MINNEAPOLIS -- There isn't much the Charlotte Bobcats own over their 10-year existence: A nickname they'll soon discard. A single playoff appearance. A single All-Star appearance.
They used to own the Minnesota Timberwolves -- emphasis on past tense.
This trip to Minnesota was traditionally their get-well game. Friday night it was anything but. They trailed by as much as 31 in the second half of a 119-92 loss at Target Center.
The Bobcats entered this game 12-6 all-time against the Wolves. You'd never know it. Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic toyed with Charlotte center Al Jefferson, outscoring him 26-8. Minnesota power forward Kevin Love had just as easy a time against Josh McRoberts, finishing with 19 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.
The slide from a 14-15 record to 15-22 is telling: They stopped playing the precise, persistent defense of November. Their coach keeps issuing warnings, though it's hard to see evidence that's heeded.
"As our offense improved, it feels like we're less intense on defense. For us, that's not going to work," said coach Steve Clifford.
Early on they were spectacular at getting back defensively, minimizing opponent fast breaks and points at the rim. They briefly had the best defensive-rebound percentage in the NBA.
Contrast that to Friday: The Timberwolves scored 54 points in the paint. They scored 20 second-chance points (baskets resulting from offensive rebounds) to two for the Bobcats. They scored 18 fast-break points.
Reserve point guard Ramon Sessions noted post-game the players can't pretend they weren't warned.
"At 4-5, I remember (Clifford) saying, 'Our transition defense is slipping. It will catch up to us.' "
Sessions said he doesn't believe any of his teammates are consciously slacking in a span when the Bobcats have given up 112 or more points four times.
"I understand what he's saying -- when your offensive game is going, maybe it distracts from defense," Sessions said of Clifford's concern. "But I don't think anybody in here consciously has that mindset."
Sessions was asked if this might be a function of fatigue; the Bobcats played 17 games in the first 31 days. Sessions said he didn't want to make excuses, "but you do get tired in through here. That was a tough early schedule."
The Bobcats play another road game Saturday against the Chicago Bulls, then have two days off from games before a home date against the New York Knicks. They face three opponents -- the Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic -- with comparable or lesser records.
They should have small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back from a broken hand for all three of those games. But MKG isn't a panacea.
"He'll help with the rebounding and defense," Clifford concluded. "But as the year goes on we need to find out who will stay with it. Who will put in the work to be that good professional team."
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