By Jace Darling, bobcats.com
April 27, 2014
April 27, 2014
Going into to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on Monday, the usual suspects have been leading the way for both teams so far in this series. LeBron James is leading all scorers, averaging 29.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals, while Al Jefferson, injury and all, is leading the Cats with averages of 18.7 points, 9.3 boards and 1.67 blocks. With the starters for both teams producing at or near their season averages, it is imperative that the reserves contribute.
KEY MATCHUPS vs. HEAT
No NBA team can make it to the playoffs without solid play from their bench. Going into their Round 1 series against the Heat, the Bobcats felt confident their bench could contribute good minutes with good results and allow the starters to get their budgeted amount of rest. With Al Jefferson hobbled by his foot injury suffered in Game 1, the rotation had to be altered to be able to matchup not only with the Heat’s smaller lineup, but was also determinant upon Jefferson’s relative health. This has provided for more playing time for Anthony Tolliver, as well as situational position changes in-game for Josh McRoberts and Cody Zeller. Over the course of the series, the Cats have been losing the bench battle and are going to need the reserves to step up in Game 4 if the Bobcats want to send this series back to South Beach. The Cats backups have averaged 24 points while the Heat bench has averaged 25 points.
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (43-39 overall; 0-3 series)
Playing through injury is nothing new to this season for the Cats. The season began with Al Jefferson limited with an ankle sprain that kept him out of nine of the team’s first 11 games. Kemba Walker also had a stint on the bench with an ankle sprain that forced him to miss the first games of his basketball career, not to mention Gerald Henderson with a calf strain. The early part of the season also saw Michael Kidd-Gilchrist miss time with a dislocated finger and Jeffery Taylor go down for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. With each of these unfortunate injuries coupled with Jefferson’s current plantar fascia strain, as well as Walker’s knee injury that kept him on the bench to close out Game 3, this Cats team needs to regroup and heal up in time for Monday’s Game 4 to be able to play at least once more in Miami.
SCOUTING THE HEAT (54-28 overall; 3-0 series)
The Heat are in search of their fourth-consecutive trip to the NBA Finals and third-consecutive championship. Currently in their way are the Bobcats in Round 1. The Bobcats have played hard, gritty basketball against the champs, but haven’t ben able to best LeBron James and the rest of the Heat as of yet in this series. The Heat have always been good on the road in the playoffs have won at least one game on the road in 13 consecutive playoff series, the longest current streak in the NBA and have totaled 17 road playoff wins since 2011, the most in the NBA. One more victory will push them into Round 2 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs and one step closer to a third-consecutive NBA title.
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