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

By Jace Darling,

January 14, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. KNICKS : Al Jefferson vs Andrea Bargnani

When Steve Clifford was hired to be the new head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats in May, it was immediately apparent that the Bobcats were going to play a new style of game. Clifford relies heavily on a low-post presence in his four-out one-in offense. This philosophy led to the July acquisition of free agent Al Jefferson and his career averages of 16.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists. In his first season with the Cats, Jefferson is averaging 16.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists, and he has already posted 14 double-doubles in just 29 games played this season, tying Gerald Wallace for the 13th-best single-season total in franchise history. Jefferson has recorded double-doubles in eight of his last 13 games and 13 of his last 22 games, averaging 17.4 points on .454 shooting (169- 372) and 10.9 rebounds during the 22-game stretch. On Dec. 28 at Atlanta, Jefferson scored 24 points and grabbed a season-high 23 rebounds, becoming the first Bobcats player to tally 20 or more points and 20 or more rebounds in a game since Nazr Mohammed had 22 points and 20 rebounds on Nov. 13, 2010 against Utah. Jefferson recorded consecutive games with 20 or more points and 10 or more rebounds on Dec. 18 and 20, becoming the first Bobcats player to do so since Gerald Wallace did so on Jan. 29 and 30, 2010. He has posted four consecutive double-doubles twice this season (Nov. 29-Dec. 6 and Dec. 27-Jan. 1), becoming the first Bobcats player with four straight double-doubles since Wallace had six in a row from Nov. 18-28, 2009. Jefferson scored in double figures in 22 consecutive games from Nov. 23-Jan. 4.

Coming into town with the Knicks is their seven-foot center Andrea Bargnani. Even though Bargnani is two inches taller than Jefferson, Jefferson’s pure size and strength should make this a great matchup. Bargnani posted 25 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and three assists in 34 minutes (all season highs) in New York’s Nov. 8 win at Charlotte. The five blocks were one shy of his career best. The Knicks are 3-1 when Bargnani records a double-double and 3-4 when he records 20 or more points.

KEY MATCHUP vs. 76ERS: Al Kemba Walker vs Michael Carter-Williams

Kemba Walker scored 29 points on Saturday at Chicago and has scored in double figures in 26 of his last 27 games. He recorded a career-best 22-game double-figure scoring streak from Nov. 20-Jan. 1, which topped a pair of 18-game streaks set Dec. 29, 2012-Feb. 4, 2013 and March 3-April 5, 2013. Walker has scored in double figures in 34 of 38 contests this season, including 16 games with 20 points or more and four games of at least 30 points. He scored 20 points or more in six straight games from Dec. 14-23, recording the longest streak of his career and tying the third-longest streak in franchise history. In the Dec. 9 win over Golden State, Walker scored 27 of his 31 points in the second half, including the team’s final 15 points, tying the franchise record for points in a half. Over his last 21 contests, Walker is averaging 20.8 points, 5.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds, while shooting .457 from the field (158-346) and .411 from beyond the three-point line (39-95)…Through games played on Jan. 10, rookie Michael Carter-Williams led all first-year players in scoring (17.8), rebounding (5.7), assists (7.0), steals (2.72) and minutes played (35.1). He also ranks fourth in field goal percentage (41.3%), sixth in blocks (0.68) ninth in free throw percentage (70.3%) and 10th in 3-point percentage (28.7%). In the 25 games Carter-Williams has played, Philly is averaging 104.8 points on 45.1% shooting (1005-2228), compared to 98.1 points on 42.7% shooting (418-978) in the 11 games he has missed. The Sixers are 11-14 in games he has played and 1-10 in the games he has missed.


The injury bug has plagued the Cats this season. It all began with a stress fracture to the left foot of Brendan Haywood, who is expected to be out at least another month. Al Jefferson went down with a right ankle sprain in the preseason, then Bismack Biyombo sprained his ankle, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a non-displaced fracture in his left hand (hopefully returning to action this week), and finally Jeffery Taylor ruptured his right Achilles tendon and is out for the season. The injuries have required Steve Clifford to change his starting five frequently to try and attain the right matchup. All told the Cats have used six different lineups this season, with nine starts being the most any group has had together.

Nine of the Bobcats’ 15 victories this season have been decided by six points or less, which is the third-most wins in the NBA in games decided by six points or fewer. The Bobcats have held their opponent under 100 points in 25 of their 38 games this season, the third-most such games in the NBA. They 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. The Bobcats held the Bucks to 72 points on Nov. 23, tying the third-lowest single-game total by an opponent in franchise history. The Bobcats are averaging 25.0 free throw attempts per game. They have attempted more free throws than their opponent in 24 of their 38 contests this season and are 14-10 when doing so. The Bobcats are a perfect 2-0 this season when they shoot over .500 from the field and 4-1 when Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson score 20 or more points in the same game this season.


The Knicks improved to 5-1 in 2014 with a dominating performance against the 76ers on Saturday night. Carmelo Anthony sits second in the NBA in scoring at 26.1 points and is 23rd in rebounding at 8.6 rebounds. Anthony led the Knicks in scoring in the first 27 games this season. Anthony posted a team-high 32 points in 44 minutes in the Nov. 5 loss against the Bobcats. After committing the fewest turnovers in the league last season (11.6), New York is once again leading the NBA with a slim 12.6 turnovers per game. The Knicks are 5-1 when they make 12 or more three-pointers in a game. They are 5-1 when they hold opponents under 90 points and 8-8 when they hold opponents under 100 points.


The Sixers underwent quite a change to their roster since the end of last season. There are just six players on the current roster who were with the team at the end of 2012-13 (Lavoy Allen, Spencer Hawes, Arnett Moultrie, Jason Richardson, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young). Starting the season, the Sixers had the NBA’s youngest roster with an average of 24 years and 136 days. The current roster includes just five players who had at least three seasons of NBA experience heading into 2013-14 [James Anderson (3), Hawes (6), Richardson (12), Turner (3) and Young (6)] and five who are in their first NBA season (Michael Carter-Williams, Lorenzo Brown, Brandon Davies, Nerlens Noel and Hollis Thompson). Young, the 12th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, is the longest tenured Sixer (seventh season). The Sixers are 11-10 when scoring 100+ points this season (17-9 in 2012-13) and are 0-3 when scoring below 90 (6-26 in 2012-13). The Sixers are 10-7 when outshooting the opposition this season (30-8 in 2012-13), compared to 2-17 when failing to do so (4-40 in 2012-13). Philly is 10-7 when shooting 45.0% or better (26-10 in 2012-13), including 4-1 when shooting 50.0% or better (11-2 in 2012-13). Philly is 2-2 when holding opponents below 100 points (28-22 in 2012-13), including 1-0 when the opposition scores below 90 (14-3 in 2012-13). The Sixers are 10-22 when allowing 100+ points (6-26 in 2012-13). Philly is 1-6 when opponents shoot 50.0% or better (1-18 in 2012-13) and 4-1 when holding the opposition below 40.0% shooting (14-2 in 2012-13).


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