Basketball is back! While the NBA has been playing games for 2 full nights already, the Bobcats have to wait until Thursday to get started. But it was worth the wait, as a matchup with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers gives them a chance to compete against one of the elite players and top teams in the league. To win against the one of the top teams? Well, maybe actually. Time to break it down.
Last season: Cleveland wins season series 3-1. Game 1: Bobcats win 96-93 (No LeBron James or Anderson Varejao). Game 2: Cavaliers 113-106 (Double Overtime). Game 3: Cavs 98-91. Game 4: Cavs 118-114.
Offensive: 104.4 points per 100 poss
The Bobcats' offensive numbers were up, defensive numbers down, and their efficiency differential was better against the Cavaliers than overall. Basically, they competed well against the Cavs, but could not get the job done more than once. Why? You know the answer: King James. With LeBron on the court, those numbers change dramatically, to 100.8, 110.5, and -9.7. Since LeBron tends to play at the end of the game, that makes it tough to win. But who does not have trouble with the LeBron?
Well, the answer to the semi-rhetorical question is no one, but…The Celtics managed to knock him out of the playoffs last year and they started this year with a victory of those same Cavs. The secret? Well, it helps to get LeBron shooting 3s and free throws. In the opener, he went 0-4 from the arc and 4-8 from the line, winding up with 22 points on 21 attempts. But, do the Bobcats have the personnel to dissuade James from driving relentlessly? While the trio of Gerald, Jason, and “defensive wing” Linton Johnson will see time on him, the best bet may not be defense. It may be on the offensive end, by challenging LeBron and potentially getting him in foul trouble. In the last game the two teams played last year, LeBron fouled out in 31 minutes, and Charlotte came closest to beating Bron, losing by 4.
Another matchup to watch is Zydrunas Ilgauskas against whoever the Bobcats have on him. Why? Well, Big Z likes to drift to the perimeter, beyond the comfort zone of Emeka and Nazr, and while he is out there, he can make the open jumper. Ilgauskas had a couple of 16 point games and a 14 point effort in the Cav wins last year, but when the Cats won, he was held to 8. Too simplistic? Yes, but not giving up open jumpers to someone who can make them should probably be on the scouting report.
Final thoughts: This is a tough opponent for the Bobcats to break out of their shooting slump against, as the Cavs are known for their defense (well, aside from Bron Bron). Except for the new guy: Mo Williams. Considering how shot happy Felton and Augustin were in the preseason, this might work out for the team, with possibly the weakest defender in the starting rotation of the Cavs going against two of the more aggressive Bobcats. If Ray and D.J. can create some opportunities for their teammates and manage to shoot better than 40% between the two of them, the Cats might be able to pull this off. But I am not counting on it, considering the Cavs are coming off that loss to the Celtics and are at home. And they have LeBron. But it should be a hard fought game and I will be cheering on the Cats (from the comfort of my living room). 08-09 season, here come the Bobcats.