Preview: Keys to Beat Lakers, Suns
Preview: Keys to Beat Lakers, Suns

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

January 31, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. LAKERS : Ramon Sessions vs Kendall Marshall

Injuries play a part in professional sports, and two teams that know that all too well right now are the Charlotte Bobcats and the L.A. Lakers. On four separate occasions this season, Charlotte has lost a starter to injury. Thankfully only one Cat has been lost for the season (Jeff Taylor – right Achilles tear). The Lakers are no different. Los Angeles currently has six players on the injury report, with five of those six listed as out. As a result of these injuries both clubs have had to look down their benches and find players. With Kemba Walker possibly out for at least the remainder of this road trip, Ramon Sessions again will take the floor with the starting unit. Sessions has started all five games in Walker’s absence and is averaging 13.8 points and 6.2 assists. Sessions handed out a season-high 11 assists on Saturday against Chicago and scored a season-high 23 points on Jan. 20 against Toronto. Similarly, Los Angeles has had to turn to a backup point guard. With Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant unavailable, the Lakers have asked Kendall Marshall to step in and lead the team. Marshall is averaging 11.6 points, 10.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds as a starter this season. Marshall has recorded 19+ points and 14+ assists in the same game three times this season, tied with Stephen Curry and Chris Paul for the most such occurrences. Marshall has also notched 14+ assists five times, tied for the 2nd-most in the NBA this year, especially impressive considering he has done so in just 16 games. In his second year, he has handed out 16+ assists in a game twice this season and has had 15+ assists on three occasions. Marshall, Nick Van Exel and Magic Johnson are the only Lakers in the last 25 years to achieve either feat.

KEY MATCHUP vs. SUNS: Al Jefferson vs Miles Plumlee

The last time these two teams met on Nov. 22, 2013 at Time Warner Cable Arena, Phoenix left town with a seven-point victory. In that game Al Jefferson hit for nine points, six boards, and three blocked shots, while his counterpart Miles Plumlee scored four points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and also had three blocks. Since that game in November, Al Jefferson has begun to usurp his dominance in the low post against a host of opponents. Jefferson has scored 20 points or more in 10-straight games. Jefferson has posted 14 double-doubles in his last 22 games and 20 in his last 31 contests, averaging 19.9 points on .493 shooting (277-for-562) and 11.2 rebounds during the 30-game stretch. He has scored in double figures in 32 of his 34 games played this season, including 17 games of 20 points or more. Jefferson’s 20 double-doubles on the season is already the tied for seventh-best single-season total in franchise history. Jefferson scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds on Jan. 25 against the Bulls, tallying at least 20 points and 10 rebounds for the sixth time in his last seven contests. Miles Plumlee is averaging 9.7 points and 8.6 rebounds this season for the Suns, including a career-high 22 points Dec. 28, 2013 at home against Philadelphia. His season high for rebounds (20) was against the Lakers on Dec. 23, 2013. Plumlee has 10 double-doubles this season (most recent on Jan. 27 at Philadelphia) and has tallied double digit rebound games 18 times this season. In 22 home games this season, has averaged 10.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS

In the last meeting, with the Lakers, Al Jefferson was easing his way back into shape from the ankle injury that kept him sidelined for the majority of the preseason and the beginning of the regular season. Jefferson has clearly got back to game shape and his stat lines of late have been indicative of that. With Kemba Walker out of the lineup, it has been a comforting fact to know the Cats have Jefferson to lean on. A win for Charlotte in L.A. would even the all-time series between the clubs at nine games apiece… On the season, the Bobcats are averaging 24.7 free throw attempts per game and have attempted more free throws than their opponent in 32 of their 47 contests this season. They have attempted more free throws than their opponent in 19 of their 20 victories this season and are 19-13 when doing so… The Bobcats have nine road victories so far this season, topping their total of six road wins from last season… This season the Bobcats are giving up only 97.2 points, which is the sixth-lowest average in the NBA. They have held their opponent under 100 points in 31 of their 47 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. Finally, the Bobcats have played a league-high 23 games this season decided by six points or less and are 12-11 in those games.

SCOUTING THE LAKERS

Playing in the second game of a back-to-back set on the road, the Lakers went on a 13-4 run to close out the game against the Bobcats and earn an 88-85 victory on Dec. 14, 2013 at Time Warner Cable Arena. That win was the fifth-consecutive, and second straight on the road for Los Angeles overall against Charlotte. In a contest that featured 23 lead changes and 13 ties, the Lakers held a plus-16 advantage in free throws made, sinking 21-of-23 compared to 5-of-8 for the Bobcats… For the severely undermanned Lakers, Mike D’Antoni has been forced to rely on guards Jodie Meeks and Kendall Marshall to log heavy minutes. Meeks has logged 40+ in a team-high 11 games this season. Marshall played over 40 minutes in consecutive games on Jan. 15 at Phoenix and Jan. 17 at Boston, bringing his total of 40 minute occurrences this season to four… This season, the L.A. bench has outscored their counterparts 32 times in 46 games… The Lakers are fifth in the NBA in three-pointers made this season, hitting 9.3 triples per game.

SCOUTING THE SUNS

The Suns won their 26th game of the season at Philadelphia on Jan. 27, surpassing their win total of 25 games in 2012-13 with 38 games left to play… The Suns are tied for second in the NBA with 9.4 three-point makes per game and 11th with a .367 mark from long range… The Suns also rank first in the NBA with 18.9 fastbreak points per game… Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic are each averaging over 15.0 points and 5.0 assists this season. In Suns franchise history; only five times prior have two teammates both exceeded these marks in the same season, with three of the previous occurrences involving current Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek… The Suns nearly have three different reserves averaging at least 10 points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team in the NBA to have at least three players who came off the bench in a majority of their appearances average 10+ points in games in which they came off the bench was also the Suns in 1996-97.

TUNE IN

Catch both games on TV on Fox SportSouth and NBA League Pass, or listen via bobcats.com, the Bobcats app and on WFNZ 610 am.

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