Preview: Keys to Game 1 at Heat
Preview: Keys to Game 1 at Heat

By Jace Darling, bobcats.com

April 18, 2014

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After finishing the season with the franchise’s second-best record ever (43-39) the Bobcats were rewarded with their second trip to the NBA Playoffs. The 10th and final season of the Bobcats has been one of the most exciting and competitive teams this franchise has ever put on the floor. The excitement starts at the top. During the offseason, President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins and General Manager Rich Cho worked tirelessly to hire a new coach in Steve Clifford, as well as bring in arguably the greatest free agent signing in club history, Al Jefferson. Not to mention re-signing a core of younger players that turned this franchise into a tight knit team of friends and brothers. Each player had his role defined by Clifford and was given the coach’s expectations for them. The basketball was going to be a different style than Charlotte was used to seeing. Clifford installed his four-out, one-in offense with play going through Jefferson in the low block, led by third year pro and point guard Kemba Walker. The Cats play smart on the offensive end and take what the defense gives you as well as Clifford’s non-negotiable, transition defense. These philosophies have given Bobcats fans something to cheer about this season, as well as something much greater to look forward to in the years to come.

KEY MATCHUP vs. HEAT: Al Jefferson vs. LeBron James

Although these players will never actually matchup in the game, it is clear that they are both keys to the success of their respective teams.

In his first season with the Bobcats and Steve Clifford, Al Jefferson had on of his best seasons as a pro in his 10th season in the league. In an offense that is predicated upon getting the ball into the low post, Jefferson became one of five players in the NBA and the only player in the Eastern Conference to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds while leading the Charlotte Bobcats to the playoffs. Jefferson was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for games played in March. Jefferson, who led the Bobcats to a 9-7 record, earned his first Player of the Month award and became the first Bobcats player to receive the honor. Jefferson saw action in all 16 games in the month, averaging 24.7 points on .555 shooting (178-321), 10.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 37.2 minutes played. He ranked third in the Eastern Conference in scoring, fourth in rebounding and sixth in minutes played. He tallied a conference-best six games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, helping him break the franchise single-season record, while his nine double-doubles were tied for third in the conference. Jefferson scored in double figures in all 16 games, including 12 games with 20 points or more and three 30-point contests. On multiple occasions this season, Jefferson has done things not accomplished by a Bobcats player since at least 2010. Jefferson scored 20 or more points in 37 of his last 45 games, averaging 25.1 points on .536 shooting (498-929) and 11.4 rebounds during the stretch. He joined Minnesota’s Kevin Love as the only two players in the NBA averaging at least 25.0 points and 10.0 rebounds from Jan. 11 through the end of the season. Jefferson averaged 21.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 blocks this season and scored in double figures 69 times, including 45 games with 20 points or more and 13 games with at least 30 points. He recorded 42 double-doubles, including 29 games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds and as a reward LeBron James and the Miami Heat will face the Bobcats in the playoffs.

Great players are going to make great shots - it’s just a fact of life in the NBA. Where the Bobcats can help themselves in relation to LeBron James is to minimize his ability to get easy shots. It is imperative that the Bobcats limit his drives to the basket as well as contest his jumpers and play strong defense without sending James to the line. This matchup will force the Bobcats to play outstanding team defense. In his 11th season in the league the four-time MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP, LeBron James is simply being LeBron James. He averaged 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists on the season and shot a career-high 56.7 percent (767-of-1, 353) from the field this season, marking his seventh consecutive season that he has improved his field goal percentage. Additionally, he connected on 116 three-point field goals this season, marking the second- straight season he has made over 100 three-point field goals while shooting at least 55 percent from the field after shooting 56.5 percent from the field, while making 103 from downtown, last season. According to the AP, no other player in NBA history has accomplished that feat during a single season even once. James scored his 2,000th point of the season on Apr. 9 at MEM, marking the ninth 2,000-point season of his career. He has now become just the fourth player in NBA history to post nine 2,000-point seasons, joining Karl Malone (12), Michael Jordan (11) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (9). Additionally, it marked his third 2,000-point season as a member of the Heat, joining Dwayne Wade (3) as the only Heat players to hit that mark. James has also recorded 11 40-point postseason games, two as a member of the Heat, and the second-most among active NBA players.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (43-39)

In the final season as the Charlotte Bobcats, the team recorded 43 wins in the regular season, the second-best single-season win total in franchise history behind only 44 wins in 2009-10, which was the last time the team made the playoffs. The Bobcats 43 wins more than doubled last year’s win total. The Bobcats had 18 road victories this season, a franchise record for road wins in a season. The Bobcats had 25 home wins this season, the second-highest total in franchise history behind only 31 home victories in 2009-10. The Bobcats won 14 of their last 16 home games, including an eight-game win streak from Feb. 11-March 14 that is the second-longest home win streak in franchise history behind only a nine-game streak set Dec. 22, 2009-Jan. 20, 2010… After the All-Star Break, the Bobcats were 20-9, the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and fifth-best in the NBA during the stretch. The Bobcats were 7-1 in the month of April after posting records of 6-4 in February and 9-7 in March, giving the team three straight winning months for the first time in franchise history. The team previously had two straight winning months in March and April 2010, when it was 11-6 and 5-3, respectively. The Bobcats were 8-1 over their final nine regular-season games, including a five-game win streak from March 31-April 9 that tied the fourth-longest win streak in franchise history behind only a trio of six-game streaks. During the nine-game stretch, the Bobcats averaged 100.4 points while allowing only 93.2 points to their opponents. Al Jefferson recorded double-doubles in all nine contests, averaging 23.9 points and 13.9 rebounds. Kemba Walker posted a triple-double and a pair of double-doubles during the stretch and averaged 15.1 points and 8.4 assists… The Cats gave up only 97.1 points per game in the regular season, which was the fourth-lowest average in the NBA. In addition, the Bobcats gave up the fewest fast break points (10.2) and the fourth- fewest points in the paint (38.9) and held their opponent under 100 points in 53 of their 82 games this season, which was the fourth-most such games in the NBA. Additionally, the Bobcats played 36 games this season decided by six points or less and were 21-15 in those games.

SCOUTING THE HEAT (54-28)

The Heat has posted a 60-19 (.759) record at the American Airlines Arena during postseason play and their .759 winning percentage inside the AAA is second all-time for teams at their current home venue during the playoffs. Miami has sold out all 98 postseason games in team history and, including the regular season, they have now sold out 195 consecutive home games. The current 195-game sellout streak is the longest in franchise history and consists of 156 regular season games and 39 postseason games dating back to Apr. 23, 2010… The Heat shot a franchise-high 50.1 percent from the field this season, surpassing their previous high of 49.6 percent set last season. The Heat has totaled 16 playoff road wins since the 2011 postseason, the most in the NBA. Also, their .533 road winning percentage is the second-highest mark over that span. The Heat has won at least one game on the road in 12 consecutive playoff series, the longest current streak in the NBA… The Miami Heat started 21 different starting line-ups this season, the second-most starting line-ups in franchise history. Additionally, 14 different players recorded a start for Miami this season, the fifth-most number of starters during a single-season in team history. With different players stepping up in all areas, the Heat recorded a 54-28 (.659) record this season, the sixth-most wins in Heat history and compiled a 106-52 (.671) record in the Southeast Division, which is the second-highest divisional winning percentage in the NBA since the league re-aligned the divisions prior to the 2004-05 season

TUNE IN

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