Preview 3/28/14
Preview: Keys to Beat Magic, Wizards

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

March 28, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. MAGIC: Gerald Henderson vs. Arron Afflalo

Charlotte and Orlando have played two of four scheduled games this season with the visiting team winning both of those games. The first matchup was on Dec. 9 at Time Warner Cable Arena, which Orlando won, 92-83. 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 showcased 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, scoring 24 points and adding four rebounds and two assists… Henderson has scored in double figures in 55 of his 67 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. 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) and Happy Hairston (1964-1971). Afflalo is leading the Magic in scoring this season, averaging 19.1 points (46.2 percent from the floor) and adding 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

KEY MATCHUP vs. WIZARDS: Al Jefferson vs. Marcin Gortat

Al Jefferson and Marcin Gortat have a few things in common. Both big men are first year players with their respective teams, focal points in their offenses and each player is currently averaging well above their career numbers. That’s where the similarities stop. Jefferson has quietly become the best center in the Eastern Conference, though the NBA world is beginning to take notice. After Wednesday’s game against Brooklyn, Paul Pierce called Jefferson, “Unguardable.” Jefferson remains the only Eastern Conference player averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game… The Wizards and Bobcats have faced off twice this season with two more matchups remaining in the final 10 games, the first of which being Monday at Time Warner Cable Arena. In the first game of the season between these two clubs on Jan. 7 in Charlotte, Gortat got the better of Jefferson, scoring 21 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and blocking three shots. Jefferson had a rare single-digit scoring night going 3-for-9 from the floor, scoring six points, grabbing 10 boards and dishing out four assists. Game two was a different story. Playing in Washington on Mar. 12, Jefferson had one of his 33 double-doubles this season hitting for 26 points on 13-for-20 shooting (65 percent) and booking 10 rebounds. Gortat also added a double-double, one of his 30 on the season, by scoring 12 points and also netting 10 rebounds. Washington is currently one and a half games ahead of Charlotte for the six seed in the Eastern Conference; therefore the two remaining games against Washington are must-wins if Charlotte wants to continue to move up the standings… Jefferson was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played March 10-16 after scoring 20 points or more in each of his four games and leading the Bobcats to the only 4-0 record in the Eastern Conference for the week. The only player in the NBA to post three games of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the week, Jefferson averaged 24.3 points on .547 shooting (47-86), 11.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks in 37.5 minutes. He ranked second in the Eastern Conference in scoring, fourth in rebounding and tied for eighth in minutes played. Jefferson is averaging 21.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 blocks this season. Jefferson has scored in double figures 59 times, including 37 games with 20 points or more and 12 games with at least 30 points. He has recorded 33 double-doubles, including 22 games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds… Gortat is making his presence felt in his first 70 games as a Wizard, averaging 12.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. He has posted 30 double-doubles this season, including a career-high 31-point effort to go along with 12 rebounds at Toronto on Dec. 27.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (35-37)

This time of year in the NBA a team is either playing the role of contender or spoiler. Thankfully, for the first time in four seasons the Bobcats have the contender label attached. It’s a well known fact that the two biggest reasons for the turnaround of this franchise this season were the hiring of Steve Clifford and his staff, as well as the signing of Al Jefferson. With the pointed approach of transition defense and winning in the paint, the Bobcats have gone from winning just 28 games in the last two seasons combined to sitting in seventh place in Eastern Conference standings… Entering tonight’s action, the Bobcats are giving up only 97.4 points per game, which is the fourth-lowest average in the NBA. In addition, the Bobcats are giving up the fewest fast break points (10.2) and the fourth-fewest points in the paint (38.4). They have held their opponent under 100 points in 46 of their 72 games this season, which is the fourth-most such games in the NBA… The Bobcats are 10-2 in their last 12 home games, including an eight-game win streak from Feb. 11-March 14 that is the second-longest home win streak in franchise history. The Bobcats have topped the 100-point plateau in six of the last eight home games, including a season-high 124 points on Saturday against Portland. They are averaging 102.5 points and 24.1 assists over the 12-game span… Al Jefferson has led the way for the Bobcats averaging 25.0 points and 9.9 rebounds, while Kemba Walker is averaging 19.4 points, 8.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds.

SCOUTING THE MAGIC (20-52)

The Orlando Magic are playing the role of spoiler, and that is exactly what makes them dangerous. Of their last 10 games, only two are against non-playoff teams and one of those is from the Western Conference (Cleveland and Minnesota). The Magic are 15-18 at the Amway Center this season, which is already three more wins than all of last season (12)… Tuesday marked the beginning of a four-game homestand before returning to Charlotte for the fourth and final matchup of the season. And the last time ever the Magic will face the Bobcats… The Orlando Magic are averaging 96.7 points (6,868 points) 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 .443 (2,621-5,919) 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… Orlando has made at least one three-point field goal in 563 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 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 25-13 all-time vs. Charlotte (14-5 at home, 11-8 on the road), including 1-1 this season with the road team earning victories in both games.

SCOUTING THE WIZARDS (36-35)

Washington currently sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference only one and a half games in front of the Bobcats. With two remaining games against one another in the last 10 games of the season, head-to-head wins carry a lot of weight… The Wizards are 16-10 in their last 26 road games. During this stretch they are averaging 103.6 points on .459 shooting from the field… John Wall leads the team during this stretch with 18.5 points and 8.8 assists… Overall, the Wizards are 19-18 on the road this season… The Wizards currently rank second in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage (.386) behind San Antonio. Washington has four players with at least 100 three-pointers made already this season, Trevor Ariza (163), Martell Webster (129) and Bradley Beal (123) and John Wall (100)… Through 70 games this season, the Wizards are averaging 23.3 assists, which ranks them seventh in the NBA. Wall leads the team with 8.8 assists, which is ranked third in the NBA… The Wizards play a back-to-back Friday and Saturday before travelling to face Charlotte Monday Mar. 31.

TUNE IN

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