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Keys to Beat Spurs, Thunder and Heat

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

February 28, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. SPURS: Gary Neal vs Patty Mills

The Spurs and Bobcats will play for the second and final time on Friday at the AT&T Center. The Spurs came to Charlotte and won the first meeting 104-100 on Feb. 8 behind a stellar performance from Patty Mills off the bench with 32 points (4-for-5 from three), 18 of which were scored in the fourth quarter. Mills added seven boards and four assists in that contest. One of the newest Bobcats and former Spur, Gary Neal, was still with Milwaukee for that game but with Ramon Sessions being involved in the trade with Milwaukee, Neal will be tasked to run the second team and to control Mills. On the season, Neal has averaged 10.0 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 20.2 minutes. Neal spent the first three years of his NBA career in San Antonio (2010-13) after starting his professional career abroad in Turkey in 2007… Spurs guard Patty Mills has provided a much-needed spark off the bench during a rough stretch of injuries and road games. In the last 10 games, Mills has averaged 17.9 points on 51.1 percent shooting, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 22.0 minutes. In the first 57 games, Mills is averaging 9.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists over 18.2 minutes.

KEY MATCHUP vs. THUNDER: Kemba Walker vs Russell Westbrook

As a result of his recent play, Kemba Walker was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, Feb. 17 through Sunday, Feb. 23. Walker, the fourth player in franchise history to capture the award, led the Bobcats to the NBA’s only 4-0 record last week. Walker scored in double figures in all four games, including three games of 20 points or more. Walker also scored a game-high 31 points in the Cats 92-89 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday and handed out a career-high 16 assists in Charlotte’s 116-98 home victory on Feb. 19 against Detroit. In that game, Walker also added 24 points, recording his fourth double-double of the season. With his 31-point performance against Memphis, Walker has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games and is averaging 18.7 points, 7.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 38.9 minutes during the seven-game stretch. Walker has also scored in double figures in 42 of 49 games played this season, including 20 contests with 20 points or more and four games of at least 30 points. When Walker scores 30 or more points the Bobcats are 6-2 all-time… Injuries happen in sports, and neither the Cats nor the Thunder have been immune this season. After missing the previous 27 games (right knee), Russell Westbrook returned to the Thunder lineup on Feb. 20 against Miami. Despite losing their last three outings, Oklahoma City is 21-7 with Westbrook in the lineup this season. In 27 games this year, Westbrook is averaging 20.9 points, 6.8 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.71 steals.

KEY MATCHUP vs. HEAT: Al Jefferson vs Chris Bosh

This will be the fourth and final meeting of the regular season against the Heat. The last meeting was in Charlotte at Time Warner Cable Arena and saw regulation end with the score tied, 90-90, but Miami was able to hold the Cats to only six-points in the extra stanza while they posted 14-points for the victory. In that game, Al Jefferson and Chris Bosh had very strong outings and both big men hit 10 shots from the field. Jefferson finished with 22 points (10-for-23), 14 rebounds, and three assists, while Bosh recorded 25 points (10-for-16 overall and 3-for-6 from three) and five boards. Jefferson, who recorded his 25th double-double of the season on Feb. 21 against New Orleans, has topped the 20-point plateau in 17 of his last 20 games and has posted at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in 10 of his last 16 games. On the season Jefferson is averaging 20.5 points and 10.4 rebounds, making him the only player in the Eastern Conference averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds… Chris Bosh has connected on a single-season, career-high 45 three-point field goals this season, surpassing his previous high of 21 set last season. Bosh earned NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors for games ending on Dec. 29 and helped the Heat to a 3-1 record for the week after averaging 22.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.75 blocks, 1.25 steals and 1.0 assist while shooting 54.4 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three-point range and 92.3 percent from the foul line. Bosh is averaging 22.8 points (114 total) over his last five games while shooting 58 percent (40-for-69) from the field, including 50 percent (9-for-18) from three-point range.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (27-30)

The Bobcats have won four-consecutive games and are 5-1 over their last six while averaging 101.5 points on .457 shooting (223-for-488) and 24.8 assists and currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference… The Bobcats topped the 100-point plateau three times over the last six games, including a season-high-tying 116 points on Feb. 19 against Detroit and 114 points on Feb. 11 against Dallas. They also handed out a franchise-record 42 assists against Dallas, the most in the NBA this season… Entering the Feb. 28 game at San Antonio, the Bobcats are giving up only 96.9 points per game, which is the fifth-lowest average in the NBA. In addition, the Bobcats are giving up the fewest fast break points (10.0) and the third-fewest points in the paint (37.9). They have held their opponent under 100 points in 36 of their 56 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… The Bobcats have played a league-high 25 games this season decided by six points or less and are 13-12 in those games. Since Jan. 14, the Bobcats are 12-7 and have seen increased productivity on the offensive end during that stretch. Points-per-game is up to 99.9 from 93.0 to start the season and field goal percentage has risen also .467 (674-for-1443) up from .425 (1323-for-3112) over the first 38 games. Over the course of the last 18 games, the Cats logged nine 100-point+ games and are 15-3 this season when they score 100 points or more… The Bobcats are 5-2 in their last seven games against Western Conference opponents, with the losses being to the Spurs and Suns, and have topped the 100-point plateau four times in those seven games, averaging 100.1 points and 24.3 assists. Al Jefferson scored 30 points or more in five of the seven games, tallying four double-doubles and is averaging 29.1 points and 10.7 rebounds against the West.

SCOUTING THE SPURS (41-16)

With an 19-8 record in home games and being an NBA-best 22-8 away from home through 57 contests this season, the San Antonio Spurs are the only team in the NBA to be 10-or-more games above .500 in both home and road games… The Spurs are one of only two teams in the NBA ranked in the top-10 in both offensive (seventh) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Offensively, the Spurs rank second in assists (24.5), second in field goal percentage (.489), first in three-point field goal percentage (.389) and 10th in points scored per game (104.0)… Additionally, the Spurs have shot 50 percent or better in 26 games this season and are 22-4 in those games, while recording a 35-9 record when scoring 100 points or more… San Antonio’s bench has been an integral part of the Spurs success this season. Through 57 games, the reserves have combined to average 44.4 points per game (first in NBA), 16.5 rebounds (fourth in NBA) and 10.4 assists (first in NBA). The Spurs bench has also tallied 15 games with 50-or-more points, including a season-high 66 points at Detroit on Feb.10… San Antonio is one of eight teams (Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors) to be ranked in the top-10 in both points allowed (sixth) and opponent field goal percentage (10th) this season… The Spurs have held opponents under 100 points in more than half of their matchups (30 of 57 games) this season, including 12 games in which opponents scored below 90 points.

SCOUTING THE THUNDER (43-15)

Despite sustaining three-straight losses after the All-Star break, the Thunder currently maintains the best record in the Western Conference (43-15). As one might expect, Oklahoma City has traditionally found its greatest success when outrebounding the opposition. Through the first 58 games of the season, the Thunder rank seventh in the NBA in rebounding (45.1) and have gone 35-6 this year when outrebounding the opposition (including 12-1 when outrebounding the opponent by 10 or more)… Team defense is always critical to overall team success and so far this season, the Thunder has limited their opponents to the third-worst field goal shooting percentage in the NBA (43.4 percent)… The Thunder are currently 13-2 this season when holding the opposition to sub 40.0 percent field goal shooting. Dating back to the start of last season, the Thunder are 58-5 when holding their opponent to 42.0 percent or less field goal shooting… With just six home losses, the Thunder are second to the L.A. Clippers (five) for the fewest home losses in the Western Conference.

SCOUTING THE HEAT (40-14)

Heading into the final game of the month on Feb. 27, the Heat have recorded an 8-1 record (.889) thus far in February. Miami has also amassed a 103-50 (.673) record in the Southeast Division, which is the highest divisional winning percentage in the NBA since the league re-aligned the divisions prior to the 2004-05 season… Miami has now sold out 140 consecutive regular season home games and 179-straight including the playoffs… In their last 25 divisional games, Miami has gone 23-2 (.920) and is 30-2 (.938) this season when holding opponents to under 100 points… With the added three-point shooting from center Chris Bosh this season, Miami has now gone 52-3, over their last 55 contests when connecting on double-figure field goals from long range and have hit at least one three-point field goal in 161 consecutive games, the fourth-longest streak in franchise history.

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