By Matt Rochinski
December 6 , 2012
KEY MATCHUP vs BUCKS
Ramon Sessions vs. Monta Ellis
Ramon Sessions scored nine of his game-high 23 points to lead the Cats back from an 11-point deficit and claim the 102-98 win when these two teams met on November 19 at Time Warner Cable Arena®… Sessions hit a clutch 3-pointer with 2:25 left to tie the game at 96-96 and was a perfect 10-for-10 from the charity stripe, including 6-for-6 in the final frame. After averaging 18.7 points off the bench and scoring in double digits and in the Bobcats first 11 games, Sessions has been sporadic over the last five. He’s scored in double figures twice and averaged 10.4 points while shooting 31.4 percent from the field. The Bobcats are at their best when they get consistent production from Sessions and Ben Gordon off the bench, and with Gordon playing well now, Sessions hitting his stride again could be key to ending the Cats five-game skid… Ellis almost single-handedly kept the Bucks in the game back in Charlotte, scoring 10 of Milwaukee’s 17 fourth-quarter points and finishing with a game-high 31. Ellis leads the Bucks with 18.8 points per game and has been held to single-digit scoring once all season.
KEY MATCHUP vs SPURS
Ben Gordon vs. Manu Ginobili
Heading into the weekend, there might not be two reserves playing better in the NBA than the Cats Ben Gordon and Spurs Manu Ginobili… Gordon has been on a scoring tear as of late and has jumped to third on the team in scoring (15.1 points) in 25 minutes off the bench. There’s not much Gordon has been missing over the last four games, where he has scored at least 17 points in every contest and is averaging 22.8 points while going 21-for-31 (67.7 percent) from long range. But Gordon isn’t just a scorer. He’s also dished out 3.8 assists and grabbed 3.5 rebounds over that span… If there’s a Spurs player who can match Gordon point for point off the bench, it’s Ginobili, who ranks fourth on San Antonio in scoring (11.6 points) in 25 minutes as a reserve. Ginobili’s shooting percentages – 0.394 field goal, 0.320 3-point and 0.800 free throw – are all below his career averages, but he’s begun to pick things up as of late, scoring in double digits in six straight games heading into Friday. In San Antonio’s last four games, Ginobili is connecting on 42.9 percent of his field goals, 45.8 percent of his threes and has missed just two free throws. Ginobili also gets it done on the defensive end. He leads the Spurs with 1.38 steals and is bringing down 3.2 rebounds. Ginobili also gets his teammates involved, averaging 4.4 assists.
KEY MATCHUP vs WARRIORS
Kemba Walker vs. Stephen Curry
Kemba Walker can be a consistent key matchup for the Cats night in and night out, but we try to mix things up some when looking ahead at the schedule. When local superstar and the son of Bobcats Television Analyst Dell Curry comes to town, matching up Walker against Stephen Curry is a no-brainer… I’ve been singing the praises of Walker all year and not about to stop now after a 25-point, 11-assist performance against New York on December 5. With each passing performance, Kemba continues to shatter last year’s stats. He averaged 12.1 points, 4.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 0.9 steals in his rookie season. This season, Walker is leading the team in scoring (17.1 points), assists (6.2) and steals (2.06 – sixth in the NBA) – all major leaps from Year 1 to Year 2. Kemba is also playing with the swagger and confidence that helped him with an NCAA Championship at UConn and is taking on a key leadership role both on and off the court in Charlotte… The younger Curry has bounced back nicely from an ankle injury that cut his season short in 2011-12. He lead’s Head Coach Marc Jackson’s Warriors in scoring (19.1 points), 3-pointers (47), 3-point percentage (0.427), assists (6.6) and steals (1.78), and even more importantly, played in all 18 games this season. Curry has had 20+ points and 10+ assists in four-straight games heading into the weekend. Watching Curry and Walker get up and down the court against each other should be an entertaining matchup.
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (7-10)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was selected by the NBA on Wednesday as the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for November after starting in all 15 games in the month and averaging 10.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals in 27.3 minutes played…. After missing 13 games with an injured foot, Gerald Henderson’s playing time was increased to 25 minutes off the bench on Wednesday. Hendo was solid in his second game back, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds and one blocked shot… After starting off 6-0 in games decided by four points or less, the Bobcats dropped their second such contest in a heartbreaking 100-98 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena®. The Cats pushed the Knicks to the limit led by Kemba Walker’s first double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds) of the season… Charlotte will look to end a five-game skid when they tip off in Milwaukee on at 8:30 p.m. on Friday.
SCOUTING THE BUCKS (8-9)
Milwaukee opened the season with six wins in their first eight games, riding the hot hands of their backcourt pairing of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. The two currently lead the Bucks with averages of 18.8 and 16.8 points, respectively, but they only have one other teammate averaging double digits – reserve Mike Dunleavy with 10.8 points… Despite Ellis and Jennings continuing to light up the scoreboard, Milwaukee has dropped seven of its last nine, but when Charlotte tips off there on Friday, it will be the start of four home games in the Bucks next six. They’ll probably welcome being back home in Milwaukee considering five of their last seven losses have come away from the Bradley Center… With their backcourt rolling, the Bucks are looking for someone to put up consistent numbers in the frontcourt. If Ersan Ilyasova, Samuel Dalembert, Larry Sanders or John Henson can become a threat down low the way they are capable of, the Bucks would welcome the third scoring option.
SCOUTING THE SPURS (15-4 as of 12/6)
The Spurs might be another year older, but you can’t argue with the results Head Coach Gregg Popovich gets from his blend of aging vets and young talent. As of Thursday, San Antonio was 15-4 overall – tied with Oklahoma City for the second-best record in the NBA behind the 13-3 Memphis Grizzlies… The Spurs have also been the league’s best road team in 2012-13, posting a 9-2 record away from San Antonio, including five-straight wins in a six-game road trip that wrapped up with a 105-100 loss on November 29 in Miami when Coach Pop opted to rest the majority of his starting lineup… Perennial All-Star Tim Duncan leads the Spurs in scoring (18.8 points) and rebounding (10.1 – the first time since 2009-10 (17.9 points, 10.1 rebounds) that Duncan has averaged a double-double, and his 31.0 minutes are his highest since 2009-10, as well… Tony Parker provides a dependable second option as always and is second on the team in scoring (18.3 points) to go with a team-high 7.3 assists.
SCOUTING THE WARRIORS (11-7 as of 12/6)
A legitimate case can be made for Golden State as the surprise team in the Western Conference this season. The Warriors quickly slid down the standings with injuries to Stephen Curry and David Lee last season and lost its leading scorer, Monta Ellis, in a trade deadline deal… Curry (19.1 points) and Lee (17.6 points) have come back strong in 2012-13, combining for 36.7 points in a fast-paced offensive attack that averages 98.8 points… Much like the Cats, the Warriors are getting significant contributions from their young players. Second-year wingman Klay Thompson is putting up 16.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in the starting lineup alongside rookie Harrison Barnes (9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds)… Golden State has won five of its last five contests heading into the weekend, and the Warriors stop in Charlotte will be their fourth game of a seven-game road trip.
The Cats tip off at 8:30 p.m. on Friday in Milwaukee before returning home for a three-game homestand starting at 7 p.m. on Saturday against San Antonio and followed by a 7 p.m. tip on Monday against Golden State. You can watch all Bobcats games on SportSouth or listen on WFNZ. Then download the Bobcats app on your smartphone or go to bobcats.com to follow the live in-game chat.