Preview: Keys to Beat Wolves, Bulls
Preview: Keys to Beat Wolves, Bulls

By Jace Darling,

January 10, 2014

KEY MATCHUP vs. TIMBERWOLVES : Josh McRoberts vs Kevin Love

Due to injury bug that has plagued the Bobcats this season, the starting lineups for Steve Clifford have changed regularly as he evaluates the matchups and starts players accordingly. No game offers a more challenging matchup then the Minnesota Timberwolves and their power forward Kevin Love. Josh McRoberts has been playing well this season, averaging 7.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists and will need to continue to do so Friday in Minnesota. McRoberts has recorded 12 games this season with at least five rebounds and five assists, which is tied for 12th in the NBA… Of the top 14 rebounding games for the Wolves this season, Kevin Love has all of them. He has also logged two 19-rebound performances, with both coming against the Clippers. Love also has eight of the top 11 scoring games for the Wolves this season, with his season high 45 points coming at the Clippers on Dec. 22. Love has averaged 30.8 pts (shooting 52.0 percent) in last 12 games… Love has registered eight of the league's dozen 25/15/5 performances this season.

KEY MATCHUP vs. BULLS: Al Jefferson vs. Joakim Noah

With the trading of Luol Deng, the Chicago Bulls have a different look and it seems the bulk of the inside scoring responsibility will go to Joakim Noah as he faces off against Al Jefferson on Saturday in Chicago. Al Jefferson has posted double-doubles in seven of his last 11 games and 12 of his last 20, averaging 17.8 points on .457 shooting (156-for-341) and 11.1 rebounds during the 20-game stretch. Jefferson scored 24 points and grabbed a season-high 23 rebounds on Dec. 28 at Atlanta, becoming the first Bobcats player to tally 20 or more points and 20 or more rebounds in a game since Nazr Mohammed had 22 points and 20 rebounds on Nov. 13, 2010 against Utah. Jefferson recorded consecutive games with 20-or-more points and 10-or-more rebounds on Dec. 18 and 20, becoming the first Bobcats player to do so since Gerald Wallace did so on Jan. 29 and 30, 2010. He has posted four-consecutive double-doubles twice this season (Nov. 29-Dec. 6 and Dec. 27-Jan. 1), becoming the first Bobcats player with four straight double-doubles since Wallace had six in a row from Nov. 18-28, 2009. Jefferson has already tallied 13 double-doubles this season, which is tied for 14th-best single-season total in franchise history…For the month of December, Joakim Noah appeared in 14 games and hauled down 167 rebounds for an average of 11.9 boards. In the process, he has increased his rebounding average from 8.3 to 10.0. Noah notched his 11th double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and added a season-high five blocks on January 4 against Atlanta.


The Bobcats swept last year's two-game series and have won 10 of the past 13 meetings overall against Minnesota… Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson had both scored in double figures in 20 consecutive games from Nov. 23-Jan. 1, recording the second-longest streak in franchise history of two teammates each scoring in double figures. Prior to Dec. 23 against Milwaukee, Walker, Jefferson and Gerald Henderson had all scored in double figures in 15-straight games, marking the first time in franchise history that three players had all scored in double figures in 15 consecutive games. On Dec. 20 against Detroit, Walker (34), Jefferson (24) and Henderson (22) each scored 20 or more points, marking the first time the Bobcats had three players score 20 or more points in a game since February 19, 2013 against Orlando… On Jan. 7 at Time Warner Cable Arena, Gerald Henderson poured in a season-high 27 points to lead Charlotte. Coupled with Kemba Walker’s 19-point performance it was still not enough to beat the Wizards. Al Jefferson’s streak of double-digit scoring came to an end at 22 games (3-for-9 shooting) however he did haul in 10 rebounds… The Bobcats are giving up only 95.8 points per game, the third-lowest average in the NBA. Last season, the team allowed 102.7 points, ranking 29th in the league… The Bobcats have held their opponent under 100 points in 24 of their 35 games this season, which the third-most such games in the NBA… Nine of the Bobcats’ 15 victories this season have been decided by six points or fewer. The Bobcats have recorded the second most wins in the NBA in games decided by six points or less this season. In addition, the Bobcats are giving up the second-fewest fast break points (10.0) and the third-fewest points in the paint (36.4).


The Wolves lead the NBA in first-quarter scoring, tallying 29.1 points through 34 starts; Dallas (27.6 points) and Houston (26.9) rank second and third, respectively… The 13-steal effort Monday at Philadelphia is the 17th time in 34 games the Wolves have reached double digits; they registered 29 such games a year ago, which was their top single-season total since 2000-01... Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer have combined for 155 steals, the most-prolific duo in the NBA this year (Chris Paul/Darren Collison are second with 123)... Philadelphia's 26 turnovers on Dec. 11 are the most the Wolves have forced this year and one of 13 times they've generated 20+... Minnesota is third in the NBA in steals (9.41); the club record is 9.62, set in 1989-90... The Wolves committed a season-low five turnovers on Dec. 27 vs. Washington; they've sliced their turnovers to 13.5 per game in the last 12, including a seven-turnover night on Dec. 16 at Boston and a nine-turnover outing Dec. 15 at Memphis... Minnesota stands seventh in fewest turnovers (14.3 per game) and second in turnovers forced (17.2).


Once again, the Bulls continue to prove their defensive prowess, as they rank near the top of the league in opponent scoring and opponent field goal percentage. In 2009-10, the season before Tom Thibodeau’s arrival in Chicago, the Bulls ranked 13th in the NBA in scoring defense (99.1 ppg). Since Thibodeau’s arrival in 2011, Chicago ranked second in 2010-11, first in 2011-12 and third in 2012-13. Chicago is currently second in opponent scoring and third in opponent field goal percentage… In nine of their 14 wins this season, the Bulls have held their opponents to 81 points or less each game. Since 2010-11, Chicago is 73-9 (.890) when it keeps its opponent under 90 points… In Chicago’s 91-84 win over Atlanta on Saturday, Chicago employed its 14th different starting lineup this season. Last year, the Bulls did not use their 14th different starting lineup until April 9 versus Toronto… The Chicago Bulls have led the NBA in home attendance four straight seasons. Including this season, the Bulls have sold out their last 141 games at the United Center (last non-sellout game: April 13, 2010).


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