When the Blazers played the Bobcats in Charlotte in mid-November, it could have been considered something a trap game. Now, at the beginning of February this game has all the makings of a serious challenge. And that’s not because of the Blazers current depleted state, that’s because the Bobcats may for once be headed towards the *gasp* playoffs. Ever since trading for Stephen Jackson, these Cats have grown into something dangerous. Ever since Larry Brown got in town you knew the story with the Bobcats. They were going to play hard, they were going to defend, blah blah blah. Well…Charlotte is now a team that plays hard, defends, rebounds….and can score the ball. Yes, I know…the Bobcats can score now. Kind of scary right? Don’t believe me? They’ve scored triple digits, 9 times….just this month. Double impressive when you consider that from October to January of this season they had only scored in triple digits 8 times. Yeah.
Charlotte comes into tonight playing some of their best basketball of the year. Some may want to say ‘Hey, they are only 6-17 on the road this year, we’re good’. False. The Bobcats have won 5 road games this month, including a win at Cleveland and three in a row (at Phoenix, at GS, at Sac). They come into tonight at 12-4 this month. The keys to this team are Stephen Jackson and All-Star Gerald Wallace who is having an absolute monster of a season. Forget the fact that he’s averaging 19 and 11 on the season. He’s coming off back to back 30 point/10 rebound games. Jackson has given this team a major boost offensively and clearly has made an impact as they are 21-16 with him in a CHA uniform. Jackson is having a nice January, averaging 23.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists. Most importantly, he’s shooting a staggering 46.6% from the field this month. Staggering because he’s averaging 16.8 field goal attempts a game. Between those two they average about 40 of Charlotte’s 90 points a game. Obviously, Portland has to take these two head on if they want a chance to win. This is where our lack of perimeter players could hurt. Bayless and Rudy might have issues defending. I think Webster and Batum could bother Jackson, but just get overpowered by Wallace’s physical play. Very interesting to see how Portland defends. They could always go to a zone because the Bobcats are only shooting 34% from three and their two best shooters (% wise) are Raymond Felton and DJ Augustin. And I’m more than happy to see them jack up jumpers.
Keys to the Game
Win the race to 100…actually just don’t let Charlotte score 100: The good news is that Portland won a game where they gave up 100 points or more!! Fist pump! The bad news? That brought their record to 3-13 when they give up 100 points or more. As mentioned before, Charlotte has scored in triple digits the last three games and are 15-2 this season when they score 100 or more. So yeah…don’t let them score 100.
Contain Wallace/Jackson: This is obvious but must be re-stated.
Don’t give up anything easy/Let Charlotte shoot jumpers: I’d like to avoid excessive turnovers/fouls that allow Charlotte easier opportunities than they deserve. Other than Stephen Jackson, Charlotte doesn’t have any guys on their roster who really intimidate me with their ability to just light it up from outside. If Raymond Felton, DJ Augustin and Boris Diaw go off hitting jumpers I’ll just have to shake some Bobcats hand, say your team was better today and watch as he shakes his head in bewilderment.
Get a third scoring option: This is mainly to Rudy/Martell/Batum. You don’t want to need Andre Miller to go bananas every night. Those three players I named are going to have to be better. We all have discussed at various times over this year about how these guys need to do more. Well we can’t have these three combine to go 1-for-8 and expect good things to happen. LaMarcus Aldridge has shown that he can put up numbers but he needs help. Miller has shown he can shoulder a load but between these three and Bayless, someone needs to show up in a big way tonight.
I’d choose interesting as a keyword to associate with my feelings towards this game. Portland needs to get its act together at home, a loss here would lead to a three-game losing streak at the Rose Garden. That’s no bueno. Looking ahead in the schedule, the next 5 games are no fun, so a win here is nearly a must.
Tags: Bobcats Blazers Charlotte Bobcats Dj Augustin Gerald Wallace Jerryd Bayless LaMarcus Aldridge Larry Brown Martell Webster Michael Jordan Nic Batum Portland Trail Blazers Raymond Felton Rose Garden Rudy Fernandez Stephen Jackson