Keys to Beat T-Wolves, Bucks and Hawks
Keys to Beat Keys to Beat T-Wolves, Bucks and Hawks

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

March 13, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. TIMBERWOLVES: Josh McRoberts vs Kevin Love

As the Bobcats continue their push toward the Eastern Conference playoffs, every game counts. Josh McRoberts has played well all season but things will not get any easier for the seventh-year pro as he matches up with arguably the league’s best power forward, Kevin Love, as the Timberwolves come to town. In the first of two meetings this season, the Wolves held serve at home and beat the Cats, 119-92. Love scored 19 points and added 14 rebounds, while McRoberts posted six points, four assists and one board. McRoberts scored 15 points on Monday against Denver on 5-for-7 shooting, including 3-for-4 from beyond the three-point line. He added nine points Wednesday at Washington and now has 85 three-point baskets on the season, topping his career total of 58 entering the season. Over his last 25 games, McRoberts is shooting .429 from beyond the three-point line (45-for-105). On the season McRoberts is averaging 30.2 minutes, 8.5 points, 4.9 boards and 4.1 assists and is third in the NBA in assists to turnover ratio (4.00)… In only his fourth year in the league, Kevin Love has become the most dominant force on the Timberwolves since the departure of Kevin Garnett. Over his last five games, Love has averaged 26.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists – very much in line with his season averages of 26.5 points, 13.1 boards and 4.2 assists. The Sacramento game on March 1 ended his club-record run of six-straight 30+ point outings; he's topped 30 points in 11 of his last 18 starts (a franchise-best 21 this year and 51 for his career).

KEY MATCHUP vs. BUCKS: Kemba Walker vs Brandon Knight

In the last matchup between these two teams on Dec. 23 in Charlotte, Kemba Walker played 38.5 minutes and recorded 25 points (10-for-22 from the field) added 10 assists and nine rebounds in a 111-110 overtime victory for the Cats. In that game, Brandon Knight tallied 26 points (11-for-23 shooting) to go with six rebounds and two assists. On Wednesday against Washington, Kemba Walker scored 16 points and has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 15 games. Walker is averaging 16.4 points, 7.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 36.5 minutes during the 15-game stretch. He scored 20 points and handed out 14 assists on March 7 against the Cavaliers, tallying his fifth double-double of the season. He has reached double figures in 49 of 58 games played this season, including 23 contests with 20 points or more and five games of at least 30 points. Walker was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, February 17 through Sunday, February 23. Walker led the Bobcats to the NBA’s only 4-0 record during the week, averaging 22.5 points, 8.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds in 40.5 minutes. Walker scored a game-high 31 points in the victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 22 and handed out a career-high 16 assists in the victory against Detroit on Feb. 19. On the season, Walker is averaging 17.9 points, 4.2 rebounds to go with 5.7 assists, as well as being the heart and soul of this Bobcats team… Brandon Knight scored 21 points at Minnesota om March 11, his 23rd 20-point game this season, exceeding his previous career high of 20 such games set last season in Detroit. He has scored in double digits in each of his last 19 games, the longest streak of his career and the longest by a Buck this season. Over that span, Knight is averaging 20.3 points and 5.7 assists. On the season, Knight is averaging 17.4 points, 3.3 boards, and 5.0 assists.

KEY MATCHUP vs. HAWKS: Gerald Henderson vs Kyle Korver

In the last meeting between the Hawks and Cats on Dec. 28 in Atlanta, the Hawks earned a two-point overtime victory. In that game, Gerald Henderson scored 22 points (11-for-17 from the floor) added five rebounds and four assists while his backcourt opponent, Kyle Korver, tallied eight points, eight boards and three assists. Henderson returned from his five-game hiatus due to a calf-strain on Wednesday at Washington and scored 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting in 26:38 minutes. Until the calf strain, Henderson was one of only eight guards in the NBA that had started all of their team’s games this year. On the season, Henderson is averaging 14.6 points on 42.7 percent shooting from the floor (325-for-762) and adding 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 32.6 minutes. For the season, Henderson is barely below his career average in scoring (15.5 points) but if his rebounds and assists numbers continue, it will be a new career mark… Korver made at least one three-point basket in 127 consecutive games (11/4/12-3/2/14) – the longest streak in NBA history. His three-point field goal percentage during the run was .469 (337-for-718). On the season, Korver is averaging 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists. Korver has started in all 58 games he has played in this season while shooting over 48 percent from the field (48.2, including 48.5 percent from three).

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS

The Bobcats snapped a four–game road losing streak on Wednesday at Washington with a 98-83 victory over the Wizards. Conversely, the Bobcats have won seven-straight home games, tying the second-longest home win streak in franchise history. During the streak, the Bobcats have topped the 100-point plateau five times, including a season-high-tying 116 points on Feb. 19 against Detroit, and are averaging 103.9 points and 25.0 assists over the seven-game span. Al Jefferson has led the way for the Bobcats, averaging 26.6 points and 9.0 rebounds, while Kemba Walker is averaging 19.7 points, 9.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds… In their last 12 games against Western Conference opponents, the Bobcats are 7-5. Al Jefferson has scored 30 points or more in five of the 12 games, tallying five double-doubles, and is averaging 24.8 points and 9.8 rebounds… Entering this weekend’s games, the Bobcats are giving up only 97.2 points per game, which is the fifth-lowest average in the NBA. In addition, the Bobcats are giving up the fewest fast break points (10.4) and the fourth- fewest points in the paint (38.6). They have held their opponent under 100 points in 42 of their 65 games this season which is the third-most such games in the NBA.

SCOUTING THE TIMBERWOLVES

Friday at Time Warner Cable Arena will be the second and final meeting between Minnesota and Charlotte. The first matchup was all Wolves at Target Center on Jan. 10. The Wolves were paced by center Nikola Pekovic who tallied 26 points (10-for-14 shooting) including 6-for-6 from the charity stripe and grabbed six boards to go with three assists. The game began evenly matched as the Wolves left the first quarter up by one-point. However, being outscored in the second quarter by 19 points was the ultimate undoing of the Cats… The Wolves (32-31) entered Tuesday’s game against the Bucks five games behind Memphis for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Against the Eastern Conference this season, Minnesota is 14-9 while outscoring their opponents by 8.1 points (106.9-98.8). With losses to New York and Toronto over the course of the past week, it seems as though the Timberwolves will miss the playoffs for the first time in the last 10 years.

SCOUTING THE BUCKS

The Bucks and Bobcats will meet for the fourth and final time this season. The Cats are 3-0 against the league’s bottom team and will go for their sixth series sweep Sunday in Milwaukee… The Bucks look young and feel young mostly because they are young. When the minutes were last tallied on Mar. 5, the Philadelphia 76ers were the only team in the NBA to play a younger roster more often than Milwaukee does… Since the trade with Charlotte that swapped Jeff Adrien and Ramon Sessions for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour, the Bucks have been playing much better on the offensive end of the floor. Adrien has averaged 7.8 points and 7.9 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game. Since joining Milwaukee on Feb. 20, Adrien has averaged 19.3 rebounds per 48 minutes played, which is tied for third in the league among players who have logged 100+ minutes over that span. While Sessions has provided solid points off the bench as well. In March, he has recorded six games with 10 or more points in a reserve role, which are tied for the most such games this month… The Bucks have only three wins against the Southeast Division this season – they have beaten Orlando twice and the Wizards once.

SCOUTING THE HAWKS

The Hawks are right at .500 against the Southeast Division (6-6), with two of those victories being over the Cats. Monday at Time Warner Cable Arena will be the third of the four scheduled matchups between the two teams. The last time the two teams played at Atlanta on Dec. 28, the home team grabbed a 118-116 overtime win. The final game between the clubs will be the second to last game of the regular season on April 14 in Atlanta… Atlanta ranks ninth in the NBA in field goal percentage (.459), eighth in three-point field goal percentage (.376) and sixth in free throw percentage (.780)… The Hawks have shot .500 from the floor 13 times this year and are 9-4 in those games. The Hawks have also had three perfect efforts from the free-throw line, including a 22-for-22 showing vs. Brooklyn on Jan. 16… The Hawks were in the NBA Playoffs for the sixth consecutive season in 2012-13, tied for the longest active playoff streak in the Eastern Conference with Boston. Since moving to Atlanta in 1968, the franchise has made 28 postseason appearances and currently sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

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