Who: Charlotte Bobcats vs Cleveland Cavaliers
What: NBA Basketball – Bobcats Home Game
When: 8:00 PM ET
Where: Live at Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
|Charlotte||20-61||98.2 (29)||109.0 (30)||94.0 (16)|
|Cleveland||24-57||100.8 (23)||106.8 (26)||94.9 (12)|
Charlotte: Byron Mullens (OUT), Ramon Sessions (OUT)
Cleveland: C.J. Miles (OUT), Anderson Varejao (OUT)
|PG||Kemba Walker||Kyrie Irving|
|SG||Gerald Henderson||Wayne Ellington|
|SF||Michael Kidd-Gilchrist||Alonzo Gee|
|PF||Josh McRoberts||Tristan Thompson|
|C||Bismack Biyombo||Tyler Zeller|
|6th Man||Ben Gordon||Dion Waiters|
Spencer: On a more condensed scale, there is actually a lot at stake tonight for Charlotte — a win and Orlando loss knocks the Bobcats out of the best lottery odds to get the #1 overall pick in this summers draft. Charlotte can end the season by doing something that they haven’t done since Nov. 14th — win their 3rd straight game. I’d proclaim that ending the season with 3-straight wins would be a momentum builder going into next season in a small way. For as much losing as has happened this season, I do believe that it’s clear that headway has been made and Coach Dunlap has been able to begin the developmental process for many of these young players — Kemba’s shooting %’s are way up from last season. Kemba is shooting 42.3% in 81 games this season, opposed to 36.6% in just 66 games last season. Bismack Biyombo is grabbing 7.3 RPG this season, opposed to 5.8 RPG last year. Biz is also hitting the offensive glass at a much higher rate — 2.5 Off. RPG this season – 1.8 Off. RPG last season. Biz is understanding the game better this season and has become more of a man in the middle (defensive anchor), conceptualizing the half-court defensive principles much better. Jeff Taylor and MKG have both had up-and-down seasons, but Dunlap has been good about monitoring their minutes and the type of situations that he uses them in.
Looking toward tonight’s match-up, Charlotte is going to have to keep Kyrie Irving at bay if they want a chance to end the season with a win. Irving had eaten up the Bobcats in 2 games this season — he’s averaged 27.5 PPG, shooting 54.5% from the field, and, this is the kicker — Irving has been a ridiculous 88.9% (8-9) from behind the arc. I took a look at how Irving burned Charlotte in the Queen City back on Jan. 4th – this game had a lot to do with these ridiculous numbers, but Charlotte clearly has to be able to reign in Irving to have a chance.
I like the Bobcats to win tonight and finish the season on as positive of a note as they’ve had all year — 3 straight victories. Something to not lose sight of as Charlotte closes the season tonight — whether you’re a fan or not of Coach Dunlap, you have to tip your cap to how he’s been able to keep this team together at the end of the year. It’s hard for any coach in this league to keep his players focused and motivated for 82 games, but in my opinion, it speaks volumes to the type of coach that Mike Dunlap is to have his team playing as hard as they are going into game 82.
Predcition — Bobcats 108-105.
Greg: In a lot of ways, the Cleveland Cavaliers are where the Bobcats hope to be soon — they’ve got a budding superstar in Kyrie Irving; a solid cast of young supporting players (Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller); tons of cap room; and they’re owed five first-round picks over the next three years, in addition to their own. Of course, all that promise has only translated into four more wins than Charlotte had this year, which shows you how painful even a well-executed rebuild can be.
Still, Irving is the big difference between the two, and the Bobcats are hoping to get a player of his caliber in the next two drafts. Tonight’s games could play a small part in that: Charlotte and Orlando are currently in a tie for the league’s worst record, and I’m sure both front offices would quietly prefer the best odds at a No. 1 pick to a win tonight. The Magic will play the short-handed Heat, which have managed to remain competitive while resting LeBron, Wade and Allen.
Given how the last few weeks have gone, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dunlap plays for the win. If that’s the goal, they have a decent shot at one. Even though Cleveland took the previous two games this year, they’re still a good matchup for Charlotte, ranking among the league’s worst in three-point shooting. That’s the Bobcats’ biggest weakness on defense, in a close race with rebounding. The Cavs are also foul-prone, which the Bobcats have the personnel to take advantage of.
t’d be nice to see strong finishes to the season from Biyombo and Kemba. In the last 15 games, Walker is averaging 19.8 points on 44 percent shooting, 6.4 assists and 1.9 steals in 36.3 minutes. His overall efficiency is down, as he’s been shooting a poor 23.1 percent from three in that time, but those raw numbers are still encouraging.
Biyombo’s solid run is significantly smaller, but in the last five games he’s scoring 8.8 points on 52.8 percent shooting, grabbing 11.6 rebounds and blocking 3.0 shots in 37.6 minutes a game. A lot of that bump has come from playing more minutes, but the efficiency is nice to see. He really seems to be benefiting from playing next to Josh McRoberts, whose passing ability has opened up the offense in general.
Mathew: The season finale sets a matchup between two teams with hopes rooted in their respective futures. The Cleveland Cavaliers resting their fate in the ball handling and slick scoring of second-year PG, Kyrie Irving, as well as “The Decision” making skills of LeBron James. The Bobcats once again are looking to the draft for their next impact player, though they hope Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (whose success may be tied to LeBron James as well) are on their way. The futures of Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullens (free agency) as well as Bismack Biyombo (skill set) are uncertain.
One thing that is for certain is that the Bobcats are going for win 21 tonight, which would eclipse my win prediction by one victory and end the season on a positive note (or a negative one assuming the Magic lose and the Bobcats wind up with the second most ping pong balls – depends on how you look at it). The matchup between Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker should be entertaining, although Kyrie has definitely gotten the better of him to date. Irving has looked disinterested in the eyes of many as the season has wound down, however. Something to keep an eye on tonight.
For both selfish (to hit my projected win total) and unselfish (to hopefully garner the most ping pong balls) reasons I would prefer the Bobcats lose their finale tonight. But, I think they get the win and finish the season at a mark of 21-61. Bobcats 108-104.