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Preview: Keys to Crucial Back-to-Back Set vs. Pistons

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

February 17, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. PISTONS: Al Jefferson vs. Andre Drummond

Though he was left out of the All-Star Weekend, Al Jefferson quietly had a superb first 44 games to start the 2012-13 NBA season. Since returning from an ankle injury early on (that kept him out for nine games) and getting back into game shape, Jefferson has simply been dominant. In the first meeting between these teams on Dec. 20 at Detroit, Jefferson scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to go with two assists and one blocked shot in 33:25 minutes to log his eighth double-double of the young season. Since then, he’s posted a total of 17 double-doubles in his last 28 games and has 23 total for the season, averaging 20.1 points on .490 shooting (385-for-785) and 10.5 rebounds. He has scored in double figures in 41 of his 44 games played this season, including 21 games of 20 points or more and seven games with at least 30 points. Jefferson posted franchise-record and career-long streaks of three straight 30-point games (Jan. 25-31) and 11 straight 20-point games (Jan. 11- 31) before scoring just 10 points on Feb. 1 at Phoenix, adding to his list of franchise firsts. He tallied 40 points and 18 rebounds on Jan. 31 against the Lakers, recording the first game in franchise history with at least 40 points and 15 rebounds… Second year pro Andre Drummond is fresh off being named MVP of the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend. Drummond finished that game with 30-points and a Rising Stars record 25 rebounds. Drummond will look to continue that type of dominance as the second half of the season commences. He is second in the NBA in field goal percentage, third in rebounding and first in offensive rebounding. He has also recorded a career-high 39 double-doubles through 52 games, which ranks second in the NBA. Drummond has recorded seven-consecutive double-doubles twice this season and ranks first in the Eastern Conference in double-doubles. Drummond posted three consecutive games with at least 15-plus points and 14-plus rebounds from Nov. 11-15, becoming the first Pistons player to do so since Dennis Rodman recorded 15-plus points and 14-plus rebounds in 1991. During the three-game stretch, Drummond averaged 15.7 points, 16.0 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 assists while shooting 72.0 percent from the field. Drummond also ranks third in the NBA in rebounding (12.9)… With both of these big men being focal points of their respective teams, these should be classic low-post battles in the back-to-back set, as well as a huge determining factor in the playoff picture.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (23-30)

When the race to the end of the season begins Tuesday at The Palace of Auburn Hills, the Bobcats will face a Pistons team one half game behind the Cats for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. These two teams have already met once this season and will play in a rare back-to-back, home-at-home, two-game miniseries. With playoff implications on the line, Charlotte currently holds the tiebreaker due to a 10-point victory on Dec. 20 in Detroit (116-106) after being down 18 points with one minute remaining in the third quarter. The Cats can ill afford to come out of the break flat. Having a week off after 53 games is a perfect way to heal the bumps, bruises and sprains that go with the grind of the NBA season. The push to the end, and perhaps the playoffs, begins Tuesday. With 23 wins, the Cats have already eclipsed their win total from a season ago and have 11 road victories so far this season, topping their total of six road wins from last season… Bobcats Head Coach Steve Clifford won 22 of his first 50 games, which trails only Paul Silas (23) for the most victories by a Bobcats head coach over his first 50 games… Defense has been the name of the game since the arrival of Clifford and his staff. The Bobcats are giving up only 96.9 points per game, which is the fourth-lowest average in the NBA. Last season, the team allowed 102.7 points per contest, ranking 29th in the league. In addition, the Bobcats are giving up the fewest fast break points (10.1) and the third-fewest points in the paint (37.4). They have held their opponent under 100 points in 33 of their 53 games this season, which is the third-most such games in the NBA. Additionally the Bobcats have played a league-high 24 games this season decided by six points or less and are 12-12 in those games.

SCOUTING THE PISTONS (22-30)

Going into the All-Star break, the Pistons had an opportunity to jump ahead of the Bobcats for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Cats had lost at Brooklyn to finish at 23-30 before the break while Detroit was playing Cleveland for their final game but got outscored 23-17 in the final eight minutes to eventually lose by four-points and finish a half a game behind Charlotte with a record of 22-30… During December, the Pistons held an 8-9 record with road wins against two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference (Miami on Dec. 3 and Indiana on Dec. 16) and an overtime loss to the Western Conference’s top team (Portland on Dec. 15). Miami and Indiana have a combined record of 45-6 at home with the Pistons responsible for two of those six losses… The Pistons are one of the youngest teams in the NBA and second youngest in the Eastern Conference but are first in the NBA for most points in the paint with 51.9 per game and are second in the league in fast-break points (18.2 per contest). As good as the Pistons have been in the paint this season, they have been dreadful from long range and from the stripe. Detroit is last in the league in three-point shooting percentage (.309) and free-throw shooting (.667). Defensively Detroit ranks 25th in the league giving up 102.9 points per game.

TUNE IN

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