Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs Minnesota Timberwolves
What: NBA Basketball – Bobcats Home Game
When: 7:30 PM ET
Where: Live at Time Warner Cable Arena
|Charlotte||10-32||98.8 (28)||108.2 (29)||94.6 (12)|
|Minnesota||17-23||99.6 (25)||102.3 (13)||94.5 (13)|
Charlotte: Byron Mullens (OUT)
Minnesota: Nikola Pekovic (OUT), Alexy Shved (OUT), Kevin Love (OUT)
|PG||Kemba Walker||Luke Ridnour|
|SG||Gerald Henderson||Ricky Rubio|
|SF||Michael Kidd-Gilchrist||Andrei Kirilenko|
|PF||Hakim Warrick||Derrick Williams|
|C||Bismack Biyombo||Greg Stiemsma|
|6th Man||Ramon Sessions||Dante Cunningham|
1- STATS: Charlotte and Minnesota have a lot of similarities — They play a nearly identical PACE (94.6; 94.5) and both struggle in offensive efficiency, so it’s safe to presume both teams are seeking easy, fast break baskets every game. Does that make the key stat tonight taking care of the basketball? The team that turns the rock over more gives the opposing team more possessions and chances in the open court, therefore putting them over the top?
Spencer: I certainly think that the Bobcats need to think about two things tonight. Pressuring the basketball and jumping to help on dribble penetration, forcing Minny to settle for outside shots. I know, I know, Charlotte is terrible at defending the 3, but this is a beat up T’Wolves team that doesn’t really have any shooters to space the floor with. Pressuring Rubio and Barea while keeping them away from the rim will be the key to the game, defensively, for the Cats.
Brett: It could be a toss-up between turnovers and offensive rebounding. The Wolves are weak at the Bobcats’ weakness (defending the three), as Minnesota is the worst shooting team from long range in the league (29%). Unfortunately for Charlotte, they’re among the best in offensive rebound rate – though that is presumably built somewhat on Pekovic and Love, who won’t be playing tonight. So, turnovers it is – it’s the Bobcats way to negate their opponents usual advantage on the glass.
Steve McPherson (A Wolf Among Wolves): Here’s the thing: I looked at the Wolves and Wizards stats yesterday and saw a similar pace and a similar problem with offensive efficiency, yet the Wolves actually bettered the Wizards in both fast break points (13 to 6) and in second chance points (25 to 11). The turnovers were about even, with 17 for Minnesota leading to 15 points and 16 for Washington leading to 13 points. But Minnesota lost, and largely because the Wizards shot 58% and the Wolves (of course) only managed 21% from 3-point land. The problem for the Wolves right now without Pekovic and Shved is that they have neither the depth nor the talent to do multiple things well. Any amount of effort in one area seems to completely sap their effort in another, and I don’t think this is a simple matter of more effort overall. This doesn’t mean they can’t win, just that it takes a near-perfect storm of work from them and the other team falling apart. Case in point, their victory over Houston, where they still shot atrociously from distance but won because Houston has hit the skids. Bottom line: It’s hard to tell what’s going to be the weak link for the Wolves (free throw shooting, long distance shooting, second chance points, fastbreak points), but it’s safe to say if it look bad early for them in any major area, it will stay bad and the Bobcats can capitalize.
2- DERRICK WILLIAMS: What is Minnesota going to do with the former #2 overall pick. In his second season, he hasn’t improved too much statistically, except in the 3-point shooting category. Williams shot 26.8% last season and took 138 total 3′s — this season he’s currently shooting 34.2% from deep and is on track to take about 10 more 3′s, overall this season. Will the Wolves eventually ship away Williams to a desperate contender for a future asset, or are they going to have to sleep in the same bed for awhile?
Spencer: Williams is tricky- he’s a #2 pick that’s value is far from that right now, so I think that Minny is going to have to stick with him and hope that he figures it out within the next few seasons. What everyone thought might be the case with Williams when evaluating him out of college looks to be true now — a super athletic 3/4, but one who’s outside shooting numbers were misleading in college, struggles to defend smaller/quicker SF’s and bigger PF’s. If he finds a true position and tones the aspects of his game that he’s already above average at then he can be an arguable starter in this league.
Brett: It seems like Derrick Williams may be another Michael Beasley case (without the pot implications) – talented scorer in college who was able to dominate due to a size/athleticism advantage that they can’t replicate in the NBA. If Williams is able to continue to improve his three-point shooting improvement, he’ll be all right and Minnesota will likely try to hold onto him – but his current contributions are probably not what they thought they’d be getting (just like Miami and Beasley – though he’s continued to underwhelm with Minny and now Phoenix).
Steve: Sometimes the little lights shine brighter in the darkest stretches, and that’s been the case for Williams since Love went down and assistant coach Terry Porter has had to step while Rick Adelman deals with a family matter. It was no secret that Adelman didn’t seem to have much confidence in Williams, so perhaps Porter’s stint has given him a greater opportunity, although you’d have to figure with Love going out it was almost inevitable. Whatever the reason, his decision-making has looked crisper, as have his moves in general on the court. He still blows his share of close-range shots and takes his share of ill-advised jumpers, but I think he’s shown enough (and there have been enough question marks about Love’s future with the franchise) that the team would be ill-advised to offload him this season for pennies on the dollar. With all their injury woes to both stars and key role players, I don’t think the Wolves are a few pieces from contending or even making the playoffs. I know a lot of fans are still in WIN NOW mode, but I’d rather they use the rest of this season to conscientiously develop their players and team.
3- PICK IT: Is this the night the Bobcats snap the home losing streak (16 games)? The Wolves stumble in on the heels of a loss in Washington last night and are without Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Alexy Shved.
Spencer: I like the Bobcats tonight. This Minnesota team is just too banged up right now and they’re coming off a loss in Washington last night. Charlotte has competed at home as of late, just have shown all their deficiencies at the end of games. Tonight, the beaten and bruised T’Wolves deficiencies will outshine the Cats. 98-95 Bobcats.
Brett: I’ll take the Bobcats to break their slide against an injury riddled team that will struggle to exploit the Bobcats’ biggest vulnerability. If Minny is able to convert the open threes the Bobcats will concede, I’ll be wrong – but it doesn’t seem like a bad bet.
Steve: The Wolves looked absolutely tragic last night against the Wizards. At the beginning of the season, they impressed everyone by gutting out a decent record without Love and Rubio, then struggled to get Love back into the offense, then found that Rubio, while able to play, was not back to his old form yet. They kept hanging in there, but Adelman’s absence may be the straw that has broken their back. Couple that with Pek and Shved not being available and I have little reason not to expect another visit to Blood Bath & Beyond for this team tonight. I predict a 105-93 victory for the ‘Cats that doesn’t look even that close.