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Preview: Keys to Beat Pelicans, Grizzlies

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

February 20, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. PELICANS: Josh McRoberts vs Anthony Davis

Every game in the NBA provides for dynamic matchups amongst the best athletes in the world. That task can become even more daunting when you have to match up against All Star and No. 1 overall draft pick (2012) Anthony Davis. Having been a solid contributor to the Bobcats this season, Josh McRoberts will have to continue doing what he does well in order to contain Davis. These two teams met in the third game of the season on Nov. 2 in New Orleans, with the Pelicans getting out to an early 18-point lead that they never relinquished and finished with a 21-point victory. In that game, McRoberts scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds to go with two assists, while Davis tallied 25 points, eight boards, four assists, and six blocks. McRoberts is shooting 35-for-67 from beyond the three-point line (.522) over his last 16 games. For the season, McRoberts is averaging 8.4 points, 4.1 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per contest… Now 53 games in to the 2013-14 NBA season, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis holds averages of 20.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.11 blocks. He is on pace to become the first player in the NBA to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks since Shaquille O’Neal did so during the 1999-2000 season. As sensational as Davis was his rookie year, it’s tough to deny just how much better he’s gotten this year. Following his 24-point performance against the Nets on Feb. 9, Anthony has recorded three 30+-point games, 26 20+-point performances this year and 17 20-point and 10 rebound games. In a three game span from Jan. 26-Feb. 1 Anthony has recorded 22+ points and 6+ blocks in each contest, he is the first player to do this since the 1990-91 season (Patrick Ewing, Nov. 1990).

KEY MATCHUP vs. GRIZZLIES: Kemba Walker vs. Mike Conley

Starting point guards in the NBA are looked to be the leaders of their teams, the floor general if you will - players that make everyone around them look better. No truer statement could be said about both Kemba Walker and Mike Conley. After suffering a left ankle sprain on Jan. 18 against Miami, Walker missed the first games of his NBA career. Up to that point, Walker had played in 190 consecutive games, recording the second-longest consecutive games played streak in franchise history behind only Boris Diaw’s 268. Walker was out of the lineup for seven games in which the team went 4-3 before welcoming him back Feb. 4 at Golden State. Walker has now scored in double figures in 33 of his last 37 games played, including 16 games of 20 points or more. Additionally, Walker has scored in double figures in 41 of 48 games played this season, including 20 contests with 20 points or more and four games of at least 30 points. On the season, Walker is averaging 18.3 points, 5.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds, while shooting .439 from the field (218-for-497) and .372 from beyond the three-point line (54-for-145). If there are any lingering affects from the left ankle sprain, Walker is certainly not showing it… Similarly, Mike Conley also suffered an ankle injury and was sidelined seven games, in which his team played to a 4-3 record. Before the injury Conley’s last two months have been among the highest‐scoring months of his career. Conley averaged 19.5 points in January after posting 18.6 points in December of 2013. Conley became the Grizzlies all‐time leader in games played (480) on Jan. 29 at Sacramento, passing former record‐holder Rudy Gay in front of Gay and the Kings. January saw Conley record the best three-point shooting month of his seven-year career, shooting 43.9 percent (29-for-66). Conley has scored 20+ points 16 times already this season (in 44 games) after recording a career‐high 17 20+ point games in 80 appearances last season. Conley is averaging 18.1 points, 6.3 assists, to go with 2.7 rebounds, and 1.55 steals per game.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (25-30)

Entering Friday’s game against the Pelicans, the Bobcats are giving up only 97.1 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 Bobcats are giving up the fewest fast break points (10.1) and the third- fewest points in the paint (37.7)… The Cats have held their opponent under 100 points in 35 of their 55 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, set by the Spurs from Nov. 5-29… Six points or fewer have decided 12 of the Bobcats 25 victories this season and the Bobcats have the most wins in the NBA in such games… The Bobcats have attempted more free throws than their opponent in 23 of their 25 victories this season and are 7-1 when they score at least 100 points at home and 15-3 overall… The Cats also improved to 7-0 when they shoot over .500 from the field… The Bobcats are averaging 25.3 assists over the last 15 games, up from their season average of 21.1 and have posted franchise records of 42 assists in a game and 23 assists in a half in the Feb. 11 win over Dallas, matching its previous season high of 31 assists (set Jan. 18 against Miami) by the end of the third quarter. The Bobcats 42 assists came on 45 field goals for a percentage of .933, which is the best in franchise history and the best in the NBA this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the best percentage since the Portland Trail Blazers had 28 assists on 29 field goals (.966) on Jan. 27, 2013… With the win over the Pistons on Feb. 19, the Bobcats have completed four series sweeps by not falling to Detroit, Toronto, Golden State or Sacramento.

SCOUTING THE PELICANS (23-30)

The New Orleans Pelicans entered the 2013-14 season with the fewest average games of NBA experience among all NBA Rosters, with Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon being the elder statesmen, both playing in their sixth seasons… However, that has not prevented them from trying to forge and identity behind second-year pro Anthony Davis. Already 53 games in to the season, the Pelicans have posted two very impressive numbers that they look to maintain for the year. Their 38.2 percent shooting from beyond the three-point arc ranks tied for second in the NBA, while also protecting the paint on the inside, their average of 6.5 blocks per game ranks first in the NBA. The Pelicans are also tied for ninth in the NBA in steals per game with 8.3 and the 15 steals for the Pelicans at Brooklyn on Feb. 9 marked a season-high (previously 14). Five different Pelicans are averaging at least 1.1 or more steals per game: Tyreke Evans (1.13), Jrue Holiday (1.65), Davis (1.60), Gordon (1.30), Al-Farouq Aminu (1.15). Three Pelicans have also set or tied career-highs for steals this season: Brian Roberts (4 at Brooklyn, Feb. 9), Gordon (5 at Utah, Nov. 13, 2013) and Davis (6 vs. Charlotte, Nov. 2, 2013). In 39 of the 53 games this season New Orleans has forced 12+ opponent turnovers… Against the Eastern Conference, the Pelicans hold a 14-8 record after the Feb. 19 loss to the Knicks. With a home win against Chicago on Feb. 1, the Pelicans have already earned four series sweeps against Eastern Conference teams (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia). With a win at Charlotte on Friday, the Pelicans would add another sweep against East teams. The Pelicans continued to roll on Fridays, as they have now compiled an 8-3 record on Fridays with recent wins over Detroit on Jan. 24 and Minnesota on Feb. 7.

SCOUTING THE GRIZZLIES (30-23)

Like the Bobcats, Memphis is also in a fight for the final playoff spot in their respective conference. Memphis is currently two games out of eighth place in the West... Memphis won its 29th game on Feb. 12 at Orlando in the team’s final game before the All‐Star Break and has never missed the playoffs when winning at least 29 games before the break. From the first day of winter (Dec. 21) until Feb. 1, Memphis owned the best record in the NBA going 16‐5... The five losses in that span all came by single digits (2, 3, 3, 4, 8)... Memphis won a season‐high six consecutive games from Jan. 24‐Feb. 1… Memphis overall record since Dec. 21 (19‐9) is the fourth‐best in the NBA. Memphis has won 15 of its last 19 games overall and 13 of 17 since the return of Marc Gasol... On the road this season, Memphis has the sixth‐best winning percentage in the NBA (.625) and won a season‐high six consecutive road games (Jan. 5‐31), defeating Detroit, Milwaukee, Houston, Portland, Sacramento and Minnesota. That stands as the Grizzlies second‐longest road winning streak in franchise history behind a seven‐game run from Feb. 17‐March 10, 2010… The Grizzlies have been a much better team outside of their division this season. Memphis is 28‐12 against NBA teams outside the Southwest Division and 2‐11 against Southwest Division opponents.

TUNE IN

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