-term solution. He feels a little bit like a caretaker coach, but I won’t write him off yet. There are too many issues with the team as a whole to really say he can’t make it work.

AM: Who on the team has played well this season? I watched when they played the Pistons earlier this month and thought Kemba Walker played well.

GP: Yeah, Kemba’s been the brightest spot by far. He’s significantly improved his shooting this year, which was the biggest thing holding him back in his rookie season.

Ramon Sessions has looked very good, as well. His field goal percentage isn’t that great (40.6 percent), but he’s getting to the line at an absurd rate (7.6 free throw attempts per 36 minutes). Kemba runs the show with the first team, then Sessions comes off the bench and starts hurling himself at defenses at hard as he can.

AM: How about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? How’s his rookie season going?

GP: Before the year started, I didn’t really know what to expect from Kidd-Gilchrist. As a defense-first guy that’s still growing on the offensive end, I tried to keep my expectations low. I’ve been pretty happy with what he’s shown, though — he plays within himself on offense, and doesn’t take too many shots he can’t make. His defense isn’t all the way there yet, but you can already see why he was taken so high.

AM: What type of player is he, skill-wise?

GP: I’ve seen him compared to guys like Andre Iguodala, Gerald Wallace and Shawn Marion. Verstatile, athletic defenders that do a lot of their scoring in transition and near the basket. His best skill right now is his rebounding — he’s averaging six a game in 27 minutes per.

AM: That’s kind of what I figured. Is he more of an effort guy with physical talents right now? Someone who still needs a lot of polish?

GP: A little from column A, a little from column B. His jumpshot is an absolute mess right now, but he’s smart enough to avoid using it. His defense is almost there already, he just needs to cut down on the fouls.

AM: Has anyone unexpected stepped up for this team?

GP: Other than Ramon…not particularly. Jeff Taylor showed a spark at the beginning of the year, but he’s cooled off a bit and gets inconsistent minutes because of how crowded the backcourt is. Mid-season pick-up Jeff Adrien has looked pretty good in limited time, but we’ll see if that continues. Ben Gordon can blow up and keep the team competitive every few games, but his defense is still terrible. For the most part, they are who we thought they were.

AM: Where will the Bobcats have to excel to beat the Spurs on Wednesday night? Where do they need to take advantage of the Spurs?

GP: I’m pretty sure the Spurs set a team record for 3-pointers made in their last game, so not letting them do that is Step 1. It’d also help if the Bobcats win the turnover battle, since they operate best when they’re running the fast break. If there’s one silver lining in the matchup, it’s that San Antonio is bad at crashing the offensive boards. Charlotte’s defensive rebounding has been a big problem this year.

AM: Yeah the Spurs make a point not to crash the boards on offense in order to get back on defense and limit transition opportunities. Before I let you go, I need one random prediction from the game. Something that has nothing to do with the final score.

GP: I think Kemba will have a pretty good game in this one. He scored 23 the last time they met, despite the terrible result.