By Caroline Sikes
March 14, 2013
KEY MATCHUP vs. RAPTORS
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs. Rudy Gay
The Bobcats No. 2 draft pick has been paying huge dividends for the Cats lately. In his first season, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has stepped in and made a significant impact on a young team. MKG averages 9.0 points (tied for sixth among rookies), 5.6 rebounds (fifth), 1.6 assists (10th), 1.0 block (fourth) and 0.75 steal (ninth) in 25.8 minutes (eighth), making him one of the most productive rookies this season. While Kidd-Gilchrist continues to steadily improve at the professional level, he shoots 45.7 percent from the field, second on the team only to the newcomer Josh McRoberts (.489). MKG has spent a significant amount of the season matching up against the opponent’s best offensive threat, which will be the case when the Bobcats travel to Toronto to face Rudy Gay and the Raptors… Gay, who was traded from the Grizzlies on January 30, has averaged 19.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.38 steals since the transition to Toronto. Recently, Gay has been struggling with back problems, forcing him to miss two games this month, but suited up for the Raptors most recent game against the Celtics. Unless his back condition gets worse, it is likely Gay will play against the Bobcats. As a high-energy player, Kidd-Gilchrist thrives when taking on a high-profile player, so look for MKG to put the clamps down on defense against Gay.
KEY MATCHUP vs. CELTICS
Bismack Biyombo vs. Kevin Garnett
In his second season, Bismack Biyombo is looked at as the Bobcats long-term project as he grows into a dominant post player. Presently, Biyombo has shown he can be effective on the defensive end as he continues to refine his offensive game. The Democratic Republic of Congo native has been the Cats leading shot blocker all season and has recently become the leading rebounder, as well. On the season, the 6-9 center averages 4.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.66 blocks. Biyombo will be matched up against Kevin Garnett for the fourth time this season as the Bobcats travel to Boston… In his 18th season, Kevin Garnett has played in 15 All-Star games and has dominated during his tenure, currently ranking at 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. This season, the veteran averages 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 block and 1.1 steal. However, in the three games this season against the Bobcats, Biyombo has done a good job of keeping Garnett relatively quiet, limiting KG to just 9.3 points on 26.5 percent shooting (9-for-34)… Biyombo will need to continue to limit Garnett to pull out a Bobcats victory in Boston.
KEY MATCHUP vs. WIZARDS
Gerald Henderson vs. Trevor Ariza
With Ramon Sessions sidelined with a knee injury, Head Coach Mike Dunlap commented after the Bobcats most recent game about how Gerald Henderson has stepped up to be more vocal and provide leadership in the huddle. Henderson has taken control of the offense and led the Cats in scoring in two of the last three games. Dunlap’s comments came after Hendo set a new career-high against the Celtics with 35 points, going 11-for-19 from the field and a perfect 12-for-12 from the charity stripe. Henderson has been bringing the heat on the offensive end, averaging 19.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists in the last five games. Henderson will need to continue this elevated play if he wishes to lift the Cats over Trevor Ariza and the Wizards… Ariza, who has been dealing with a sore left knee, was considered a game-time decision in the Wizards most recent game against the Bucks on March 13. Ariza suited up and played 30 minutes, contributing 14 points, so it seems likely he will be available when the Wizards travel to Charlotte. He has come off the bench for the majority of the season, averaging 9.2 points, 4.6 boards, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals. Ariza has found success this season playing against the Cats, where he averages 15.7 points on 43.8 percent shooting (14-for-32) in the previous three match ups. Defensively, Henderson will need to find a way to keep Ariza from getting in a rhythm to put a halt on the Wizards.
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (14-50)
The Bobcats play three games in four days, coming off of a convincing win against the Celtics on March 12 at Time Warner Cable Arena®. The Cats dominated in the 26-point victory, making it their largest margin win since January 20, 2010 against the Miami Heat… With Ramon Sessions side-lined due to a sprained MCL, the Bobcats have had to rely heavily on Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon to provide offense. On the season, Walker leads the team in points (17.2), assists (5.6) and steals (1.95) where he ranks 27th, 23rd and fourth in the league, respectively. Ben Gordon has been on a tear for the Cats in the last five games, scoring double figures in each contest and averages 15.8 points along with 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists… With Sessions expected to miss 2-4 weeks, the Bobcats decided to sign Jannero Pargo to a 10-day contract to fill the back-up point guard spot. This season Pargo has played for the Wizards and most recently for the Hawks when he signed a couple of 10-day contracts in January and February. For his career, Pargo averages 6.4 points, 2.0 assists and 1.5 rebounds. It will be interesting to see if Pargo can step in and contribute immediately for the Bobcats.
SCOUTING THE RAPTORS (25-40)
The Bobcats travel to Toronto as the Raptors have lost seven of their last nine. To make matters worse, the team announced Andrea Bargnani is done for the season after spraining his right elbow. Bargnani was the Raptors third-leading scorer, contributing 12.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists… DeMar DeRozan has been an integral factor for Toronto’s offense this season as he averages a career-high 17.8 points, adding 4.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 steal. The 6-7 shooting guard may create match up problems, as the Cats like to utilize a smaller line up sometimes… The Raptors have a high-powered offense, which gets many different guys involved. Their floor general, Kyle Lowry, averages 12.5 points, 6.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.41 steals. In 24.5 minutes, Alan Anderson manages to provide 11.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists. Amir Johnson rounds out the Raptors double-figure scorers with 10.1 points, a team-high 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.05 steals. The Cats will have to find a way to limit all of these offensive threats to pull out a win in Toronto.
SCOUTING THE CELTICS (35-29)
The Bobcats travel to Boston to take on the Celtics the night before St. Patrick’s Day. The Celtics weren’t feeling the luck of the Irish earlier this week in Charlotte when they suffered a 26-point loss, but look to avenge the defeat and even the series at 2-2. The C’s countered to the rout by beating the Raptors 112-88 on March 13 and will have three days off to prepare for the Cats… Boston has responded to Rajon Rondo’s season-ending injury better than most anticipated, winning 15 of the 21 games it has played since Rondo suffered the ACL tear. However, two of the six losses they have endured during this stretch came at the hands of the Bobcats… Paul Pierce, who Coach Doc Rivers rested in Charlotte, leads the team in scoring with 18.7 points, along with 6.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.2 steals… Jeff Green has also stepped up offensively for Boston in the absence of Rondo. On the season, Green averages 11.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists, but has the ability to get hot on any given night and has scored in double figures in all but one game so far this month. If the Cats want to extend the series to 3-1, they will need to bring high-energy against an older, veteran Celtics squad.
SCOUTING THE WIZARDS (21-42 as of 3/13)
The Wizards will face the Hornets and the Suns at home before traveling to Charlotte on Monday… It seems almost as if the Wizards have had two separate identities during this single season. There was the pre-John Wall team, starting the season 5-28 and the team with John Wall that has gone 16-14… After the Bobcats took the first two meetings between the teams, the Wizards sought revenge in a 104-87 victory just a week ago… The Wizards leader and biggest offensive threat, Wall, averages 14.6 points, 7.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.17 steals… Washington’s second-leading scorer, Bradley Beal, has missed five games in a row due to an ankle sprain and it is uncertain whether he will return before facing the Cats. In place of Beal, the starting-nod has been given to Garrett Temple, who has yet to make a significant impact, averaging 3.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists… Former Bobcat, Emeka Okafor, has been playing well for the Wizards recently, putting up 9.6 points while leading the team in rebounds (9.1) and blocks (1.1).
Follow the Bobcats as they travel to take on the Raptors at 7 p.m. on March 15 in Toronto and the Celtics at 7:30 on March 16 in Boston. Then make sure you come out to support your Cats as they return home to tip off against the Wizards at 7 p.m. on March 18 at Time Warner Cable Arena®. You can catch all three games on SportSouth on listen on WFNZ. Make sure you join the live in-game chat by going to bobcats.com or by downloading the Bobcats app on your smartphone.