Preview: Keys to Beat Magic, Cavaliers
Preview: Keys to Beat Magic, Cavaliers

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

April 3, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. MAGIC: Gerald Henderson vs Arron Afflalo

Going in to the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Bobcats and Magic, the series record is 2-1 in favor of the Magic. Orlando took the first matchup, 92-83, on Dec. 9 at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Cats shot 36.9 percent from the floor in that game while Orlando was not much better with a mark of 42.2 percent. Gerald Henderson scored 12 points grabbed four rebounds and added three assists, while Arron Afflalo contributed 16 points, four rebounds and dished out four assists. The second meeting on Jan. 17 at the Amway Center displayed both teams improvement in the young season. Charlotte shot 52.7 percent from the field and Orlando chipped in with a 46.3 percent effort. Henderson played above his season averages in the 111-101 victory for the Cats, going for 17 points, three rebounds and one assist. Afflalo played well in that game too, scoring 24 points and adding four rebounds and two assists. These teams just faced each other one week ago in Orlando, with the Magic coming back from as many as 16 points down to earn a five-point victory, 110-105, in overtime. The Cats shot 44.3 percent from the floor (43-for-97) and 36 percent (8-for-22) from three. The Magic also shot well, going for 44.8 percent from the field (39-for-87) and 33.3 percent (6-for-18) from deep. Gerald Henderson and Arron Afflalo have both been factors in the three previous games. Henderson has averaged 14.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists 30.7 minutes, while Afflalo’s line stands at 19 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 37.8 minutes.

Henderson has scored in double figures in nine of his last 11 games and is averaging 13.2 points on .527 shooting (58-for-110) during the 11-game stretch, including 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting on March 22 against Portland. Henderson has scored in double figures in 56 of his 70 games, with 11 of those games going for at least 20 points. Henderson scored in double figures in 19 consecutive games from Nov. 16-Dec. 23, recording the second-longest streak of his career behind only a 26-game streak that included the final 24 games of last season and the first two contests of this season. Henderson also scored a season-high 30 points on Jan. 11 at Chicago and is averaging 14.5 points (43.4 percent from the floor), 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 32.4 minutes this season.

Afflalo has scored in double figures 58 times this season, poured in 20+ points 29 times and had 30+ points five times, including a career-high 43 points on Dec. 3 at Philadelphia, while playing minutes at both the two and the three this season. Afflalo has improved his scoring average in each of his first seven seasons in the league and would become one of only six players in NBA history to improve their scoring average in their first seven NBA seasons: Derek Harper (1983-1991), Earl Watson (2001-2008), Shawn Kemp (1989-1996), Kevin McHale (1980-1987), Happy Hairston (1964-1971). Afflalo is leading the Magic in scoring this season averaging 19.1 points (46.2 percent from the floor) adding 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest.

KEY MATCHUP vs. CAVALIERS: Cody Zeller vs Luol Deng

After getting his first start due to the absence of Josh McRoberts’ ankle injury on Wednesday in Philadelphia, Cody Zeller continued his season long improvement. Zeller is averaging 8.0 points on .520 shooting (51-for-98) over his last 19 games, compared to 5.0 points on .378 shooting (101-for-267) in the season’s first 55 games. In his first start after that 19-game stretch, Zeller played 26:57 minutes and added nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot. Whether he gets the start again on Saturday at Cleveland will depend solely on the health of McRoberts’ ankle. If McRoberts can go, he will start and Zeller will return to his role as sixth man going for between 15-20 minutes per contest. Regardless of what role Zeller will play, he will be ready to go. Zeller’s growth into a pro was gradual at first, sometimes being caught out of position and seemingly overmatched. But as the season has progressed, things have slowed down for him and his production as a result has been noticeable culminating in a career-high 15 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 free-throw shooting on Monday against Washington.

Since being acquired from the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 7, Luol Deng is averaging 14.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 34.3 minutes over 36 contests with the Cavs. Over his last eight games, Deng is averaging 16.4 points on .490 (49-for-100) shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 35.4 minutes per game. Deng notched his eighth 20-point game as a Cavalier after finishing with 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists in 38 minutes at Brooklyn on Mar. 28. He has recorded eight double-doubles on the season and 92 in his career. Deng has been sidelined 13 times this season with the bulk of them (nine games) when he was still with the Bulls.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (37-38)

The turnaround season for the Bobcats continues. As it stands right now, the Cats have won 37 games and have surpassed the win total of the last two seasons combined (28). The Cats are just one game under .500 with a chance to even up Friday as Orlando comes to town and sit comfortably in the seventh spot for the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bobcats are 11-2 in their last 13 home games, including an eight-game win streak from Feb. 11-March 14, which is the second-longest home win streak in franchise history… The Bobcats have topped the 100-point plateau in seven of the last nine home games and 10 times in their last 14 games, including a season-high 124 points on March 22 against Portland. They are averaging 102.7 points and 23.8 assists over the 14-game span. Al Jefferson has led the way for the Bobcats, averaging 25.3 points and 10.4 rebounds, while Kemba Walker is averaging 19.5 points, 8.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds… Since the All-Star Break, the Bobcats are 14-8 and 10-5 in their last 15 games. During the 15-game stretch, the Bobcats are averaging 103.1 points while surrendering only 97.7 and have topped the 100-point plateau nine times compared to only three times for their opponents. Jefferson has scored 25 points or more in seven of the 14 games and recorded eight double-doubles, averaging 23.7 points and 10.3 rebounds over the stretch. Walker has scored in double figures in 11 of the 14 games and is averaging 18.4 points and 7.7 assists… Entering tonight’s action, the Bobcats are giving up only 96.8 points per game, which is the sixth-lowest average in the NBA. In addition, the Bobcats are giving up the fewest fast break points (10.1) and the fourth- fewest points in the paint (38.6). They have held their opponent under 100 points in 48 of their 75 games this season, which is the fourth-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… The Bobcats went 9-7 in March after going 6-4 in February, marking the second time in franchise history that the team has had winning records in consecutive months. The previous time came in March and April 2010, when they were 11-6 and 5-3, respectively. March is the 12th winning month in franchise history. The winning percentage of .600 in February was the sixth-best in a month in franchise history.

SCOUTING THE MAGIC (21-54)

The Orlando Magic are playing the role of spoiler and that is exactly what makes them dangerous. Of their last seven games, only one is against a non-playoff team, Minnesota who sits at 37-37. The Orlando Magic are 17-20 at the Amway Center this season, which is already five more wins than all of last season (12). At the Amway Center the Magic have gone 76-71 (.517) since it opened in 2010-11… After a four-game homestand in which the Magic went 2-2, the team heads out on the road to come play the Bobcats for the final ever meeting between the Magic and Bobcats… The Orlando Magic are averaging 96.9 points per game this season and have scored 100+ points 26 times (12-14 record), including a season-high 129 points on Feb. 21 against New York. Orlando is currently shooting .444 (2770-6239) from the floor while shooting 50 percent or better 11 times, including a season-high 55.7 percent (39-70) on Nov. 1 against New Orleans… The Orlando Magic have made at least one three-point field goal in 566 consecutive games, dating all the way back to Mar. 17, 2007...The Dallas Mavericks connected on at least one three-pointer in 1,108 games from Feb. 27, 1999-Dec. 15, 2012, the longest streak in NBA history. The Orlando Magic have also allowed less than 100 points 27 times this season (14-13 record), including a season-low 81 points on Mar. 2 against Philadelphia, and are allowing 102.2 points per contest. Orlando is 26-13 all-time vs. Charlotte (15-5 at home, 11-8 on the road), including 2-1 this season.

SCOUTING THE CAVALIERS (31-45)

Since Feb. 9 (26 games), the Cavs are holding teams to the sixth-lowest FG% in the NBA (.453), as well as the eighth-lowest points per game (101.3). The Cavs are 13-1 when they hold opponents to under .400 shooting from the field this season… On the season, the Cavs are the only team with three players in the Eastern Conference’s Top 11 rebound leaders: Anderson Varejao (10.0, 5th), Tristan Thompson (9.3, 7th) and Spencer Hawes (8.3, 11th)… On the season, the Cavs reserves are averaging 34.4 points per game (3rd in East and 8th in the NBA) and have outscored the opponent’s bench in 46 of 76 contests. Their reserves have scored at least 40 points 27 times this season, and 50 or more points 13 times… The Cavaliers 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 tied with Milwaukee for the second-most in the NBA this season (Washington-11). The Cavs are 5-2 in the extra five-minute period, tied with New Orleans (5-0) for the most overtime wins among all NBA teams this season. For the first time in team history, the Cavs played in three straight overtime contests at home (Dec. 26-Jan. 2) and went 1-2 in those games… Cleveland has connected on at least .500 of their field goal attempts in five of the last nine games. Since Mar. 18, the Cavs are shooting .483 shooting from the field, while dishing out 24.1 assists. The Cavs have dished out at least 25 assists 15 times this season, with six of those coming in the last nine games.

TUNE IN

This game can be seen live on Fox SportSouth and NBA League Pass or you can listen to the game on bobcats.com, WFNZ 610 am, and the Bobcats Mobile App sponsored by Walgreens.

LISTEN TO WFNZ BROADCAST LIVE FROM CHARLOTTE: QuickTime | Windows Media Player | iTunes | Real Player