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Keys to Beat Nets, Suns, Bucks and Celtics

By Wesley Robinson and Matt Rochinski,

November 19, 2013


KEY MATCHUP vs. NETS: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs. Paul Pierce

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has stepped up his game and scored in double figures in four of the last seven games. During the seven-game stretch, he is averaging 12.9 points on .593 shooting from the field (35-for-59) and .769 shooting from the free-throw line (20-for-26), to go with 6.0 rebounds, 1.4blocks and 1.0 assist. MKG’s athleticism and explosiveness has helped him elevate his game during this stretch. While he continues to grow offensively, it’s on the defensive side where he has made his mark this season. There have been occasions where MKG has firmly limited an opposing team’s best player and has made huge stops defensively when his team needs it the most. MKG’s athleticism and explosiveness has played a huge role to help elevate his game this season… MKG will need to use his strengths as he gets ready to go against 10-time NBA All-Star Paul Pierce. Currently, Pierce ranks second in scoring on the Nets with 13.5 points to go along with 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Pierce has always been known for his scoring and clutch playmaking ability in the fourth quarter. MKG winning this matchup could be the key to getting the Cats a victory.

KEY MATCHUP vs. SUNS: Josh McRoberts vs. Miles Plumlee

Who would have though these two former Duke players would have been the key matchup back when the season tipped off? Not many might have, but both of these guys have been keys to their teams’ recent success. Josh McRoberts has started all 10 games for the Cats this season and is averaging 9.3 points, 4,7 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He’s been a key for the Cats with Al Jefferson being limited to just three games due to an ankle injury. When Jefferson is out, much of Charlotte’s offense runs through McRoberts in the high post, while when Jefferson is in, McRoberts might be one of the Cats best at getting the entry pass into Big Al on the low block. McRoberts has also evolved into Charlotte’s best 3-point threat. He’s shooting 37.8 percent from long range and has knocked down a team-best 17 treys this season. Dating back to the final game of last season, McRoberts has now made at least three 3-point field goals in four of his last 11 games played. He had done so only once in his career prior to that… McRoberts will be charged with helping slow down the Suns surprising second-year big man, Miles Plumlee. After averaging 0.9 points and 1.6 rebound in 3.9 minutes with the Indiana Pacers last season, Plumlee has taken full advantage of his extra playing time in Phoenix, averaging 10.9 points and 9.3 rebounds in 31.4 minutes with the Suns. Not only that, but his 2.11 blocks are good enough to currently rank him sixth in the NBA. If McRoberts can help slow Plumlee down, it could be key to the Cats getting a victory.

KEY MATCHUP vs. BUCKS: Jeffery Taylor vs. O.J. Mayo

Jeffery Taylor has played exceptionally well over the Bobcats last five games, leading the team in bench scoring with13.4 points on 44 percent shooting. Taylor scored a career-high 20 points on Monday against Chicago, reaching double figures for the fifth-straight game. The five-game streak is tied for the longest of his career – from Nov. 19-26, 2012. Also Taylor has scored in double figures in seven of his last eight contests, averaging 12.2 points per game during the stretch. He will need to continue his high-level play as the Bobcats travel to Milwaukee matching up against O.J. Mayo and the Bucks. Mayo scored 28 points in consecutive games against Cleveland on Nov. 6 (9-for-19, 6-for-7 from 3) and against Dallas on Nov. 9 (11-for-20, 4-for-7 from 3), before adding an additional 25 points on Wednesday in Orlando. He is one of just 12 players this season with three or more 25-point games. After struggling in his first two outings this season, Mayo is averaging 20.5 points while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 63.3 percent from 3-point range over his past six games… It will be imperative for Taylor to help slow down Mayo to give the Cats an offensive edge.

KEY MATCHUP vs. CELTICS: Ramon Sessions vs. Avery Bradley

Guards Ramon Sessions and Avery Bradley will play a key role in the Bobcats matchup against the Boston Celtics on Nov. 25 at Time Warner Cable Arena. Sessions is averaging 11.4 points and 3.5 assists in 20 minutes of play off the bench for the Cats. With his ability to drive to the basket and get to the charity stripe, Sessions brings a spark to the team in a reserve role. He's got tremendous quickness and very good ball handling ability, allowing him to get into the lane and display court vision with great passing abilities. Since joining the Bobcats prior to the 2012-13 season, Sessions continues to put up some of the top numbers in the league among players who have not started a game. Sessions ranks first in free throws made (341) and attempted (409), second in assists (262) and in points (997), third in rebounds (187) and fourth in steals (51)… After scoring a season-high 27 points against Minnesota on Nov. 16, Bradley has averaged 13.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 29 minutes of play this season. Also he has scored in double figures in three of his last five games, tallying at least 20 points in his last four games.


This season, the Charlotte Bobcats have only allowed 100 points or more three times and rank in the Top 10 in points allowed per game. So far, the Bobcats are only allowing 93.6 points, which is fourth best in the NBA. Last year, the team allowed 102.7 points per contest, finishing the season ranked 29th in the NBA… Jeffery Taylor continues to give his notable minutes, leading the team in bench scoring in the last five games while averaging 13.4 points on 44 percent shooting. Taylor scored a career-high 20 points on Monday against Chicago, reaching double figures for the fifth-straight game. The five-game streak is tied for the longest of his career, matching a five-game streak from Nov. 19-26, 2012. Taylor has scored in double figures in seven of his last eight contests, averaging 12.2 points per game during the stretch.


The Nets are 3-0 this season in games in which they’ve outscored their opponent in the third quarter, but 0-6 in games in which they’ve been outscored in the third quarter. Brooklyn is +29 (+9.7 points) in third quarters in its three victories, but -43 (-7.2 points) in third quarters in six losses… In Brooklyn’s three victories this season, the team holds a 140-104 (+36) edge in points in the paint. In the team’s six losses, the Nets have been outscored 234-218 (-16) in points in the paint… With Deron Williams sidelined with an ankle injury, back-up Shaun Livingston has stepped up his game in the scoring category for his team. After averaging 7.1 points in his first seven games, Livingston has averaged 17.3 points on 48 percent shooting in his last three games. Also dating back to the start of last season, in games where the Nets are tied or trailing by three points or fewer with less than a minute remaining, Joe Johnson is 11-13 from the field for 24 points in 12 games (9-10 last season, 2-3 thus far this season, including 2-2 Friday night in Phoenix). Johnson’s nine made field goals in such situations led the league last season (LaMarcus Aldridge was second with six).

SCOUTING THE SUNS (5-4 as of 11/19)

Perhaps surprising to some, the Suns are the only team in this four-game set the Bobcats will face that currently has a winning record. The Suns entered the season in what many thought would be re-building mode, as they looked to shape their team around Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt. However, Phoenix jumped out to a 5-2 start and although they’ve dropped two-straight games in Portland and against Brooklyn, they’re still making noise in the West… Bledsoe has taken over as the leader of this squad, averaging team highs in scoring (20.4 points) and assists (6.8) to go with 4.6 rebounds and 1.78 steals… Dragic follows that with 14.3 points, 5.0 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 0.83 steals… The biggest surprise in Phoenix might come from Miles Plumlee, who is putting up 10.9 points and hauling down 9.3 rebounds while averaging 2.11 blocks. The second-year big man has already posted three double-doubles this season… The Suns are led off the bench by the Morris brothers – Markieff (14.4 points, 6.4 rebounds) and Marcus (8.6 points, 6.3 rebounds) – who combine for 23.0 points and 12.7 boards.

SCOUTING THE BUCKS (2-7 as of 11/19)

This will be the first of two matchups with the Bucks in the final two weeks of November. With the additions of players like O.J. Mayo, Caron Butler, Gary Neal, Zaza Pachulia and Brandon Knight in the offseason, Milwaukee had to be hoping to get off to a better than 2-7 start, but getting all these new pieces to mesh seems like an arduous task, especially with a key piece like big man Larry Sanders out for the next six weeks following thumb surgery. After starting the season 2-1, the Bucks have now dropped five straight as of Nov. 19… Mayo leads the way for Milwaukee with 18.4 points to go with 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.00 steal, but the Bucks would like to see him take better care of the ball (3.33 turnovers)… Combo guard Gary Neal has also been a nice addition for Milwaukee, putting up 12.6 points, 3.0 assists and 2.3 rebounds primarily as a reserve… Pachulia (8.9 points, 8.5 rebounds) currently patrols the paint for the Bucks.

SCOUTING THE CELTICS (4-7 as of 11/19)

In the two teams’ first matchup of the season, Al Jefferson returned from his ankle injury and scored a season-high 22 points to go with 11 rebounds in the first game of a two-game road trip as the Cats headed into TD Garden and earned an 89-83 victory over the Celtics. Gerald Henderson (13), Jeff Taylor (12) and Ramon Sessions (10) also scored in double-digits for the Celtics… Jeff Green led Boston against the Cats with 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting. The Cats will need to find a way to contain Green, as he leads Boston in scoring 15.5 points and helps fill a stat sheet with a team-high 15.5 points and ads 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists… Second-year forward Jared Sullinger has stepped up his game off the bench for the C’s as of late. After cracking 12 points just once in his first six games, he’s scored 14 or more in two of his last three games, including a 26-point, eight-rebound performance on Nov. 15 against Portland.


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