Preview: Keys to Beat Celtics, 76ers
Preview: Keys to Beat Celtics, 76ers

By Shane Skeary, bobcats.com

April 11, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. CELTICS: Kemba Walker vs. Rajon Rondo

When these two teams met back on Nov. 25, Kemba Walker led the Cats with a game-high 28 points, adding six assists and five rebounds, but then-Celtic Jordan Crawford (21 points) and Boston’s bench spoiled Walker’s effort in a 96-86 loss at Time Warner Cable Arena. Walker has vastly improved since that point with the emergence of his running mate, Al Jefferson, and an improved roster to take the scoring load off him. Walker has become more of a willing passer this season, as he currently ranks 15th in the league in assists, and his 6.1 assists are a career-best as he has improved his assist average every month this season. Walker’s ability to find capable scorers this season has also provided opportunities for him to score as well, seeing that he is also averaging a career best 17.8 points. Walker has scored 20 or more points in eight of his last 12 games and notched double-figure scoring numbers in 22 of his last 28 games… This matchup will also be different than the previous two, as this will be the first game the Celtics will have All-Star Rajon Rondo. He missed 39 games this season as he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered last season. Since his return on Jan. 17, he is averaging a modest 11.8 points, 9.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds. Although he has only played in 29 games, Rondo continues to rise among the Celtics franchise leaders this season. He was the 23rd player in franchise history to play in 500 games for Boston on Mar. 28 vs. Toronto and passed Bill Russell for fifth all-time in assists with 4,223.

KEY MATCHUP vs. 76ERS: Gary Neal vs. Tony Wroten

These two teams have met three times already this season, with the Cats leading the series, 2-1. The last matchup was one to forget for the Sixers as they fell 123-93 on Apr. 2 in Philadelphia. It was Gary Neal’s first game against Philadelphia as a member of the Bobcats and he performed admirably, chipping in 15 of a season-high 60 bench points for Charlotte in the victory. Neal has been playing some great basketball for the Cats as of late. He scored 16 points against Washington on Apr. 9 and is averaging 11.5 points, while shooting .465 from the field (46-for-99) and .421 from three (16-for-38). Don’t let Neal get to the charity stripe - since joining the Cats, Neal has hit 42-of-43 from the foul line including his current streak of 35-straight dating back to Mar. 2. Neal has tied Steven Jackson for the third-longest streak in franchise history behind current Bobcats Community Ambassador Matt Carroll and D.J. Augustin… Tony Wroten is having a career-year spending time as a starter and sixth man on a struggling Sixers squad. He is averaging 13.0 points (third-highest on the team), 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Wroten played well as a starter in the first matchup between these two teams on Dec. 6 finishing with a near triple-double of 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. However, Wroten has failed to match that production coming off the bench against Charlotte, tallying a combined 17 points, three rebounds and six assists in the last two games against the Bobcats. Despite the lack of offensive success against the Cats recently, look for Wroten to be heavily involved in Philadelphia’s offense with the shortage of offensive weapons in the rotation.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (40-38)

The Cats are currently riding a season-high five-game winning streak, which is tied for the fourth longest win streak in franchise history behind only a trio of six-game streaks. The five-game streak is the second-longest active streak in the NBA, behind Chicago’s six-game streak. Al Jefferson has recorded double-doubles in all five contests averaging 23.4 points and 14.o rebounds, while Kemba Walker posted a triple-double and a pair of double-doubles averaging 15.8 points and 8.8 rebounds during the streak…Charlotte is 4-0 so far in the month of April after posting records of 9-7 in March and 6-4 in February marking consecutive months of winning records for the second time in franchise history… Most of the team’s success can be attributed to the dominance of Al Jefferson. With 21.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game this season, Jefferson is the only player in the Eastern Conference averaging at least 20.0 points and 10.0 rebounds. He only trails Kevin Love, LeMarcus Aldridge and DeMarcus Cousins in that category in the NBA as a whole… The Cats’ defense has also played a major role this season as Charlotte is leaps and bounds ahead of where they were last year defensively. They are giving up only 97.1 points per game this year (fourth-best in the NBA) compared to 102.7 last season, 10.1 fast break points (best in the NBA) and 38.8 points in the paint (fifth-fewest in the NBA).

SCOUTING THE CELTICS (23-55)

The Celtics have were handed their ninth-straight loss by the Hawks on Apr 9., as they lost 105-97 in Atlanta. Avery Bradley had a game-high 24 points, while Rajon Rondo (19 points, 12 assists) and Jared Sullinger (15 points, 11 rebounds) each had double-doubles… Watch out for Boston under the offensive glass. During the 2012-13 season, the Celtics were ranked dead last in the league in offensive rebounding and percentage. That has all changed this season as Boston currently ranks sixth in offensive rebounding, averaging 12.06 per game and fifth in offensive rebounding percentage at 27.6 percent. Much of this can be credited to the breakout season for Jared Sullinger. Sullinger averages 3.3 offensive boards per game and has a total of 240 on the season… Along with Sullinger, Kelly Olynk has played a big role in the youth movement in Boston. With two more assists, Olynk can be the 12th Celtics rookie in franchise history to record 500 points, 300 rebounds and 100 assists. Olynk currently has 535 points, 335 rebounds and 98 assists… After leading NBA “bigs” in free throw percentage last season (86.0 percent), Brandon Bass only trails Dirk Nowitzki this season at 85.7 percent this season.

SCOUTING THE 76ERS (17-61)

Philadelphia’s last game was a 125-114 loss to the Raptors on Apr. 9 in Toronto. Henry Sims led the Sixers with 25 points as the team outscored the Raptors 62-46 in the paint, but it wasn’t enough… The 76ers have gone 2-4 since ending it’s 26-game losing streak. Philly ended the streak with a win vs. Detroit on Mar. 29, exactly two months time since the Sixers last win at Boston on Jan. 29. The 26-game streak was tied for the longest in NBA history (Cleveland from 12/20/10-2/9/11). Philly led by as many as 32 points in the “streak-breaker” vs. Detroit and won by 25. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Sixers 25-point win was the largest in NBA history by a team that entered that game with a losing streak of 15+ games (there were 62 losing streaks of 15+ games in league history at that point, including Philly’s)…Michael Carter-Williams continues his historic rookie campaign. Through games played on Apr. 9, Carter-Williams led all rookies in scoring (16.7), rebounding (6.1), assists (6.3), steals (1.88) and in minutes played (34.6). He is on pace to become just the third player dating back to 1950-51 to lead all rookies in points, rebound and assists per game (Oscar Robertson in 1960-61 and Alvan Adams in 1975-76). The only rookies to average at least 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in a single season were Robertson and Magic Johnson (1979-80). With the departure of Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes at the trade deadline, Thaddeus Young has emerged as the team’s leading scorer. Since the trade deadline passed on 2/20 (23 games), Young is averaging 20.0 points (460 total), 5.7 rebounds (130 total), 3.3 assists (77 total) and 2.30 steals (53 total).

TUNE IN

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