Normally defense isn't thought of as having a personality. But just like offense, every team and every player defends in a different, very personal way. For instance, last years Magic led the league in defense even though you never would have thought they did. It made perfect sense for them, they were long and clever, so they spread out and let you shoot just bad enough mid-range shots because Dwight Howard is very big, jumps very high, and that means he blocks lots and lots of shots.
The Celtics play defense like a bunch of grumpy old men. They bump and bruise and are annoying and crotchety. But damn if it don't work. And the insanity of the Warriors helped them lead the league in blocks and nearly in steals, too.
The Charlotte Bobcats defense, with all due respect to the rest of the team, is Gerald Wallace. Look I know his personal stats in steals and blocks are down, but he is the engine that drives Larry Brown's newest, more athletic and instinctual soul-crushing death machine. And don't make any mistake, these Charlotte Bobcats are as absolutely tortuous on defense as they're advertised to be.
And the last thing the Grizzlies needed to see after a grueling game against the Jazz last night was a game against possibly the only team that plays more knock-down, drag-out basketball then Jerry Sloan's boys.
Zach Randolph looked tired, he missed multiple shots from ten feet and was clanking free throws in during the last few minutes. I know Z-Bo doesn't like to jump, but tonight he looked like he literally couldn't jump.
So with Rudy having a tough night with Stephen Jackson, an excellent isolation defender, and Gerald Wallace all in his jersey, O.J. Mayo had to take over. He did just that, for the most part, scoring 25 points with 4-6 from deep. But when the ball's in O.J.'s hands toward the end of the game, it doesn't come back out.
Mayo finished with only 1 assist despite running the offense for a significant number of possessions -- Mike Conley didn't play tonight -- because Marcus Williams was filling in at the point. It was never clearer than the second to last possession, where O.J. took a breakaway against both Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace with Rudy Gay just screaming to dunk from the other lane.
Of course Gerald Wallace sent that shit right back to mid-court, Rudy Gay looked a bit upset, and O.J. Mayo walked off with preposterous swagger. Enough swagger to nail a game tying 3 pointer right over Wallace after Raymond Felton blew two free ones on the other end.
That shot wasn't enough, however, because it was just Predator's game. After blocking the breakaway and playing uncharacteristically tough ball, even for himself, Wallace got up and saved an errant Felton layup attempt by flicking back into the basket. As it rattled down the red lights went off.
I expected a loss tonight, to be honest. But this was, to say the least, a tough loss. Now that I know the Bobcats defensive game, though, I probably should have expected it to be exactly this cruel.