By Caroline Sikes
February 7, 2013
KEY MATCHUP vs. LAKERS
Kemba Walker vs. Steve Nash
After only scoring five points on Wednesday in Cleveland, Kemba Walker is due for a highly productive game on the offensive end. Walker’s five points broke an 18-game streak of double-figure scoring, the longest of his career. Walker leads the team in scoring (17.5 points), assists (5.6) and steals (1.9). The last time these two teams met, Walker put up an impressive stat line with 28 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. This time, however, Walker will be facing off against two-time MVP and eight-time All-Star Steve Nash… When the Bobcats traveled to Los Angeles, Nash was still recovering from a left leg injury. Nash has been performing at a high level since his return, averaging 11.9 points, 7.8 assists and 3.0 rebounds. Nash has had the touch this season, shooting 52.3 percent from the floor, 43.8 percent from 3-point range and 90.0 percent from the free throw line… A difference maker in this match up could be if Walker can lock down on defense and not allow Nash to get good looks at the basket.
KEY MATCHUP vs. 76ERS
Ramon Sessions vs. Nick Young
Ramon Sessions has been a key piece to the Bobcats this season, settling in and finding a home in Charlotte where he averages a career-high 14.9 points, up 1.6 from the 13.3 points he averaged during the 2010-11 season. Recently, Sessions has elevated his game even more, averaging 17.8 points, 3.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds in the last 10 games. His style of play fits in well, as he likes to get out on the fastbreak and penetrate the lane where he can easily draw a foul. Sessions shoots 85.4 percent from the foul line and ranks seventh in the league in free throw makes with an average of 5.0… In Philadelphia, Sessions will be squaring off against Nick Young, who has been given the starting role after a season-ending injury to Jason Richardson. Young has risen to the occasion in the last 10 games, averaging 15.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.00 steal. It will be Sessions’ duty to take Young off of his hot streak offensively to give the Bobcats an edge on the road.
Jeffery Taylor vs. Paul Pierce
With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist recovering from a concussion, Jeffery Taylor has been given the nod from Coach Mike Dunlap for increased minutes and has taken advantage. In the last four games the Rookie averages 11.0 points, way above his season average of 6.7. During those four games, Taylor has shot 60.4 percent from the field and 56.7 percent from long range while adding 2.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.25 steals… Taylor has become Dunlap’s go-to guy on defense and will have the challenge of defending Paul Pierce. The 14-year veteran, averages 18.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.4 steals. Although Pierce’s point total is slightly below his career average, the 6-7 forward has been forced to lead the Celtics in other ways since the injury to Rajon Rondo. Since Rondo’s absence, Pierce has grabbed 10.0 rebounds and handed out 6.2 assists while adding 16.2 points. Taylor will need to bring energy on the defensive end to shut down the Celtics leading scorer.
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (11-37)
The Bobcats will look to avenge their disappointing loss to the Lakers earlier in the season as they return from a five-game road trip. In the first match up, the Lakers came back from a 18-point deficit and survived a flurry of shots at the last second to hand the Bobcats a one-point loss. The Bobcats have came a long way since that game and are poised for a strong win after hanging close to the Spurs, who are the best team in the West and taking the defending champs down to the wire in Miami… The return of Byron Mullens seems to come at the perfect time. In his first two games back from a severely sprained ankle, Mullens averages 13.5 points 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block. Mullens will need to continue to play well offensively, because his presence helps spread the floor, creates space and takes some of the pressure off the guards… Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has missed the last two games due to a concussion suffered on February 2.
SCOUTING THE LAKERS (23-26 as of 2/7)
As part of a seven-game road trip, the Lakers will take on the Celtics before traveling to play the Bobcats. After having a shaky start to the season, the Lakers have won six of their last seven games, but in Charlotte, the Lakers are 1-5 over the past six seasons… It won’t help that four-time All Star Pau Gasol (13.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.33 blocks) recently suffered a tear in his right foot to keep him out for six weeks and seven-time All Star Dwight Howard (16.5 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.42 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.05 steals) is still suffering from a shoulder injury. Howard was expected to return in their last game against the Nets, so it is still questionable whether he will play in Charlotte… The 16-year veteran, Kobe Bryant, has been leading the Lakers through their injury-laden season. Bryant was not satisfied with the way his team was playing in the beginning of the season and has recently adjusted his game to better suit the Lakers needs. He has made a point to get his teammates more involved and not necessarily look for his shot first. In the last 10 games, Bryant averages 19.3 points and 7.8 assists compared to the 27.6 points and 5.4 assists he averages on the season.
SCOUTING THE 76ERS (21-27 as of 2/7)
The 76ers are 15-12 at home this season as the Bobcats travel to Philadelphia. Recently, the Sixers have been plagued with injuries, including most recently a hamstring strain to Thaddeus Young. Young is the Sixers second-leading scorer (14.9) and leads the team in rebounds (7.4) and steals (1.6), but he is expected to miss at least three weeks. Jason Richardson (10.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists) is out for the season, having to undergo surgery on his knee. The first time the 76ers faced the Bobcats, Young and Richardson accounted for 37 points… Jrue Holiday has done his best to make up for their absence on the offensive end. Holiday has put up elite numbers in his third season in the NBA with 19.3 points, 9.0 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals. Holiday is the key to the 76ers offense and slowing him could make for a Bobcat victory.
SCOUTING THE CELTICS (25-23 as of 2/7)
In the middle of January, the Celtics went on a six-game losing streak that began to raise concern. Then, Rajon Rondo tore his ACL and has to undergo surgery keeping him out for the rest of the season and most critics believed it would be all downhill from there. However, the Celtics have responded positively in light of Rondo’s injury and have won their last five games including a double overtime win against the Heat. Before heading to Charlotte, the Celtics will take on the Lakers and the Nuggets at home… The Celtics have struggled to find a suitable replacement for their All Star point guard. They have let Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa all clock minutes at the point, but none of them have significantly stood out… Kevin Garnett has also stepped things up offensively since Rondo’s injury, including a season-high 27-point performance against the Raptors. In the last five games, Garnett averages 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks.
Make sure you come support your Cats as they take on the Lakers at 7:00 p.m. on February 8 in Time Warner Cable Arena®. The Bobcats have a quick turnaround when they travel to Philadelphia for an 8:00 p.m. tip off on February 9 and then return home to play the Celtics at 7:00 p.m. on February 11 at Time Warner Cable Arena®. You can catch all three games on SportSouth or listen on WFNZ. Converse with other Bobcats fans by following the live in-game chat at bobcats.com or download the Bobcats app on your smartphone.
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