Team Records: Charlotte (14-19) at Portland (25-7)
Game Info: 7 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -11
Refs: Bennett Salvatore, Kevin Cutler, Scott Wall
The Skinny: Fresh off a win that I’m still not entirely sure how the Blazers got in OKC on New Years’s Eve, the Blazers open 2014 at home against a Bobcats team that is better than they have been the past several years, but still not very good. The Bobcats come in struggling and hurting, having lost five straight and are without 2012 #2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is out for an extended period of time with a hand injury.
Last Season: The Blazers swept the season series 2-0. Portland has won five straight against the Bobcats at home and seven of eight overall.
Projected Bobcats Lineup:
PF-Antony Tolliver (Creighton-6th Season)- 4.2 PPG, 3 RPG, .8 APG.
SF-Josh McRoberts (Duke-7th Season)-8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.4 APG.
C-Al Jefferson (Prentiss (HS)-10th Season)-17 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.7 APG
SG-Gerald Henderson (Duke-5th Season)-15.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.7 APG.
PG-Kemba Walker (Connecticut-3rd Season)-18.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.7 APG.
Player to Watch-Kemba Walker (pictured at right)-Kemba Walker likes making big shots. He liked making them in college at UConn and he likes making them in the NBA, most recently against the Raptors last month. Beyond that, however, there is much to like about Walker, provided you don’t look much beyond scoring. Walker is a shot-first point guard who is capable of putting up big numbers any night. However, Walker is equally capable of shooting his team out of games, shooting only 41.3% on the year. Walker’s already tepid assist rate is down this year and his turnovers are up, and he’s not a good rebounder. Yet, on a team that lacks offense like Charlotte, you’ll take what you can get and hope that Walker has a big night, because if he doesn’t you don’t have much of a chance.
Did You Know?: The Bobcats are the only current NBA team to have never won a playoff game. They were swept in their only playoff appearance.
Song of the Day: “Rockin’ the Suburbs” by Ben Folds. One of my favorite songs by one of North Carolina’s best known artists. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PG CJ McCollum (Foot)
Charlotte: Out-SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Hand), C Brendan Haywood (Foot), SG Jeffery Taylor (Achilles)
These Bobcats are no kittens like those that we saw the past few seasons, these kitties actually have claws, well at least on defense. The Bobcats are a good defensive club, holding opponents to an average of only 93.8 points per game, 3rd best in the league. The Bobcats only allow 42.5% shooting from the floor, although they are somewhat vulnerable from deep, allowing teams to shooting nearly 37% from 3-point land. The Bobcats excel at limiting second-chance opportunities, posting a league best 76.9 defensive rebound rate. However, they are almost as bad on offense as they are good on defense, posting the third-worst offensive efficiency in the league, ahead of only Chicago and Milwaukee. The Bobcats are also dead last in both effective field goal % and true shooting %, largely because Charlotte can’t be counted on to hit consistently from anywhere, ranking dead last in overall field goal % and near the bottom in both 3 point and free throw shooting as well. When Charlotte succeeds it is largely on the back of either a rare high efficiency shooting night or lots of second chance points. Charlotte may be better but that doesn’t mean they should pose much of a threat to Portland if the Blazers are ready to go.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They score 100 points. The Bobcats are a bad offensive team and so if Portland can top the century mark, they should win.
Charlotte wins if: They stop Portland’s three point shooting. If Charlotte wants to stay close in this one, they have to make Portland play at their pace and the first step to doing that is to not allow Portland to have one of their good nights from deep. If they can limit Portland form 3, they might have a chance at winning this one.