Preview 3/6 Inside
Keys to Beat Cavs, Grizzlies and Nuggets

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

March 6, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. CAVS: Kemba Walker vs Kyrie Irving

Kemba Walker got the month of March off to a slow start on the Cats recent road trip but bounced back in a 109-78 win on Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena over the Eastern Conference leading Indiana Pacers. Walker played like the leader who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Feb. 17-23 after scoring in double figures in all four games, including three games of 20 points or more. Walker found his groove again against the Pacers, scoring 19 points and dishing out nine assists. Walker has scored in double figures in eight of his last 11 games, including 20 or more points in three of his last seven contests. Walker is averaging 15.8 points, 7.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 37.3 minutes during the 11-game stretch. He scored 24 points and handed out a career-high 16 assists in the win over Detroit on Feb. 19, recording his fourth double-double of the season. Walker has scored in double figures in 45 of 54 games played this season, including 21 contests with 20 points or more and five games of at least 30 points. On the season, Walker is averaging 17.9 points, 4.3 boards and 5.5 assists… In the NBA, things don’t get any easier from night to night, and that could be evident when Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers will come to town on Friday. Like Walker, Irving has been named Player of the Week this season. Irving was named as the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Dec. 9-15. His 29.0 points per game were the highest among all Eastern Conference guards that week and second-highest among all East players. Irving continues to own the highest scoring average among Eastern Conference point guards at 21.5 points (second among all NBA PGs). Irving has also scored at least 20 points in 34 contests this season, including 30 points or more eight times and 40 points or more twice. He has topped 20 points or more in 17 of the last 23 games (since Jan. 15) and is also one of two players in the East to record multiple 30-point games and the only one to record at least 30 points and 10 assists in a single game. Irving is averaging 21.5 points, 6.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds this season.

KEY MATCHUP vs. GRIZZLIES: Al Jefferson vs. Marc Gasol

Al Jefferson’s all-world season continued on Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena as Big Al would not be denied. Jefferson scored 34 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Wednesday’s 22-point victory over the Pacers and knocked down the only three-point shot he took – from 31 feet out with the shot clock expiring. Jefferson has been dominant in his first year with the Bobcats. He is the only player in the Eastern Conference, and one of only four players in the NBA, averaging at least 20.0 points and 10.0 rebounds. Jefferson scored 38 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in a March 3 loss at Miami, marking the second time this season and third time in his career he has posted at least 38 points and at least 18 rebounds in a game. Jefferson has scored 20 or more points in 21 of his last 24 games, including 11 games of 30 or more points. Jefferson, who has scored at least 30 points in nine of his last 16 games, is averaging 26.4 points on .544 shooting (280-for-515), 10.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists during the 24-game stretch. Since the run began on Jan. 11, Jefferson joins Minnesota’s Kevin Love as the only two players averaging at least 25.0 points and 10.0 rebounds and they are the only two players in the NBA this season to score 40 or more points and grab 15 or more rebounds in a game. Jefferson has recorded 26 double-doubles on the season and has scored in double figures in 48 of his 52 games played this season, including 29 games of 20 points or more and 11 games with at least 30 points. Jefferson’s 26 double-doubles are already the sixth-best single-season total in franchise history. For the season Jefferson stands at 21.2 points, 10.4 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.13 blocks per game… Memphis is glad to have reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol back on the court after missing 23 games (Nov. 25‐Jan. 12) with a left MCL sprain. Memphis has won 17 of 24 since the return of Gasol and has the best mark in the NBA in points allowed (91.2) and ranks second in opponent field goal percentage (.430). Gasol scored a season‐high 23 points on Nov. 2 at Dallas and Nov. 18 at LA Clippers and he made his sixth career three‐pointer on a 60‐foot heave at the end of the first quarter on March 1 vs. Cleveland. In his return to action on Jan. 14 vs. Oklahoma City, Gasol recorded 12 points and four rebounds and is averaging 13.6 points, 6.5 rebounds to go with 3.7 assists for the season. With both players being very skilled on the blocks as well as being very good shooters away from the basket, it should make for a good low-post battle.

KEY MATCHUP vs. NUGGETS: Josh McRoberts vs Kenneth Faried

Josh McRoberts is quietly putting together a career year in Steve Clifford’s offense and is a vital piece to the puzzle that is this Bobcats team. McRoberts is shooting .408 from beyond the three-point line (31-for-76) over his last 20 games and has made 78 three-point field goals this season, topping his career total of 58 entering the season. McRoberts has made at least one three-point field goal in 10 of his last 13 contests and made at least three three-point field goals in four consecutive games from Feb. 11-19, marking just the eighth time in franchise history that a player made three or more three-point field goals in four-straight games. McRoberts has made at least three three-point field goals in 12 games this season after having just two in his career prior to this season. He also recorded two games with a career-high five three-point field goals this season (Nov. 11 vs. Atlanta and Jan. 17 at Orlando) after having just one career game with four or more three-point field goals prior this season. Perhaps the biggest impact McRoberts is having on this Bobcats team is his ability to see the whole floor and distribute the ball, which doesn’t go unnoticed. McRoberts is the connect-the-dots guy for this team and his stat line shows it. McRoberts is averaging 8.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists, all of which are either career-highs or very close. The Bobcats won the first meeting between the clubs on Jan. 29 in Denver, 101-98, with McRoberts tallying four points (2-for-3 from the field), six boards and two assists while holding his counterpart, Kenneth Faried, to six points (3-for-11 shooting), six rebounds and one blocked shot… Faried Posted a career-high 28 points and 11 rebounds against the Clippers on Feb.3 and tallied his 13th double-double of the year with 21 points and 10 rebounds against Phoenix on Feb. 18. It was his 11th career 20-point, 10-rebound game and he now has 57 career double-doubles, with Denver going 46-11 in those games. Faried posted 26 points (11-for-15 shooting) and six rebounds at Milwaukee on Feb. 20. It was the seventh time in his career he has scored 20+ points while shooting 73 percent or better, and the first time in his career he has registered back-to-back 20-point games. During the Jan. 3 matchup with the Grizzlies, Faried shot 87.5 percent from the field (7-for-8) which was the fourth time in his career he had achieved that with making at least seven field goals. Faried is averaging 11.3 points, 7.6 boards, and 1.1 assists for the season.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (27-33)

With victories over Dallas, Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis and Indiana, the Bobcats have won five-straight home games, recording the first five-game home win streak since March 5-27, 2010 (seven games). The Bobcats have topped the 100-point plateau three times, including a season-high-tying 116 points on Feb. 19 against Detroit and are averaging 104.2 points and 26.8 assists over the five-game span… For the second-consecutive game, the Cats shot over 50 percent from the field (51.2 percent in both games) and are 9-1 this season when they shoot over .500 from the field… With their 109-87 victory on March 5, the Cats improved to 8-1 when they score at least 100 points at home… The Bobcats have won 28 games so far this season, equaling the last two season’s win totals combined with 16 of those wins at home, surpassing their total of home victories from last season (15). The Bobcats have 12 road wins this season, doubling their total of six road victories from last season and only one shy of equaling the franchise record for road wins in a season… With 27 wins through 60 games, Bobcats Head Coach Steve Clifford has the most victories by any Bobcats head coach over his first 60 games with the team… The Bobcats are 6-4 in their last 10 games against Western Conference opponents… The Bobcats have topped the 100-point plateau four times in the 10 games, averaging 97.4 points and 22.3 assists. Al Jefferson has scored 30 points or more in five of the 10 games, tallying four double-doubles, and is averaging 25.5 points and 9.8 rebounds… The Bobcats have played a league-high 26 games this season decided by six points or less and are 14-12 in those games… Entering Friday’s game, the Bobcats are giving up only 97.3 points per game, which is the fifth-lowest average in the NBA. In addition, the Bobcats are giving up the fewest fast break points (10.2) and the fourth- fewest points in the paint (38.2). They have held their opponent under 100 points in 39 of their 61 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 and tied the longest streak in the NBA this season, set by the Spurs from Nov. 5-29.

SCOUTING THE CAVS (24-38)

On the season, the Cavs reserves are averaging 35.7 points per game (third in East and seventh in the NBA) and have outscored the opponent’s bench in 40 of 61 contests. Their reserves have scored at least 40 points 25 times this season, and 50 or more points 12 times. Cleveland’s bench scored 60 points in a 109-100 win at Orlando on Dec. 13 - the most scored by the Cavs reserves since April 11, 2011 at Detroit (61 points)… The Cavs have already played in seven overtime contests this season, which is their most since 2006-07 (seven overtimes). Cleveland’s seven overtime games played are the second-most in the NBA this season (Washington-nine) and the Cavs are 5-2 in the extra stanza, the most overtime wins among all NBA teams this season and by a Cavs team since 2005-06 (5-0). Kyrie Irving has scored a league-high 44 points in overtime this season and his 8.0 overtime points per game are the second-most in the NBA (minimum: two overtime games)… With an 8-5 record in the last 13 games, the Cavs experienced their first six-game winning streak (Feb. 7-19) since winning eight straight contests from March 8-24, 2010. During the win streak, the Cavs outscored its opponents by 10.1 points (103.8 to 93.7). The Cavs also won three straight road games during that streak, which was the first time since Nov. 5-9, 2010 (at PHI, at WAS and at NJ) that has happened. Cleveland also held opponents to under 100 points in a season-high eight straight games from Feb. 9-25 during this 13-game stretch. The last time they accomplished that feat was Jan. 21-Feb. 4, 2010 (also eight games).

SCOUTING THE GRIZZLIES (34-25)

Memphis has scored 110 points in each of the first two games to open March 2014, the last two times the Grizzlies have scored 110+ in back‐to‐ back games also came in the month of March, including a pair of games from March 13‐16, 2012 and another pair from March 27‐30, 2011… Memphis is averaging 103.4 points on .499 shooting (second in the NBA) and .427 three-point shooting (fourth) since the All‐Star Break. The Grizzlies, who have won five of seven following the break, also are tied for fourth in assists (24.7) and rank seventh in offensive rating (109.4)… The Grizzlies score more points in the fourth quarter (25.6) than in any other quarter, and they do it efficiently. Memphis shoots .482 from the field in the final period (third in the NBA) and .389 from three‐point range (third) and also averages 5.4 assists (third)… The Grizzlies have gone 54‐8 over the last two seasons when scoring 100+ points, three of the eight losses have come in overtime. In contrast, Memphis is 4‐16 this season when allowing opponents to score 100+ points… Memphis won its 29th game on Feb. 12 at Orlando in the team’s final game before the All‐Star Break. Memphis has never missed the playoffs when winning at least 29 games before the All‐Star Break.

SCOUTING THE NUGGETS (24-34)

With Brian Shaw taking over the head coaching duties for the Denver Nuggets, he brings along with him extensive experience and the knowledge of what it takes to win championships as both a player and coach in this league. Shaw of course won three NBA Championships as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers under legendary coach Phil Jackson… Starting with the 2003-04 season, the Denver Nuggets put together a run of 10-consecutive playoff appearances, tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the longest streak in the NBA over the last decade. Denver is now 15-4 on the season when holding its opponents under 100 points and 5-1 when allowing fewer than 90 points. As with any team, reliance on the second-teamers is paramount as the Nuggets bench has been a huge factor in the team’s success so far this season. In fact, Denver’s reserves rank third in the NBA in points per game (38.8) and first in rebounds per game (18.1). Denver’s bench outscored their opponent in 40 of their first 59 games and have scored 50-or-more points in nine games already. In fact, in 12 games this year it has been a bench player who has led the team in scoring.

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