By Caroline Sikes
December 17, 2012
KEY MATCHUP vs LAKERS
Gerald Henderson vs. Kobe Bryant
After missing a month due to a foot injury, Gerald Henderson has picked up where he left off, averaging 13.4 points in the eight games since his return. On the season, Henderson is third on the team in scoring (13.2), second in steals (1.1) and tied for first in 3-point shooting percentage (.500). The team’s captain returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the injury on December 15 against the Orlando Magic with 16 points, four assists, four boards and team-high two steals… In an obvious match up, Henderson will have the assignment of slowing down one of the league’s best in Kobe Bryant. The five-time NBA Champ currently leads the league in scoring, averaging 29.3 points. Bryant has scored double digits in every game this season, which isn’t surprising for a player who averages 20.6 field goal attempts. Henderson’s duty will be to not let Bryant take control of the game.
KEY MATCHUP vs SUNS
Ramon Sessions vs. Shannon Brown
Ramon Sessions has been the spark off the bench for the Bobcats this season. He is second on the team in scoring (14.4) and assists (4.2). During the first matchup between the two teams, Sessions scored 12 of his 17 points from the free-throw line. His uncanny ability to get in the lane and draw fouls has become one of Sessions’ trademarks, and he’s currently ranked eighth in the league in free throw attempts. As Coach Mike Dunlap tends to leave Sessions in the game late along side point guard Kemba Walker, it will be Sessions matching up defensively against the Suns Shannon Brown… In 26.3 minutes, Brown is second on the team in scoring (12.3) and averages 2.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists. When the Suns came to Charlotte, Brown led his team off the bench with 24 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including six treys.
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (7-16)
The Bobcats are looking to break an 11-game slide as they head to the West Coast for a four-game swing. If the Cats are going to pick up some wins out West it will be behind the excellent play of Kemba Walker. Since being held scoreless against OKC on November 26, Walker has been averaging 20.0 points. On the season, he’s averaging 6.1 assists and is sixth in the league with 1.96 steals… The Bobcats big men will have to be aggressive on the road after being outrebounded in the past six games. Since being placed in the starting lineup for the last five games, Bismack Biyombo has been protecting the paint well, averaging 8.6 boards and 1.6 blocks… After the loss to the Magic on December 15, Walker mentioned how the Cats have had too many slow starts. Competing in the first half might be a key to the Bobcats pulling out victories in the second half.
SCOUTING THE LAKERS (11-14)
For a team that has built a culture of championships and winning, the Lakers season so far has caused concern for many fans. After starting the season 9-14, the Lakers have won their last two games and have some momentum as they prepare to take on the Bobcats at home… This season has not been a normal one for Los Angeles. After firing Head Coach Mike Brown, who won a single game in the first five contests, the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni, who has been the recipient of much criticism. To add to the Lakers woes, they are currently dealing with injuries to two of their big name guys in Steve Nash (left leg) and Pau Gasol (knees). Both players are expected to begin practicing again this week but Gasol says he’s “questionable” to return by the time they take on the Bobcats.
SCOUTING THE SUNS (9-15 as of 12/16)
Similar to the Lakers, the Suns have won their last two games, but will take on the Sacramento Kings at home before hosting the Bobcats. Point guard Goran Dragic has emerged as the leader on this team after Phoenix traded long-time Sun, Steve Nash, to the Lakers. Dragic is averaging 15.0 points, 6.4 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.91 steals through 23 games. In the first meeting against the Bobcats, Dragic had 16 points and dished out eight assists. Along with Dragic and Brown, Luis Scola (12.1 points), Michael Beasley (11.1), Marcin Gortat (11.0) and Jared Dudley (10.0) are all averaging double-figure scoring.
The Bobcats begin a four-game West Coast swing when they take on the LA Lakers at 10:30 p.m. on December 18 before heading to Phoenix to take on the Suns at 9:00 p.m. on December 19. Watch the games on SportSouth or listen on WFNZ. Follow the live in-game chat at bobcats.com or download the Bobcats app on your smart phone.