By Jace Darling, bobcats.com
April 24, 2014
April 24, 2014
Time Warner Cable Arena is the site of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs series between Miami and Charlotte. The series stands at 2-0 in favor of the two-time defending champion Miami Heat as the series shifts to uptown Charlotte. After a gritty Game 2 that fell just a few points short, the Cats return home to get rested and ready for a two-game homestand with a chance to send this series back to South Beach.
KEY MATCHUPS vs. HEAT
The NBA Playoffs are a time where legends are made. It is up to each individual player to try and secure his place in history. Al Jefferson and LeBron James are no doubt the leaders of their respective teams. Both players command the respect of opposing coaches and require meticulous game planning if you hope to contain them. 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 Bobcats to the playoffs. Jefferson is averaging 18 points, 11.5 rebounds during the series despite being hobbled by his plantar fascia injury. 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. So far in this series James has been his usual playoff self, averaging 29.5 points on 19-of-33 shooting (57.6 percent), 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. The biggest key to this series however, is everyone else on the floor. Each of the Bobcats starters is averaging double figures, and that trend needs to continue in Game 3.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson both made concerted efforts to drive to the basket in Game 2, which resulted in high-percentage shots and trips to the foul line. Getting another 22 points out of MKG in Game 3 would be a huge lift, and Henderson needs to continue to get to the basket and force the Heat to foul him or get uncontested dunks. If that happens, then his outside shot will open up and the team can be successful.
The biggest key matchup to look at for Game 3 is how the benches will stack up. The Cats got 18 points from their bench in Game 2 while giving up 21 points to the Heat reserves. It is imperative that Gary Neal, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Anthony Tolliver and Cody Zeller play useful minutes and score the basketball if the Cats want to send this series back to Miami.
The Bobcats made a living this season by taking more foul shots than their opponents. Which is indicative of the defensive philosophy of this team, which is to play hard defense without fouling. The Bobcats averaged 24.4 free throw attempts per game during the regular season and attempted more free throws than their opponent in 54 of their 82 contests. They attempted more free throws than their opponent in 36 of their 43 victories this season and were 36-18 when doing so. That trend has not continued in the playoffs. The Bobcats got to the stripe 19 times in Game 2 as opposed to only 12 times in Game 1. The Bobcats did however, foul too much (22 personal fouls) and will need to try and figure out a way to defend this Heat team without forcing whistles. The key for the Bobcats is to decisively take the ball to the hole and force the Heat to foul and/or come away with a high percentage basket, especially when the Heat play their small lineup. That lineup is designed to spread out the Cats on defense, but it can also be a detriment for the Heat defensively if the Cats force the Heat to guard wing players all the way to the basket.
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (43-39 overall; 0-2 series)
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 overall; 2-0 series)
The Miami Heat have won 21 playoff series, including eight in a row, while losing 14, during their postseason team history. Their .600 series winning percentage (21-14) ties for the fourth-best in NBA history. 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.
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