Preview: Keys to Beat Clippers
Preview: Keys to Beat Clippers

By Jace Darling,

January 21, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. CLIPPERS: Ramon Sessions vs. Darren Collison

With Kemba Walker out for at least the next two weeks with a stage-two sprain of his left ankle he suffered on Jan. 18 against Miami, the onus is on Ramon Sessions to step in and step up. Sessions has been playing solid minutes for the Cats off the bench this season, having played in all 43 games while averaging 10.7 points and 3.1 assists in 22.4 minutes. With Walker out, Sessions is now part of the starting five and impressed in his first start of the season on Jan. 20 against Toronto. He netted 23 points on 60.0 percent shooting (6-for-10) and connected on 10 of 11 free throws (90.9 percent), to help the Bobcats hold on to a 100-95 victory over the Raptors. Prior to Monday’s contest, Sessions had put up some of the top numbers in the league among players who had not started a game. Sessions ranked first in free throws made (434) and attempted (528), second in assists (362) and points (1313), third in steals (74) and fifth in rebounds (256). He has also scored in double digits in each of the last four games and 27 times this season. Including 16 points, five assists and three rebounds in a season-high 38 minutes against the Heat on Jan 18… Not unlike the Bobcats, the injury bug has hit the Clippers as well. Chris Paul is out with a separated shoulder he suffered on Jan. 3 against Dallas, so the starting point guard job now goes to Darren Collison. Replacing a six-time NBA All-Star who’s averaging 19.6 points, a league-high 11.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 steals is no easy task, but Collison has been shooting 50.0 percent from field (44-for-88) and scoring 13.7 points in 10 games since Jan. 1. The Clippers are 8-2 over that same stretch. Collison has scored 20 points or more in three of the last seven games, including 20 on Jan. 10 against the Lakers. He had a double-double against the Mavericks on Jan. 15 and scored 12 points with seven assists and five rebounds against the Knicks on Jan. 17. Collison playing well without Chris Paul in the lineup is not uncommon. He has started 45 career games in place of Paul, putting up incredible numbers in doing so. He started 37 games for Paul with the then-New Orleans Hornets and seven more this season (Nov. 29 and Jan. 4-present). Collison has averaged 18.4 points, 8.7 assists and 1.6 steals when filling in for Paul.


With Kemba Walker out, the Cats other two captains – Al Jefferson and Gerald Henderson – bear the weight of leading the team and playing Bobcats basketball. Al Jefferson has been dominant of late. He scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds on Saturday against Miami, and added 22 points, 19 boards and seven assists Monday against Toronto, tallying his 16th and 17th double-doubles of the season, respectively. Monday’s game saw Jefferson reach the double-double plateau before the end of the first quarter, as he finished the frame with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jefferson was the first Bobcat to ever record a double-double in one quarter. The last player to do it was Reggie Evans on Apr. 9, 2013 for the Brooklyn Nets. Jefferson’s 17 double-doubles on the season are tied for the ninth best single-season total in franchise history… Henderson has been holding his own as well. He scored 16 points on Monday against the Raptors and is averaging 16.9 points on .448 shooting (82-for-183), including .421 from beyond the three-point line (8-for-19), over his last 14 games… On the season the Bobcats have attempted more free throws than their opponent in 17 of their 18 victories and are a perfect 3-0 when at least six players score in double digits… Charlotte is 10-2 this season when scoring 100 points or more and 4-0 when the team shoots over 50 percent from the floor… The Bobcats have played a league-high 20 games decided by six points or less and are 10-10 in those games while giving up only 94.0 points per game, which is the fifth-lowest average in the NBA. Last season, the team allowed 102.7 points per contest, ranking 29th in the league. In addition the Cats have held their opponent under 100 points in 28 of their 43 games this season, which is the third-most such games in the NBA.


With Chris Paul out of the lineup, it is fortunate that J.J. Redick has made it back from injury and returned to his usual self. Since he returned from a 21-game absence on Jan. 10, Redick has picked up where he left off in terms of first-quarter scoring. In 21 games, Redick has scored 10+ points in the first quarter seven times and is averaging the fifth-most points in the league in the opening period… Blake Griffin is putting together one of the best month-long stretches of his career. From Dec. 14 to the present (18 games), Griffin has averaged 25.8 points, including topping 25 points 10 times. He has led the Clippers to a 13-4 record, despite the team missing Redick for 14 of 16 games and Paul for the most recent five and a half. Griffin’s game-high 32 points on Jan. 17 against the Knicks marked the sixth time he’s scored 30+ points and second time in the last three games… The Clippers opened their second of two seven-game road trips this season (Dec. 4-14 and Jan. 17-27) with a 109-95 win over the New York Knicks on Jan. 17. The Clippers have a combined record of 26-38 on road trips of at least six games since 2008-09, including their 2-0 record on their current trip. They went 4-3 on their most recent seven-game trip from Dec. 4-14, 2013. The Clippers will travel approximately 11,275 air miles on their seven-game road trip that began in New York on Jan. 17 and heads to Indiana, Detroit, Charlotte, Chicago and Toronto before coming to an end in Milwaukee on Jan. 27. By the time they return home, the Clippers will have completed 26 of their 41 regular-season road games (63.4 percent)… The Clippers have won 29 of their first 43 games and are off to the second-best start in franchise history. Only the 2012-13 team had a better record at the midway point of the season (32-9)… The Clippers are quickly becoming one of the more dominant all-around teams in the NBA. They are No. 5 in the NBA in net efficiency rating and are one of just three teams in the NBA with a Top 10 rating in both offense and defense. The Clippers are also undefeated this season (18-0) when they make at least nine three-pointers in a game.


This game can be seen on Fox SportSouth or NBA League Pass or you can listen live on, the Bobcats app or WFNZ 610 am.

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