Improved Charlotte First Stop on Suns Road Trip

NBAE/Getty Images

This year’s Bobcats are more inconsistent than Charlotte teams past. In previous years, they could be counted on for lengthy losing streaks.

some_text

The 2013-14 version has, to this point, kept them at a minimum. Twice after suffering consecutive defeats, they have countered with a win.

The result is a Bobcats team that holds a 6-6 record Phoenix (5-6) hopes to have after tonight’s game.

Charlotte’s progress comes thanks to a defense that yields just 92.8 points per game, fourth-best in the league, which has helped them overcome the regression of Kemba Walker (16.0 ppg, 35.8 FG%) and the injury-caused absence of Al Jefferson (missed last four games).

The former Jazz big man will reportedly suit up tonight, throwing yet another prolific low-post scorer against a Suns team that has struggled to contain similar players. Phoenix saw Brook Lopez go off for 27 points a week ago, then allowed DeMarcus Cousins to amass 46 points and 24 rebounds over a two-game span.

KEY MATCHUP

The Bobcats go unusually long stretches with their reserves, and the result is 11 players averaging at least 15 minutes per game. All of those players are 28 years old or younger, making for a large, energetic group that comes in waves, especially on the defensive end.

The level of energy and production the Suns’ own reserves bring to the table will be key, especially with Eric Bledsoe doubtful for tonight's game as he recovers from a heavily bruised shin. Gerald Green has been hot from the field, but his production as a starter is what the bench has been missing. Others, including Archie Goodwin and Markieff Morris, will need to provide a boost.

OPPONENT X-FACTOR

Here are Kemba Walker’s scoring totals through the first 12 games of the season: 23, 14, 25, 5, 25, 12, 3, 12, 22, 8, 31.

In short, the third-year guard can – and often does – disappear one night and erupt the next. There is also no correlation between his good nights and the team results. Half of Charlotte’s wins came with Walker scoring over 20 points, the other half when he failed to hit double digits.

That being said, keeping Walker quiet in the scoring column is far more preferable, particularly given how much the Bobcats struggle to score.

FINAL THOUGHT

Phoenix has seen its defensive results slip during the current four-game losing streak. The Suns have dropped to 11th in points allowed (98.4), but are still seventh in opponent field goal percentage (43.6) and fifth in opponent three-point percentage (33.7).

Charlotte doesn’t figure to pose much of a threat in those departments. They’re last in field goal percentage (40.2) and 28th from beyond the arc (31.1).