Preview 3/21/14
Preview: Keys to Beat Blazers, Rockets

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

March 21, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. BLAZERS: Kemba Walker vs. Damian Lillard

Going into the second and final meeting of the season against Portland, the Bobcats look to even the season series at one game apiece. In the first meeting, the three-ball fell early and often for the Blazers as they cruised to a 30-point victory. In that game, Kemba Walker had six points, three assists, three rebounds and added three steals while his frontcourt counterpart tallied 24 points, seven assists and two steals. Walker scored 21 points on Sunday against Milwaukee and added 20 points on Monday against Atlanta and has scored in double figures in 14 of his last 19 games. Walker is averaging 15.8 points, 7.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 36.0 minutes during the 19-game stretch. Walker also scored 24 points and handed out a career-high 16 assists in the win over Detroit on Feb. 19, recording a season high in assists for a Bobcats player. He has reached double figures in 52 of 62 games played this season, including 26 contests with 20 points or more and five games of at least 30 points. On the season, Walker is averaging 17.6 points, 5.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.24 steals per contest… On March 18, Damian Lillard scored the 3,000th point of his career in his 150th career game and became just the seventh NBA player since 2002 with 3,000 points in his first 150 career games (Irving, Griffin, Durant, James, Wade, Anthony). Lillard also became the first NBA player with at least 3,000 points and 900 assists in his first 150 career games since LeBron James achieved that feat. Lillard joined Geoff Petrie and Sidney Wicks as the only Trail Blazers to score 3,000 points in their first 150 career games. Damian Lillard currently ranks third in the league in made three-pointers (183) and fifth in free throw percentage (311-353, .881). This season Lillard has averaged 21.2 points, 5.6 assists, 3.6 boards and 0.71 steal.

KEY MATCHUP vs. ROCKETS: Al Jefferson vs. Dwight Howard

As the season dwindles down, matchups with Western Conference opponents start to go by the wayside. Monday will be the final meeting of the season between the Rockets and Bobcats. The first meeting of the season was also the first game of the season. In that game, Al Jefferson was trying to play through the pain of an ankle injury that sidelined him for most of the preseason as well as kept him out a total of nine regular season games but still managed 13 points, eight boards and two blocks. Dwight Howard playing the four in the first matchup and contributed 17 points, 26 rebounds and two blocked shots. Since the injury, Jefferson has come into his own with this Bobcats team. Jefferson is averaging 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds this season, making him the only player in the Eastern Conference and one of only five players in the NBA averaging at least 20.0 points and 10.0 rebounds. Jefferson scored 20 points on Sunday against Milwaukee and has scored 20 points or more in 26 of his last 31 games, including 11 games of 30 points or more. Jefferson is averaging 25.9 points on .544 shooting (346-for-636), 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists during the 30-game stretch. Since the run began on Jan. 11, Jefferson and Minnesota’s Kevin Love (27.0 points and 12.4 rebounds) are the only two players in the NBA averaging at least 25.0 points and 10.0 rebounds. Jefferson has scored in double figures 54 times, including 34 games with 20 points or more and 11 games with 30 at least 30 points. He has recorded 29 double-doubles, including 20 games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds… Dwight Howard now has 44 double-doubles on the season, which ranks third in the NBA through Mar. 19. Howard now owns the most double-doubles by a Rockets player since Hakeem Olajuwon had 45 in 1995-96. Howard has become just the 16th player in Rockets history to reach the century mark in blocks in a single season. Howard swatted away another four shots at Chicago (Mar. 13). It was his team-leading 21st game this season with three-or-more blocks (Rockets record: 14-7). For the season, Howard has averaged 18.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (33-36)

Currently sitting at 33 wins for the season, the Bobcats have surpassed their win total from the last two seasons combined (28). The biggest developments in the evolution of this team are first-year Head Coach Steve Clifford, the addition of Al Jefferson and the overall maturation of Kemba Walker… Against Western Conference opponents, the Bobcats are 8-5 in their last 13 games and have topped the 100-point plateau six times in the 13 games, averaging 97.9 points and 22.2 assists. Al Jefferson has scored 30 points or more in five of the 13 games, tallying six double-doubles, and is averaging 24.8 points and 10.3 rebounds. Not only has the 100-point plateau been a friend of the team when facing the West, but also the Bobcats are 20-4 this season when they score 100 points or more, including 11-1 at home… The Bobcats are giving up only 97.2 points per game, which is the fourth-lowest average in the NBA. In addition, the Bobcats are giving up the fewest fast break points (10.2) and the third- fewest points in the paint (38.5). They have held their opponent under 100 points in 45 of their 69 games this season, which is the third-most such games in the NBA. The Bobcats held 13 straight opponents under 100 points from Nov. 13-Dec. 6, which tied the second-longest streak in franchise history… The Bobcats are averaging 24.6 free throw attempts and have attempted more free throws than their opponent in 45 of their 69 contests this season. They have attempted more free throws than their opponent in 28 of their 33 victories this season and are 28-16 when doing so. In addition, the Bobcats average the fewest turnovers in the NBA at 12.6 per game.

SCOUTING THE TRAIL BLAZERS (44-24)

The Trail Blazers defeated the Bobcats, 134-104, in the first matchup of the season on Jan. 2 in Portland and have won seven of the last eight games against Charlotte. Seven of Portland’s 13 all-time wins against the Bobcats have been by at least 14 points… This season, Portland is 19-15 (.559) on the road and is tied for the fifth-most road wins in the NBA. Portland is the third team since 1976-77 to win their first seven road games against the Eastern Conference (Elias)… The Trail Blazers had the same starting lineup through the team’s first 53 game this season, tied for the sixth longest streak in a season in NBA history and tied for third longest steak to begin a season. Portland has only had two different starting lineups over the course of the season, what would be the fewest in franchise history… The Trail Blazers have won at least 41 of their first 60 games for the first time since 2000-01 (42-18) and has four win streaks of at least five games, the most since the 1999-2000 season (also four)… The Trail Blazers scored at least 98 points in 29 straight games (Nov. 22-Jan. 21), the longest streak since Golden State went 37 games (Jan. 11-March 30, 2008).

SCOUTING THE ROCKETS (45-22)

The Rockets recorded a season-best, eight-game winning streak (Jan. 28–Feb. 19), as well as setting their longest road run of 2013-14 at four in a row (Jan. 29–Feb. 19). Houston also averaged 33.0 first- quarter points on a combined 91-of-167 (.545) from the floor over the final seven outings of the streak. The only other two times in team history that the Rockets entered the All-Star Break with an active winning streak of at least seven games were back in 2004-05 (eight-game streak) and 2007-08 (eight-game run)… The Rockets have been held under 100 points in three straight games only one time this season: 97-90 win vs. San Antonio (Jan. 28) following back-to-back losses to the Grizzlies by 88-87 at Houston (Jan. 24) and 99-81 at Memphis (Jan. 25)… Houston scored 35-plus points in the paint in each of its first 44 games this season, setting its longest single-season streak of netting at least 35 points in the paint over the last 10 years (prev. high: 36-game streak in 2012-13). Three times this season have the Rockets registered at least 60 points in the paint, 20 second-chance points and 20 fast-break points in the same game: 66-22-24 vs. Milwaukee (Jan. 18), 66-25-29 vs. Sacramento (Jan. 22) and 62-26-26 at L.A. Lakers (Feb. 19).

TUNE IN

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