Preview: Keys to Beat Bulls
Preview: Keys to Beat Bulls

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

April 15, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. BULLS: Al Jefferson vs. Joakim Noah

Entering the final game of the regular season, both the Bobcats and Bulls have playoff seeding on their minds. First and foremost, if either team wants to possibly move up in the standings one thing is certain, they must get a win and then get some help. The Bulls come to Time Warner Cable Arena Wednesday for the season finale and the fourth game between these two teams, a season series in which Chicago has a 3-0 record. Charlotte has lost by combined margin of 16 points. Al Jefferson was still hampered by his ankle injury in the first matchup but after his return to health he was dominant against Joakim Noah in the other two games. Jefferson has averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in his two games against Chicago while Noah has gone for 13.7 points, 10.3 boards and 1.7 blocks per game playing against the Bobcats three times.

An argument could be made for both centers being the best at their position in the Eastern Conference, and the stats certainly back up the argument. Jefferson is still one of five players in the league and the only player in the Eastern Conference to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. His counterpart, Noah, is having a tremendous all-around year as well.

Jefferson was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for games played in March. Jefferson, who led the Bobcats to a 9-7 record, earned his first Player of the Month award and became the first Bobcats player to receive the honor. Jefferson saw action in all 16 games in the month, averaging 24.7 points on .555 shooting (178-321), 10.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 37.2 minutes played. He tallied a conference-best six games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, helping him break the franchise single-season record, while his nine double-doubles were tied for third in the conference. Jefferson scored in double figures in all 16 games, including 12 games with 20 points or more and three 30-point contests. Jefferson is averaging 22.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.07 blocks this season. Jefferson has scored in double figures 68 times, including 45 games with 20 points or more and 13 games with at least 30 points. He has recorded 41 double-doubles, including 29 games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Noah’s four triple-doubles are tied for second most in the NBA in 2013-14, and he narrowly missed his fifth on the season Monday night against the Magic finishing two assists shy. The last center that led the NBA in triple-doubles for a season was David Robinson with five in 1993-94. Noah is on pace to finish the season with 419 assists, which would place him ninth in league history among centers (Wilt Chamberlain is first with 702 assists in 1967-68; STATS, LLC). Noah’s assist total currently ranks 12th in league history for assists in a season by a center. Noah is on pace to finish the season with at least 12 points, 11 rebounds and five assists per game, if he accomplishes this feat he would be just the fifth center to achieve that milestone joining the likes of Wilt Chamberlain (four times), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (three times), Bill Russell (two times) and Bill Walton (two times). Since 1990-91 only three players (Kevin Garnett: six times; Charles Barkley: one time; Anthony Mason: one time) have averaged 12.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg and 5.0 apg over the course of an entire season (STATS, LLC.). With 408 assists and 117 blocks, Noah is the ninth player in NBA history to tally 400 assists and 100 blocks in a single season. Noah is the fifth center to accomplish this feat, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (twice), Sam Lacey (three times), Kevin Garnett (six times), and Alvan Adams (once). On the season Noah is averaging 12.6 points, 11.2 boards, 5.4 assists and 1.51 blocks.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (42-39)

This season has been a dramatic turnaround from the two previous seasons. The Bobcats have not only won more games this season (42) then the last two season combined (28) but have also double the wins from a year ago (21)… Entering Wednesday’s action, the Bobcats are giving up only 97.2 points per game, which is the fifth-lowest average in the NBA. Additionally, the Bobcats are giving up the fewest fast break points (10.3) and the fourth- fewest points in the paint (38.9) and have held their opponent under 100 points in 52 of their 81 games this season, which is the fourth-most such games in the NBA… The Bobcats are 13-2 in their last 15 home games, including an eight-game win streak from Feb. 11-March 14, that is the second-longest home win streak in franchise history. The Bobcats have topped the 100-point plateau 10 times during the 15-game stretch, including a season-high 124 points on March 22 against Portland. They are averaging 103.1 points and 23.5 assists over the 15-game span… Al Jefferson has led the way for the Bobcats averaging 25.8 points and 10.9 rebounds, while Kemba Walker is averaging 19.1 points, 8.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds. In addition the Bobcats lead the league in defensive rebound percentage, grabbing .774 of the rebounds on their defensive end and average the fewest turnovers in the NBA at 12.4 per game.

SCOUTING THE BULLS (48-33)

Going into Wednesday’s game the Chicago Bulls are comfortably in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with an outside chance at the three spot. Wednesday’s result as well as the Raptors’ game will determine final seeding. The Bulls are currently 21-19 on the road this season and are one of four teams, along with Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, that has posted a winning road record each of the last four seasons. Much like the Bobcats the Bulls are built on defense Chicago is currently first in opponent scoring (91.8 ppg) and second in opponent field goal percentage (.431). All of which is remarkable given the fact that Tom Thibodeau has had to use 18 different starting lineups. Since Jan. 1, Chicago has won an Eastern conference-best 36 games and owns the best record in the East with a mark of 36-15 (.705). In his fourth year on the sidelines, Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau owns a career coaching record of 205-106 (.659). On April 2 in Atlanta, he won his 200th game in just 305 games. Thibodeau is the third coach in franchise history to win 200 games, Phil Jackson (won his 200th game with the Bulls in his 270th game) and Dick Motta (won his 200th game in his 357th game). This season, Chicago is 40-4 overall (22-3 at home, 18-1 on the road) when leading its opponent entering the final quarter.

TUNE IN

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