Opponent: Atlanta Hawks (7-4)
Good news for the Bobcats: Atlanta will be without Josh Smith for Friday's game – and Atlanta is not the same team without him. How much different? Try a net efficiency of +16.7 with, and -2.4 without. Part of that discrepancy is due to the caliber of opponents the Hawks have faced since Smith went out, but it is impressive nonetheless. Semi-bad news: Al Horford should be back for the game, but may be limited returning from his injury.
One last injury related note: The Bobcats will still be without Jason Richardson. While it was not issue against the very short-staffed Jazz (efficiency of 118.2), the offense may continue to struggle, after putting up offensive efficiencies of 89.2 and 97.7 in the last 2 games. Why? Because the Bobcats will struggle to defend the Hawks if they use what is becoming their favorite combination, D.J. Augustin and Raymond Felton in the backcourt.
Despite my initial resistance (and my continued misgivings), the dual-point lineup has been seeing more and more action together with Richardson out. The two were on the court together for 12 minutes against Utah, 17 against Orlando, and 23 against Dallas. The shocking thing (to me anyway)? The Bobcats “won” all those of times, with efficiencies of 126.7 offensive, 100.9 defensive, for a net of +25.8. Considering the Bobcats won exactly 1 of those games, pretty impressive numbers – even when considering the Dallas game, where the Mavs were able to rest their starters for very extended periods. If the Bobcats are going to employ the double-point, it will probably be limited to when Joe Johnson is not on the court, as he would have a field-day scoring over Ray and D.J.
I will also be interested to see how much time Ryan Hollins and Alexis Ajinca get in this contest. Ryan has had solid outings (in limited minutes) in 3 straight games. As for Alexis – well, I either want to see him get some minutes up here, or to get sent down to the D-League for some run. Larry, how about some time for a five-some of D.J., Gerald, Ammo, Alexis, and Ryan? Seems like that would be fun to watch (unless they got destroyed of course).
Last note: I think we might see a solid bounce-back game from Gerald Wallace. He struggled against Dallas, and with Josh Smith out, this matchup with Atlanta could be a good one for him. Marvin Williams is improving and all – but it is a big difference. Wishful thinking – maybe, but if it happens, I can say I called it.